Photo by Sean Do on Unsplash — Call of Duty World League Championship 2018

How I Use Online Games to Skyrocket My Remote Team’s Productivity

What I discovered after 7 months of experimentation and testing over 70 online games

It’s no surprise that corporate culture helps to recruit the best and brightest talent. What is however more difficult to gauge is how exactly great culture is created.

The top tech companies are notoriously committed to investing time, money and resources into building a friendly, and productive work culture in the office.

Team building has often encouraged the humanism we practice in our own life, that enhances the following:

💥Our personal welfare: having fun together to strengthen our relationships

💥Workplace collaboration: demonstrating the advantage of inclusion and diversity

This in turn, has lead to a culture where employees trust and feel safe in their professional environment.

Who cares?

It’s not just about socializing, celebrating and competing. Team building activities have been proven to increase engagement, improve communication, and enhance creativity.

This means, these activities can have a tangible positive effect on the actual output of work by employees.

Dan Collins from Fresh Tracks, the experts in running team development programs, defined some of the outcomes from solving these problems.

When cross referenced with the primary challenges in remote working, which can be grouped broadly into communication and collaboration, organizational culture, accountability, security, and overworking we can begin to understand the relevance and advantages to implementing these types of collective activities.

The Problem

As I transitioned my company from being in a rented office to a fully remote team, I realized how critical it was to implement team activities from the very beginning, as the lack of casual water coolers and informal chit chat quickly became apparent.

The challenge I faced was uncovering how to replicate some of the offline/in-person bonding experiences in a creative and dynamic way online. Something my team would actually participate in and enjoy.

My first step was to scour the internet for “online team building,” though I quickly found the options limiting and frankly dull.

Then I thought about the dynamics of online games.

What’s most interesting about online games is the bond they create for their players. Unlike social media users, online gamers report feeling:

♔ Excited to bond with one another over similar interests
 ♕ Able to test and uncover their skills
 ♖ Uplifted by challenges
 ♘ Thought provoked by testing new strategies

Naturally I began seeking online web games that would emulate those benefits while providing the experience of working together towards a collective goal.

After more than 7 months of experimentation, the following online games are what my team and I found to be the most fun and rewarding for building a better remote working culture.

Note, none of the links below are affiliate links (can check for yourself), these are based on our expense of trial and error.


Jackbox Party Pack Fibbage | 3–12 people

The Jackbox Party Pack is a fantastic pack of gaming goodies which was originally designed for face to face groups using their mobile phones.

My team loves Fibbage! It similar to Balderdash (if you’re familiar), where you make up seemingly plausible, but false answers to a trivia question. If another player chooses your lie, then you get points.

It’s a great way to boost creativity and morale, and a hilarious way to try to psyche out your group.

How to Play

Get your team online, and have on person host the game on their computer. The host will then share their screen using Skype (or any online video chatting method that allows you to share screen) with the rest of the group. Everyone can then participate visually and through chats. Each session has a unique 4 letter code that everyone inputs into their desktop browser or mobile phone, you then enter into a private game room.

Team Review

My team loved having the opportunity to learn about their teammates in a more organic and fun manner. You try to come up with funny answers and people are able to get out of their “work shell”. Things got really competitive, we started to keep score on our slack channels and had monthly prizes for people who scored the highest.

There were, however, minor logistic issues with the app being unresponsive and sometimes slow. And issues with the video cutting out so you could only hear the audio rather than see everyones face.

Business Benefits

This is a great way to practice quick thinking skills, since thinking of “truths” and “lies” in a short period can be tough. It’s also a perfect way to bring out the creativity in your employees. Get them to think out of the box.

It also gives everyone an opportunity to build new bonds and organic relationships over common interests. And it even provided a lot of conversation starters prior to meetings. Start fibbing your colleagues now.

Platforms

Nintendo Switch, PS4, Xbox One, Steam/PC, Apple TV/iPad, and Mac App. Price depends on platform.

Jackbox Party Pack Monsters seeking monsters | 3–12 people

Another great game is Monsters Seeking Monsters, it’s almost like a game version of Tinder. The object of the game is for two individuals to pick each other as dates at the same time.

Through “texting” you’re trying to convince someone to date your monster character. The more you get mutually agreed dates the more points you get. The best part is at the end of each round it shows the text chats that happen between players, and you can start to see your teammates witty sides and humor.

It’s basically a “dating theme party game”, except that everyone’s a monster and you get fun missions and objectives in the game to earn bonus hearts.

How to play

Play with your team by having one person host the game and share their screen to the rest of the group. We use Remo, our online virtual office workspace so that everyone can watch and socialize.

Team Review

Our team loved getting to pretend to be different characters, especially when they were given missions. They got a better feeling for people’s personalities and they started having hilarious inside jokes that they would revert back to periodically.

Although we did not have any issues, this game must obviously be played at your digression. Having mature teammates is important because you don’t ever want things to get out of hand.

Business Benefits

This is a great way to bring more introverted team members out of their shell with the use of text instead of talking. It’s helpful for casual conversation starters as well as creative thinking — in the sense that everyone is trying to meet their objective and accomplish their mission.

It can also be a great test of persuasion, and motivation. You can start to see what drivers are more likely to influence individuals to make decisions. Get your “text” game on below.

Platforms

Nintendo Switch, PS4, Xbox One, Steam/PC, Apple TV/iPad, and Mac App. Price depends on platform.

Zombs.io | 1–4 players

Zombs.io is a team-based tower defense game: you and your colleagues band together to build a base that fends off zombies every night. You build different types of towers to kill zombies. This is a great team building game where your team cooperates to build something together.

I used to use this game as an icebreaker to introduce my marketing team — it’s a really simple game that helped them learn to work together in a low-stakes environment.

Team Review

I often hear that our team enjoys the strategy behind the game but it can get boring after the 4th or 5th play. They’ve claimed to get a better understanding of how to work in a more collaborative setting, and enjoy working towards a common goal.

Business Benefits

Aside from strategic play, this is a great game to develop on your team’s communication skills. Our team logs onto Remo so that during the game they can and that allows your team to practice immediate responses and develop their crisis communication abilities as well.

This is the perfect game to remedy issues pertaining to team or individual miscommunication, or employees are having a difficult time working in concert. Build and survive from zombies in the link below.

Platform

Web browser game, free

Zombsroyale.io | 1–4 players

This is basically a 2D version of Fortnite or PUBG. This is a Battle Royale style game meaning you parachute into a map and pick up weapons and gear and kill everyone else to become the last man standing. You can create a team of 4 and cooperate. This is the best part to be honest, it is amazing for building cooperation, strategy and also bonding with your team, but in a simple and casual graphics style that is approachable to even non-gamers.

Team Review

The accessibility of this game is a huge plus since it only requires a browser. Our team has had great success with the game, saying that it’s a thrilling adventure, and they love that it’s allowed them to tackle different challenges.

I’ve often introduced this game to my customer happiness team to give them an opportunity to partner up, share in a struggle and work towards a common goal.

Business Benefits

Verbal communication is key with this game, so it’s best for teams that need to improve on giving directive or instructions more clearly. It’s also a great way to enable employees who are used to working individually, to work in a more collaborative environment. A solid game to boost team camaraderie. Survive a battle royale now!

Platform

Web browser game, free

Another alternative is surviv.io, runs a little slower but still good.

Taboo | Two teams of 6+ players

If you like to play the classic Taboo guessing game, this is a an online version you can do on Skype or Google hangouts. To play Taboo, there are at least two teams with 3 or more people (total of 6 people or more). Each person takes turns describing the word at the top (in the above case, in red) to the team without using the words below (in white).

If your team guesses the word correctly you get a point, and at the end of the round the team with the most points wins. Surprisingly playing this online is just as fun as playing it in person.

How to Play Together

One person on the team opens the site and shares his screen with another person. The rest of the team just listens. We like to use our online office space Remo where everyone is already together in an office map like environment.

Team Review

This is a team favorite. It makes for great laughs and even better stories. I mean, who doesn’t already love Taboo? The team liked to switch things up once in a while — sometimes playing with no video to focus on their verbal communication, it really brought out everyones competitive edge.

The words would start to repeat after about 10 games, and you need to share screen so keep in mind the host will need to do some logistical organizing.

Business Benefits

It goes without saying that Taboo is excellent mental work for vocabulary recall and verbal communication. Employees enjoy the competition while being kept on their toes and learning their individual communication styles.

The pure focus on verbal communication without any physical gestures is perfect for remote working, as voice is the most effective and most often-used communication medium other than text.

If you’re having trouble with miscommunication between team members or you feel the team’s creativity needs to be recharged this can be the perfect solution. Rack your brain over describing simple words now.

Platform

Web browser game, free

Charades | Two teams of 3+ players

Charades is a similar to Taboo, and is as classic a game online as it is offline. What I love about playing Charades online is that people really get into it. Because it requires physical movement, the usage of video chat makes it easy and possible. Everyone is engaged and having crazy amounts of fun!

Below is a web tool you we use to provide clues and keep track score.

http://www.playcharades.net/

How to Play Together

One person on the team opens the site and shares his screen with the clue giver only. The rest of the team just listens.

Team Review

Naturally, this game has some great feedback. People love getting into character, making hand motions and using non-verbal communication. However of course there are team members who can be a bit shy. This game has brought some of my team members out of their shell, allowing them to really feel comfortable in a space where everyone feels free to be a bit silly.

Logistically speaking, the website above will save a ton of time, but unfortunately if you don’t use the app it can be tough to organize. The camera is also limiting — as you’re not able to see outside the square and some people aren’t going to be as expressive.

We loved it so much we actually built our own video charades game, think of Appear.in but with a clue, timer, and score.

Our prototype charades video web app

Business Benefits

Communication is over 90% non-verbal, so having the opportunity to express yourself through movement can be somewhat of a relief when it comes to this game. It brings people out of their shell, and gets them feeling comfortable in a group setting. I’ve actually personally had interview candidates play, and even potential collaborators and they usually find it unexpected and refreshing. Make people look at you do weird gestures at your computer below.

Platform

Web browser game, free

Miniclip Pool | one-on-one

Miniclip has a fantastic browser based Pool game. Our team has played pool during our one-on-one catch ups or even during happy hour. We’ve even had quarterly competitions.

Benefits

🎱A great mindless game, can have a conversation and play at the same time
🎱Casual enough for all levels of players 
🎱Good for people who are not into hardcore games.

How to Play Together

Each person opens the game on their own browser and opens a room

Team Review

This is a simple game that everyone has good fun with. It’s usually a good way to ease into a one-on-one meeting — or enjoy a casual online “lunch” in together.

Business Benefits

This game is ideal for bonding. When you don’t have too much to bond over this game can be a great ice breaker. I would suggest introducing your teammates to one another through this game as a casual way to get to know one another. Reveal your inner pool hustler here.

Platform

Web browser game, free

Gartic.io | 2–8 people

This is your online version of Pictionary. A great game for teams in any department. The game is simple and straightforward, where one player gets a word they need to draw and the rest of the team tries to guess what their sketch is supposed to be.

You don’t need video, which allows everyone their privacy, but typically you do play with audio. We use our office collaboration space Remo where one person shares the screen and everyone else can listen to one another.

Team Review

This is another team favorite, my team likes the fact that they can draw casually and don’t feel they have to be precise. Drawing is a great form of communication for a remote team because we use whiteboards online and drawing is one of the best ways to share ideas. This game gives them an open, fun space to release their creative side, we even found some hidden artistic talents on our team. We found out that one of our female teammates was amazing at drawing and she ended up designing our annual retreat logo.

Business Benefits

This game has opened the door for better collaboration between certain teams. Especially fun for graphic designers and artist on the team, but it’s also good for people who haven’t broke out of their comfort zone yet.

I personally used to hate drawing, but after so many rounds of the game, I’ve found myself more comfortable drawing diagrams on the fly and sharing information via pictures more than words, leveling up my white-boarding skills. Guess difficult to interpret trackpad drawings now.

Platform

Web browser game, free,


Did you like these games? Found some inspiration for your next happy hour?

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Tell me below, what team building games you use with your remote team?