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Competitive vs. Cooperative Games in the Training Room

learning from board games

We are back this week with episode 2 of Train Like You Listen. This week, we sit down with Lauren Wescott from Endurance Learning to discuss a few key things to keep in mind when incorporating games into training, and how to decide which type of game supports your content.

Listen using the player below. Please leave us your thoughts in the comment section or on twitter @train_champion.

Conversation with Lauren Wescott

Heather Snyder:  Hello and welcome to the Train Like You Listen podcast, a weekly short podcast about learning and development. I’m Heather Snyder and joining me today is Lauren Westcott from Endurance Learning. Lauren, let’s start with your six-word memoir for today. 

6-Word Introduction

Lauren Wescott: “Roll the dice, design a game.” Heather, what’s your six-word memoir?

Heather Snyder: “Read every rule of the game.” Today we are talking about games and, Lauren, we’ve had an opportunity to play a few board games together. Tell me, what do you like about games? 

What Do You Like About Games?

Lauren Wescott: I like the strategizing aspect. I like to craft this big, well thought-out plan and to see it through to fruition through all the curveballs, that might come at you in a game setting. It’s also fun to see how other people’s brains work during strategy games and to study their methods as a kind of learning experience. It’s also just a great way to get to know someone when you see how they process and operate during a game. And I also just like how games can bring people together, especially when it’s a group of strangers. It’s a great way to create fun and laughter. 

Heather Snyder: Interesting. You occasionally design games into your training. What do you think games bring into the training room that you can’t accomplish with traditional training methods? 

What Can Games Add To Training Programs?

Lauren Wescott: Oftentimes participants do not like to put their knowledge or their learning on display in an activity such as a role-play, but games are a great way to practice how someone would or should act in a situation, but in a much more approachable, low-key way. And games are also really memorable. They can drive home learning in a way that more conventional ways can’t because participants are actively applying their learning in order to meet a goal. They want to win the game. And games just heighten engagement, no matter if you’re playing a cooperative game or a competitive game participants perk up when they realize that they’re going to be playing.

Heather Snyder: I just started playing some cooperative games. I recently purchased Pandemic and Hogwarts Battle. And I’ve been playing with my children and my husband. A game you recently worked on is cooperative. Can you explain the difference between cooperative gaming and competitive gaming? 

What Is The Difference Between Competitive Games and Cooperative Games?

Lauren Wescott: Yeah. So competitive games are when you’re competing individually or in teams with another individual or another team. The majority of games fall into this category, such as poker or monopoly or UNO. Cooperative games are where all of the players are working together toward a goal. So these games are a lot less common, but your example is a great one. Pandemic is a great example of a cooperative game that has become fairly popular in the past few years.

Cooperative games work really well in a training environment because you’ll find that some people are very competitive and that can almost ruin a good training if you have your learners getting too heated with one another. But a good cooperative game has people working together toward a goal. So it’s a lot more of a friendly game environment. 

Heather Snyder: I agree. I’ve seen that actually in the training room where I’ve had participants that I want to learn something from the game and they become almost obsessed with winning. And I see that they are not necessarily trying to learn the lesson, but they’re trying to just win the game because it’s too competitive. I see where the cooperative element would actually push them to learn the lesson from the objective. 

Lauren Wescott: Totally. Totally. And it really just makes the environment better for a training purpose

Heather Snyder: What advice might you have for someone who’s intrigued about competitive games and wants to put one together for their training?

Advice For Using Competitive Games In Your Training Programs

Lauren Wescott: Yeah, the best thing that you can do, if you’re looking to design a game of your own, is to just play a lot of games. Get ideas and rework and steal your favorite aspects from a game and incorporate it into your game. I recently created a game and I found that play-testing was everything. I recruited my husband. We mocked it up with, like, construction paper and post-it notes and we used pennies as tokens.

And we just had to play it over and over to make sure that the game wasn’t too hard or too easy for just the general population, and also that the scoring made sense. Scoring is often the most difficult part of a game to design. And so you just need to expect to go through a lot of versions until you can get it just right. And another important aspect is to send your directions off to other people and have them read it over and see if they can understand the game without your help. This is really important if you want to be able to hand over the game to someone else to teach and you won’t be there to explain it. 

Get To Know Lauren Wescott

Heather Snyder: We like to wrap things up each week with a lightning round of questions. Are you ready, Lauren? 

Lauren Wescott: Ready.

Heather Snyder: What book would you recommend to the listeners? 

Lauren Wescott: Jane McGonigal has a great book.  It’s called SuperBetter and it explains the science behind games and why it’s so important in training and in life. She also has some great Ted talks. If that’s more your speed. 

Heather Snyder: I’ve heard of SuperBetter. I really want to read it. She recommends it in one of her Ted talks about gaming. 

Lauren Wescott: Exactly.

Heather Snyder: What is your go-to pre-training meal?

Lauren Wescott: Just a power bar. It’s just enough to hold me over without being too heavy. 

Heather Snyder: What is a piece of training tech you can’t live without? 

Lauren Wescott: Probably just personal device integration, something like Kahoot!

Heather Snyder: Fantastic. Thank you, Lauren. 

Well, that’s a wrap from Train Like You Listen this week. As always let us know what you want to hear by tweeting us @train_champion or leave us a comment on the blog. 

This week’s podcast is sponsored by Soapbox.  Sign up today for a free demo.

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