Team skills through video games

Four explorers spent an hour examining oceanside ruins, navigating complicated mazes and solving puzzles.

But they weren’t in some faraway location. Instead, teams of four clustered at workstations in a Ryder Hall computer lab, working together on a team-building computer game in “Game-based Entrepreneurship Training.” The session took place on Wednesday as part of the Center for Research Innovation’s Global Entrepreneurship Week.

“Something like this is great because it gets people interacting in ways they might not have otherwise ever done,” said Casper Harteveld, the workshop’s leader and assistant professor of game design and interactive media in the College of Arts, Media and Design. “The idea behind the game is to get people to work in areas like communication and problem solving without it feeling like some formal training session.”

Harteveld noted that “TeamUp” was developed by a group of Dutch students to foster communication and problem-solving skills, which, he added, are of particular importance in business and entrepreneurship. Lacking a formal hierarchy or set instructions, players started to slip into defined roles as leaders or problem solvers.

Team members worked at separate computer stations and were allowed to speak to one another but unable to take notes or otherwise communicate. The team began to quickly solve challenges, which were presented without instructions and with limited clues.

Adam Kassin, a program coordinator for the Center for the Arts, participates in the team-building exercise.

“It’s great because you have to talk to each other,” said Adam Kassin, a staff member in the Northeastern Center for the Arts who participated in the session. “You’re doing something interesting, which isn’t always the case in group trainings, where you are often doing trust falls but aren’t actually learning anything.”

Each challenge required all four players to work together, ensuring that a straggler wasn’t falling too far behind or failing to complete a task.

“Someone’s skills may be behind the team’s, but that’s often the case in real life, too,” Harteveld said. “And the rest of the team has to find a way to make sure that person can participate and contribute or else nothing can move forward, in the game or in a real work environment.”

Other events on Thursday included an open house for IDEA, Northeastern’s venture accelerator, and sessions in intellectual property, open-source technologies and social businesses. Members of the Northeastern Entrepreneurs Club gathered ideas about global entrepreneurship and tried to set a world record for the number of times a light was switched on and off on Centennial Common, prompting passersby to share their “bright idea.”

“There is no record yet,” said Diana Ravensbergen, a third-year marketing and finance major on the E-club’s executive board. “But we’re hoping to create one here today. That’s what entrepreneurship is, after all.”