Integrating Games to Change Behaviors, Part 2


Limitations of Games

As games and gaming grow in popularity, some people within the agile community are already pointing at games as a universal cure for all challenges. We should be very clear that there are limitations to using games as a training or coaching instrument. First, while games are valuable, they don’t stand on their own without proper support. People are not able to apply the concepts a game is meant to illustrate until they are educated about those concepts. Because of this, games must be complimented with the appropriate training for people to learn those skills. As I mentioned earlier, without clear debriefs and session design, the best game can fall flat on its face.

We must acknowledge that these games are inherent simplifications of reality and are only approximations, and we should focus on what we are trying to achieve from them. In the case of this article, I’ve discussed using games to produce experiences that help reinforce new behaviors. As such, the games will not be perfect approximations and are limited to vicarious or simulated experiences. Just like how Dr. Bandura enabled his snake-phobic patients to actually walk into the room, if we are using games to introduce new behaviors, participants will need to be eased into opportunities to try these new behaviors. In reality, this needs to occur shortly after trying them in a game or they risk forgetting the experience before they have an opportunity to really incorporate it into how they operate.

Games are a powerful tool in any coach, trainer, or consultant’s toolbox and we should look at them as one component of a series of complimentary activities, including instructional training, coaching, and other activities necessary to help people gain new skills and put them into practice. Thankfully, with the growing popularity of using games within the agile software development field, we see a number of games fully documented, play tested, and available with instructions online. As you look to incorporate games into your own training or coaching activities, you may want to simply start with games already defined and figure out how you can implement them using some of the guidelines outlined in this article. Happy gaming!


  1. Jacqueline Lloyd Smith, Team Work: Hand-On Minds-Engaged, 2009,

About the author

Brian  Bozzuto's picture Brian Bozzuto

Brian Bozzuto is a principal agile coach at BigVisible Solutions. With an extensive background in health insurance and financial service companies, his current focus is supporting teams as they adopt agile and lean practices and deal with the challenges of organizational change. Brian's passion is helping foster better relations between business and technology to achieve more response projects and better business results. He has a broad range of experience applying various process improvement frameworks including Scrum, Kanban, Lean, and Six Sigma in large organizations. Brian has been certified as a Project Management Professional and Certified Scrum Practitioner. He is one of the founding members of the PMI Agile Virtual Community of Practice and the creator of the annual Agile Games conference in Boston.

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