Abstract Details

Narrative Design For
Sustainable Leadership Development
In Online Gaming

Causeway is a commercial video game currently in development which explores the potential for online team games to nurture players’ leadership skills in an accelerated and sustainable way.

The potential for online gaming, and particularly the genre of lane-pushing games” to contribute to leadership development is huge. A typical lane-pushing game is multiplayer, played online in short sessions (20-60 minutes), and involves two teams with five players each wrestling for victory in a fantasy-themed battle. Rich strategic depth presents unending novel challenges, ensuring players cannot rely too easily on passive shared understanding of the game to guide them to victory. They need to adapt and learn.

Players are typically assigned into teams by a matchmaking algorithm based on their percieved skill level, and consequently have continual exposure to new team-mates. Many players compete to earn higher skill ratings, and will invest heavy amounts of time into the game to do so. This can lead to development in many skill areas, such as resource management, situational awareness, learning to take a loss, etc.

Despite being team-based games, lane-pushing game players tend not leverage or learn leadership skills in their pursuit of victory. The opportunity exists, but in practice establishing leadership is highly inefficient. This can be due to time constraints, limited communication tools, language barriers, differing “expert opinions” from players, poor methods of conflict resolution, and having none of the team-building exercises, motivational speaking, or coaching that would be available in a professional environment.

In fact, lane-pushing games (which are played exclusively online, and have a young, male-leaning player base) are notorious for poor player behaviour. Most players learn to stick to playing with friends, or only engage minimally with their team lest they provoke trouble.

Our objective with Causeway is to take the highly successful formula that drives this genre, and:

  1. Design in-game incentives and mechanics that encourage and reward actively taking up leadership roles.
  2. Develop an ecosystem around and outside of the game which promotes positivity and everyone’s growth and leaders and team players.
  3. Provide narrative structure which improve receptiveness to and comprehension of leadership, as applicable in-game and beyond.

Combined, we believe these strands can produce a rich environment where players can test and develop their leadership ability on a continual basis, informed by the real metric of wins and losses, and supported by a community that recognises the value of peer learning and personal growth.

At iGBL 2018, we described our approach to game design and how incentives can create leadership-positive team dynamics. This year we will discuss elements of the game’s narrative design, and how we approach the constraints of being a live-service game in a genre where narrative delivery is not typically considered as being endemic to gameplay. Furthermore, we will detail how the narrative design is directed to improve receptiveness to concepts like leadership among players who can be distant from the idea of skill development or engaging positively with other players.

We look forward to sharing and advancing these ideas with you!

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