Gamechanger: Lessons from an Office Halloween Game


Happy Halloween

Gamechanger: "Betrayal at House on the Hill"

The Leadership Program has been providing quality programs to students, their families, and their communities for nearly 25 years. More often than not, the activities we do are first workshopped amongst staff members. In this monthly series, I explore how we can and do use games as a vehicle for leadership development. This month, I discuss an office Halloween game we recently tried out.

Halloween is this weekend! I love the event, and decided to get my “spooky” on by inviting friends over to play a horror-themed board game.

The only problem is, I’d never played the game before.

The game in question, Betrayal at House on the Hill, is a tile game where players build their own haunted house room by room. But there is a darker secret in the house: one of the players will betray the rest, and the innocent heroes must now defeat the traitor before they can achieve their evil goals.

I didn’t want to walk into my party having only read the instructions, so I decided to practice the game during a lunch break with my coworkers. The Leadership Program prides itself on the curriculum we develop and use with both students and parents; many of our activities incorporate elements of play as a catalyst for greater goals (e.g. Social and Emotional Learning, leadership development, community building, and much more). I knew this was a good group with whom to start out, because this is what we do everyday.

The practice was more successful than I could have imagined. Not only did I learn the game, I also learned how games can help a company, both in culture and in performance. Here’s just a few of my thoughts:

  • Cast a wide net: I debated targeting specific people to help me practice the game. Instead, I cast a wide net, emailing almost everyone in the company. And while a few of the usual suspects agreed to play, I did have a few surprising entries. As a result, I received feedback I never expected (and, in fact, greatly needed).
    When assembling a team for a project, our instinct is often to go with just the people we work with most closely. And while this may be practical in certain cases, I strongly suggest leaving a few seats at the table open to new faces. Your projects will likely benefit from the fresh thinking.


  • Invite people to your table reading, not just opening night: I made it very clear in my invitation that I was running the practice in order to better learn the game’s mechanics. In fact, I warned people that we most likely wouldn’t finish. The participants still had fun (it was all I could do to pry the dice from their hands at the end of our allotted time), but they also treated it like the practice it was meant to be. They were understanding when I made mistakes; in fact, they were highly supportive in my goal to master the rules. For example, after a few rounds had been played, I realized I had completely misunderstood how the dice mechanic worked. Instead of being upset, or feeling cheated, the players shrugged it off and continued to play.
    When working on projects, we may be hesitant to share content with people until we’ve achieved a certain level of perfection. For instance, a presentation we are working on might first be tried out only days before the actual date. I think this is a mistake. We shouldn’t be afraid of inviting people into the process early on. A steady stream of feedback has the potential to prevent you from overlooking early missteps.


  • Collaboration benefits everyone, and is fun: Monopoly is not always everyone’s cup of tea. Cooperative games are becoming all the rage these days, and rightly so. When your opponent is the game, and not each other, the environment can become much more convivial. This is not to say strictly competitive games can’t be fun (I’ll be discussing some of those in future posts, be sure!), but cooperative games can be more attractive to people who don’t typically play games.
    In a healthy office environment, your colleagues should be viewed as your compatriots, not potential rivals. You are all “playing” the same game; you’re sharing space on the same game board. If you are openly and earnestly working to achieve the same goals, then one person’s success is shared by all.

Take a look at your office environment right now. In your day-to-day operations, are you playing a friendly game of Forbidden Desert? Or, are you playing a winner-take-all game of Risk?

Submit your thoughts below, and feel free to suggest a game you think we should take a look at in the future (you can also send me recommendations on Twitter).


"Gamechanger: Lessons from a Office Halloween Game", 10/30/2015


By tholme