5 Agile Games for Innovative Learning

by Sean Blake, Head of Marketing

09 Jul 2021

Agile software development uses iteration to improve agile practices. More than that, development teams use agile principles to enhance self-organization. Improving the Scrum framework leads to improvements in rapid deliverables and product outcomes through iteration.

But taking on agile when you're not familiar with this approach can be challenging. Team members need a bridging tool. A bridging tool like virtual team building activities supports new learning activities. New learning promotes new ways of thinking that promote continuous improvement. Enter, Agile games!

Learn how these games can support team-building and promote problem-solving for better software development processes, and which agile games to look for.

What are agile games?

Agile games are online games that entire teams can play. These games were created for team-building activities. They help nurture effective teams by getting everyone to work towards a common goal. When agile teams put their heads together, communicate effectively, and take on new learning, everyone wins — including product owners.

Team building games drive innovation by encouraging a new perspective through team-building exercises. Agile games are fun, but they are also practical. This practical approach enables team members to adopt new behaviors.

When they play agile games, teams implement better working methodologies in software development. Agile games support team building through new learning activities and iteration.

Ultimately, agile games augment the good communication and self-organization of DevOps teams. The outcome of playing agile games is that your team members more rapidly assimilate agile software.

As agile teams improve their problem-solving skills, they reap multiple benefits that might have fallen along the wayside if they didn't use an agile methodology or these agile games.

Types of agile games

agile games: girl wiping her face with a black ink GIF

There are multiple agile games that you can use to familiarize new teams with agile software. Tastycupcakes developed many of these simple games as ice breakers, which encourage introverts to participate more fully in Scrum practices. These games also help build multitasking skills in high-pressure DevOps environments, which any agile coach will be happy to use.

Now that you have some groundwork to help you understand the thinking behind agile games, you’re probably keen to find out what types of games you can play to build teamwork.

Here are a few agile games to whet your appetite. This list of games goes from the shortest to the longest playing times, each with its own objective.

1. Chocolate Bar Game

Playing time: 5 minutes

Players required: 4 or more

Format: Virtual and in-person

Objectives: Team building activity for customer feedback and iteration

The Chocolate Bar Game is ideal for new teams who are unfamiliar with agile practices. Teamwork improves as the members play this game and learn more about iteration. Entire teams can also play this game to understand how to integrate customer feedback into their retrospectives.

You can either play the game in person or play an online game with remote teams.

The Chocolate Bar game works as a Scrum simulation. The goal is to create a chocolate bar as if you were taking instructions from the product owner. Development teams choose their product manager who can also be the product owner. The rest of the agile team are the customers.

The product owner acts as a facilitator, instructing team members to create a chocolate bar that appeals to the target market. This chocolate bar must be delicious and can be made from either dark chocolate, milk chocolate, or white chocolate.

Additionally, the team can select a range of fillings to improve their product. Toppings and other unique features also come into play as teams can include organic or gluten-free features that cater to a niche market.

After each iteration, the project manager provides the team with customer feedback. Customers can give the software development team (or chocolate bar creation team) a thumbs up for their creation if they approve of the chocolate made by the agile team. Customers can also give team members a thumbs down if they don’t like the initial stages of their chocolate bar creation.

Teamwork involves recording customers' responses for changes before the next iteration, which involves the chocolate bar fillings. The team members will continue building their chocolate bar, adding or subtracting fillings and toppings until most customers are happy with their creation.

As you can see, playing the Chocolate Bar Game involves repetitive iteration based on customer feedback, which is the objective of this agile game.

2. How to Hug

agile games: sending virtual hug GIF

Playing time: 5 minutes or less

Players required: 3 or more

Format: Virtual only

Objective: Agile team collaboration

How to Hug is a simple game for improving team collaboration, especially on a remote team. How to Hug is a great icebreaker when introducing new team members.

The Scrum team can access this agile team-building activity online. The entire team uploads their photos for display on the How to Hug virtual circle. The whole team can then vote to place their image at the circle's center.

Once the agile team has a central image, the rest of the members move their images to touch the Scrum Master's image at the circle's center.

Everyone has a chance to place their image at the center of the circle, and the team repeats the process. Although a simple game, this is one of those virtual team-building activities that involve lots of laughs.

Team members learn about each other during this virtual hugging session with collaboration and team bonding helping to create a great team.

3. Ball Point Game

Playing time: 15 minutes, split into 3-minute sessions

Players required: 4 or more

Format: In-person and virtual

Objective: Agile production process

The objective in playing Ball Point is for the Scrum team to navigate agile projects better. By understanding the agile production process, the team appreciates the importance of self-organization. Self-organization is the cornerstone for creating Scrum processes that work so that the entire team can engage in effective iteration.

Entire teams can play this game physically or online, using game icons on the virtual whiteboard.

The common goal is for the team to move a ball or several balls around the table. Team members must all touch the ball or balls once. After one team member touches the ball, the next person must do the same. The Scrum team earns a point if they successfully manage to move the ball around the table.

Each sprint lasts for three minutes, and the whole team must participate in five sprints to see who wins the Ball Point game. During the first sprint, the team discusses their strategy and takes notes to anticipate how many points they will score in the first minute.

The second minute involves moving the ball around the table. The Scrum team records their points and new learning in the third minute.

As the game progresses, teamwork intensifies as members add more balls in the following sprint rounds. As the team passes balls simultaneously, the game becomes more complex. More thinking is required in the iteration process as team members attempt to increase their scores. After each round, the teams engage in a brief retrospective to see what tactics they can use to score more points in the next sprint. Simple but effective!

4. Marshmallow Tower

Playing time: 20 minutes for a single round

Players required: 4 or more

Format: In-person only

Objectives: Iteration and collaboration

This is an in-person team building activity, and the team will need a few supplies:

  • Dry spaghetti
  • One yard of tape
  • One yard of string
  • Marshmallows

Team members must engage in this learning activity in groups of four people. The Scrum master hands out 20 pieces of spaghetti to each team, along with the other provisions.

The objective here is to build the highest marshmallow tower with these items. The marshmallow tower must be freestanding, and team members must place all the marshmallows at the top of the structure. Some agile games use one marshmallow, while others match the marshmallow numbers with the spaghetti sticks.

Inevitably, the tower collapses as the team places the marshmallow on top. But the goal is to simulate the Scrum retrospective through several iterations. The whole team must quickly regroup through good communication and collaboration to improve each successive round.

The concept sounds simple, but its execution is deceptively tricky. Teams need to collaborate quickly, and you’re sure to see plenty of towers collapse at the last second as teams scramble to place the marshmallow on top of their structures.

But, repeat the challenge several times, and you’ll see teams refine their approaches to collaboration and iterate on their earlier creations.

5. LEGO Flow Game

GIF of red blocks

Playing time: 60 to 90 minutes

Players required: 3 to 9 people or more

Format: In-person only

Objectives: Scrum simulation, iteration, collaboration, workflow

The LEGO Flow game focuses on a Scrum simulation. Agile teams build a virtual LEGO Advent Calendar to detail work items in an efficient workflow. Each section of the workflow involves specific role players.

The common goal is to build the items, find the following advent calendar number (analysis) and then identify a set of LEGO pieces that must align with the supply source (suppliers).

The Scrum team builds (builders) the LEGO item as they progress through the game. Team members must engage in constant iteration to determine whether the build is correct and acceptable to the market representatives or product owner (acceptors).

Agile coaches will love using this game as it is an excellent tool to introduce new teams to Agile. LEGO Flow offers new teams the opportunity to engage in new learning activities through a simulated Scrum exercise.

LEGO Flow is an agile game that requires three rounds, each with its own objective. These objectives include batch and phase-driven processes together with time-boxed and flow-based processes.

After each of the three rounds, teamwork involves sprint retrospectives to understand what went well and what challenges the team encountered. The objective is to analyze the pros and cons of each sprint approach, demonstrating the benefits of teamwork. The game ends with the building of an overall Cumulative Flow Diagram.

This diagram allows the whole team to view its strategies and decisions, consider where they went wrong in each round of this agile game, and enhance their workflow.

If time allows, the Scrum master can question team members about what policy changes they would make for future sprints.

Agile games and team building activities

The whole team can transform their work-life with virtual team-building activities over Zoom. Having some fun while learning definitely beats using a physical whiteboard and sticky notes to introduce new teams to the Scrum framework.

Easy Agile apps are yet another innovative way to ease your new team into the Agile family. Dive into the world of Easy Agile Scrum Workflow for Jira that you can combine with LEGO Flow.

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