The Taxonomy of Team Building

by Peter Gent

One of the great benefits of playing massively multiplayer online role playing games, commonly known as MMOs or MMORPGs, is learning about teamwork.

My first MMO was World of Warcraft, which I played on my roommate’s account while he was at work. My Night Elf, named Mat, was a tall, muscular rogue who was good at hiding and performing devastating sneak attacks. He may have had a bit of a dark side. More recently, Tungstin, a boyish, innocent-looking Elezen scholar has kept teams healed while battling mobs in Final Fantasy XIV.

(If you were wondering, a mob is a “monster or beast” in MMOs.)

Mat and Tungstin were effective at what they did – you wouldn’t want to come across either in a dark alley day or night – but they had weaknesses. Neither were particularly resilient and both could lose a lot of health quickly when attacked.

Both were at their best when playing as part of four or five person teams.

This is where team building skills come into play. To do your best and to face difficult challenges requires a team that is well-balanced and knows how to work together.

Here are some typical classes of skills that you might find in a MMO:

Tank – This person is slow and steady, can take a lot of damage and keeps enemies’ focus off teammates. The tank chooses what targets to focus on and is typically, but not always, the leader of the group.

Healer – The first job of the healer is to keep the tank alive and healthy. They also remove poisons and help keep the rest of the team from getting knocked off.

DPS – DPS is short for damage per second, and typically would specialise in a) instant, focused damage, b) area of effect damage, and/or c) damage over time. Sometimes the need is to take down one mob very quickly, other times there are multiple targets to worry about. Or if it will be a slow, difficult fight, you need someone who can execute their slow but ultimately devastating skill-set.

Other – You might also have a team member who is essentially a force multiplier. Their primary skill might be in amplifying the effects of others’ skills. On their own this person might not be very effective, but if they are part of your team, expect to outperform.

This provides a nice metaphor for real life teams.

If you have a task to accomplish, maybe it is best done with a group. You may indeed be pretty amazing on your own – as I think Mat and Tungstin were – but with others at your side you can do wonders.

You might, for instance, ask whether a teammate is introverted or extroverted. Is this person someone who brings the energy and leads or someone who sits back and watches, noticing the team, and helping keep everyone engaged and on track.

Do they take on the role of a slow and steady tank? Or a dps who gets things done? Maybe they are someone who knows the end goal and goes for the long-term win? Are they a healer who keeps everyone at their best? Or maybe they have some other skill-set?

Diversity improves teams, but only if everyone shares a goal. Too much diversity can be debilitating if there is no consensus about aims, and you might have some team disfunction if some of you think the plan is clearing the dungeon and others just want to do a quick loot run.

I think all this comes down to two things:

1) everyone has at least one skill, and,

2) everyone has a story.

If you want to outperform, learn people’s stories and learn their skills. With that knowledge you can take down the hardest mob boss, run a complex social event, or astound people with your group presentation.

If someone is an introvert and hates public speaking you may not want to ask them to present your team’s work in public – unless you want a hot mess of embarrassment. You may find however, that this person writes the perfect speech for another teammate to use. Or maybe their story is one of overcoming challenges, facing their fears, and coming from nowhere to surprise even their closest friends. You may in fact find that the tongue-tied introvert is the perfect person to give an engaging, funny, and moving talk—but you’ll only find this out if you know their story and can recognise this latent skill.

The fact that someone is chronically late might signify they are not the person to ask to organise things for your team. Indeed they may not have a functioning skill-set when it comes to thinking backwards from the end goal, recognising potential pitfalls, and creating contingency plans.

But your chronically late team member may be the person who stops on their way to have a ‘quick chat’ with someone in need of encouragement. Or perhaps they have been so lost in fantastic dreams that they forgot about the practicalities of actually meeting with a teammate – but if you can get them to the meeting they might bring the inspiration you needed.

If you know a person’s story and their skills, you can find ways to make it work, and indeed work splendidly. With every team member, ask the questions: what can they do, and why would they want to do it?

Identify that and set them loose.



The Poor Print

Established in 2013, The Poor Print is the student-run newspaper of Oriel College, Oxford. Written by members of the JCR, MCR, SCR and staff, new issues are published fortnightly during term. Our current Executive Editors are Siddiq Islam and Jerric Chong.

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