World of Board Games: Forbidden Island

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As defined by the creators of the board game, the primary object of Forbidden Island is to, “ . . . work together to keep Forbidden Island from sinking in order to buy enough time to capture its four treasures. Once . . . captured . . . (the team of adventurers) must make it to Fools’ Landing and escape by helicopter to win. If however, the island sinks before (the team) can complete (its) tasks, the mission ends in defeat!”

Since a game like Forbidden Island was designed to encourage collaboration between the players, the class was divided into several small-sized self-management teams that would be responsible to learn how to play Forbidden Island together under minimal supervision. In addition to the challenging task of capturing the four treasures while keeping the island from sinking, the class was also tasked with reflecting on the course material as it applies to our individual experience as a member of the team of adventurers while playing Forbidden Island. According to organizational behavior theory, working together as a self-managed team typically allows team members to perform challenging and complex tasks that require a high level of interdependence among members. Furthermore, self-managed teams that demonstrate high group cohesiveness and collective efficacy are more likely to successfully achieve goals and accomplishments. In fact, subject matter experts agree that the tasks that are usually assigned to self-managed teams enhance intrinsic motivation by encouraging the team members to utilize a variety of skills in order to complete the entire assigned task.

With a common end goal in sight, I simply assumed that, in spite of our diversity and differences, our team would have shared the belief that it should have successfully completed the assigned task in order to effectively reflect on our individual and group participation in the Forbidden Island experience. However, the experience of playing this game created a group dynamic that ultimately challenged my personal assumption that team members tend to share similar attitudes, knowledge, and behaviours that equally motivate performance driven goal attainment.

At the start of the Forbidden Island exercise, our group eagerly opened the brightly coloured tin box that contained many valuable lessons that were yet to be learned. With just a few pages of game rules and instructions, and the contents of the tin box spread out across the table, we quickly found ourselves lost among things like, Treasure Cards, Flood Cards, and Adventure Cards. Using the given resources, we were essentially forced to socialize by learning the process and adopting the attitudes, knowledge, and behaviours required to function as a team of adventurers on the island.

At first glance and without any previous experience, playing Forbidden Island appeared to be a rather challenging and complex task; however, being instructed to play at least three iterations of the game afforded our team the opportunity to overcome the stages of socialization with each iteration corresponding to a unique stage. For example, playing a game like Forbidden Island requires the acquisition of certain skills and attitude. Although there is no formal training offered for this game, much of the first iteration, or anticipatory socialization stage, was spent thoroughly reviewing the game’s rules and regulations in an effort to learn the necessary skills and attitudes prior to playing. Although the first iteration was played in a rather chaotic state, the second iteration, or the encounter stage, was played more definitively. At this stage, the members of our team were beginning to demonstrate conformity to the norms of Forbidden Island and to their respective role behaviours. The team was progressively becoming better acquainted with the process of beginning and ending a turn, which also included how and when to “shore up” a flooded Island tile or what to do when a “Waters Rise!” card is drawn. As the...
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