Leadership Learning through Virtual Play

Leadership Learning through Virtual Play

Geraldine Torrisi-Steele (Griffith University, Australia)
Copyright: © 2017 |Pages: 10
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-1049-9.ch027
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Understanding the complexities of leadership and its development is an ongoing challenge. Some researchers are turning to virtual gaming environments for the purposes of researching how leadership arises and how it plays out in the context of the large, dynamic and intricate social systems found in massive online multiplayer gaming environments. The potential of these virtual gaming environments to shed light on leadership and its processes is evident in literature and is the focus of the present chapter. Some design considerations for the development of serious virtual gaming environments to help learn leadership through play are highlighted.
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Of all the needs of an organization, the most fundamental is the need for effective leadership. In our globalized, competitive world the demands placed on organizational leaders are numerous, and meeting those demands effectively requires advanced thinking and knowledge of complex social and economic systems. Given the importance of leadership to the success of an organization, identifying the capabilities of effective leadership for the 21st century, and how to develop those capabilities, is at the forefront of organizational concerns. Interestingly, though organizations recognise the importance of leadership for organizational survival, not all organizations have put their own leadership programs in place with as many as 21% of organizations across the globe lacking leadership programs (Deloitte, 2016).

The development of effective leadership programs requires a foundation of knowledge about what leadership is, how it is enacted and how it is developed. Over many years, attempts to better grasp the concept leadership and its development have precipitated a great volume of literature but leadership remains a perennial largely unresolved issue for organizations. To complicate matters further the ever-changing social and economic conditions of our time demand continuous examination, renewal and extension of the existing body of knowledge surrounding leadership.

Some researchers in leadership have made the observation that leadership behavior is seen in virtual online gaming environments that involve complex interactions among many players. In many ways online virtual worlds mimic complex social structures of the real world. Success in these games requires players to organize themselves into collaborative groups that work towards common goals, the groups compete with others for territory and wealth. Individuals in the game align themselves with a group in order to effectively play the game. The ultimate game goal being dominance of the group over others in territory and economy. This is not so unlike organizations in the real world.

The present chapter explores literature related to the application of massive online game environments to the understanding and development of leadership. A brief history of the use of games in learning precedes a discussion of the use of massive multiplayer online games for understanding and developing leadership.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Massive Multiplayer Online Games (MMOGs): Large and complex online communities in which interaction among players is enabled by in game social media tools.

Leadership Capabilities: There are many listed capabilities of effective leaders. However, there is general agreement that core leadership capabilities follow Kotter’s (1990) AU22: The in-text citation "Kotter’s (1990)" is not in the reference list. Please correct the citation, add the reference to the list, or delete the citation. conceptualization of leadership and relate to establishing a vision, aligning people (communicating clear goals, seeking commitment, building teams), and motivating and inspiring others.

21st Century Skills: As the world becomes more interconnected and technology proliferates every aspect of life, individuals in the 21 st century will require some core skills to fully and effectively participate in a dynamic information driven society. These skills are commonly cited as critical thinking, collaboration and teamwork, creativity, problem solving and learning how to learn.

Gamification: Using gaming structures and gameplay features for serving the primary purpose other than entertainment. Gamification does not necessarily mean using a whole game. Gamification is also considered to occur if using individual elements of games.

Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games (MMORGs): A genre of massive multiplayer online games in which individuals assume the role of a character in the game. World of Warcraft is an example of an MMORGs. Sometimes the terms MMORGs and MMOGs are used interchangeably.

Virtual Teams: Virtual teams predominantly make use of digital technologies for the purposes of communication. Usually the members of virtual teams are separated geographically but teams in which members are co-located may be also be considered to have a virtual dimension since they also increasingly rely on digital communications technologies. The defining characteristic of virtual teams is decrease in physical face-to-face interaction in favor of communications technologies.

Serious Games: A genre of digital games that have been designed specifically for the purpose of learning and teaching has arisen and such games are oftentimes referred to as ‘serious’ games. Serious games combine learning strategies, knowledge and structures, and game elements to teach specific skills, knowledge and attitudes important in a particular discipline.

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