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Role Reversals

Work and Play Don't Mix

We'll end with a narrative that has a mix of positive and negative impacts. This narrative is fascinating as it lies at the intersection of work and play, and in particular, possible consequences of playing games with your bosses.

I have not played in MMOs where I have experienced this; however, that may be due to prior experiences in playing games (FPS) with my boss. In those games, I was responsible for organizing the 'play dates' and encouraging the team to get together. Initially, this was a fantastic way to showcase my leadership and organizational skills. My management promoted those skills as positive teambuilding and rewarded me sufficiently. However, as time wore on, the same manager was not able to continue improvement in the game, and lost interest as the other players became significantly better. When he stopped playing altogether, the expectations that I would set up the games became a liability in that I was spending 'too much time' with organization, and the impression that my manager had of me was that all I did was game. This was reflected in my work performance review for two years, even after we disbanded the group that was playing. Some of us have moved on to the MMO genre now -- but it is much more secretive. We have not invited management back for the same fears of making them feel inadequate or feeling like they need more of a leadership role. [WoW, M, 32]

One interesting theme that ran through many of the narratives is how the gaming environment highlighted the existing power structures in a relationship. It is of course in role-reversals where the power structures are upset that they become most salient and thus available for examination and reflection.

A lot of times, we talk about MMOs as places where we get to play with our own identities and learn about new roles, but these role-reversals suggest that MMOs can also be places where relationships "come into play".


Posted on February 17, 2008 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)


It's hard for me to conceive of a positive boss/employee playing team that doesn't work out badly. I've seen it a few times, and either one has quit, or the employee has perceived that he should (or been outright told) to do certain things.

More permanent relationships are probably a touch safer, but unstable, impermanent relationships don't seem to lead to much fun, MMO-wise.

Posted by: MT on February 29, 2008 7:31 AM

I play RO with my boss and the positive role reversals seems to work. IRL he's much more knowlegible than me but in the game I work out much faster. He gives me a lot of advices (just like he does IRL) and I respect him in both places.
All in all our bonds have become stronger and we have our own 'game lingo' to comunicate during lunch time and field work.

Posted by: MNM on April 30, 2008 10:35 AM
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