In the games, participants are asked to travel back in time together with their work colleagues (photo: Markus Winkler / unsplash.com)
A digital service where employees develop their social skills by solving crimes and other mysteries
This talent development project for companies took the audience award at the UOC's entrepreneurship event
The audience award at SpinUOC 2021, the annual entrepreneurship programme organized by the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC), was won by Whoduniter, a digital training and talent development service for companies based on live role play and the Whodunit genre of detective fiction. The project is the brainchild of Helena Mas, a course instructor at the UOC's Faculty of Information and Communication Sciences and a specialist in scripts and interactive narrative.
Mas explained that the name of the project is based on the English expression Whodunit?, which "is the colloquial way of asking 'Who [has] done it?' when a crime is being investigated". According to the entrepreneur, there are companies offering this type of game in Spain, but her project "is the only one that uses games solely to offer training in interpersonal skills".
In the games, participants are asked to travel back in time together with their work colleagues. On this journey everyone becomes a murder suspect and they will have to use their social skills to work out who committed the crime and solve other mysteries. Mas explained that "more than half of the directors of organizations consider these skills to be paramount for professional development".
Game-enhanced skills development
Mas said: "All companies need to train their employees in these social skills, so we offer online training that allows staff to develop them while having a lot of fun." For example, the focus of a game may be for the players to develop their leadership skills. This may be achieved by sending them back to the Wild West to investigate the death of the richest man in town, to discuss the acquisition of land to build a railway or to uncover the whereabouts of a silver mine.
These plots are typical of western films and in this case they "help develop the skills necessary to be a good leader," said Mas. Accordingly, if one of the players has to sell some land on which a railway line is to be built, they will have to use their powers of persuasion, self-assurance and strategic thinking. The participants play a fictitious role in a given time period: "The time travel in our games is highly effective, especially because it forces people out of their comfort zone to find creative solutions to the problems we place in front of them."
The activities bring together people of different ages, interests and levels of self-confidence. So far more than 200 people have taken part, with ages ranging from 18 to 67 years old. The project was created two years ago in Potsdam, Germany, as an activity to encourage socialization between outsiders and locals. A proposal to create an original team-building exercise in Barcelona led Mas to merge these two ideas and ultimately offer the games online, adapting them to the digital world.
She said: "We found that with virtual games we could not only reduce costs, but we could also reach companies whose teams are distributed all over the world." The activity, which takes two and a half hours to complete, is carried out on Zoom or Microsoft Teams, because they are the platforms most used by customers and have rooms where the participants can talk in small groups.
Whoduniter currently offers nine games with different subjects and time periods in German, English, Catalan and Spanish. In addition to Helena Mas, the company also includes Xavier Agudo, a specialist in immersive content for various digital media, and Hilmar Poganatz, a journalist, team trainer and role play designer.
This project supports Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 9: Build resilient infrastructure, promote sustainable industrialization and foster innovation.
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Course instructor at the Faculty of Information and Communication Sciences