Why Playing Games Is the Key to Making Our Team Closer and More Effective

by Garrett Jackson

Jun 30, 2023

Posted in Culture

The Formada team sits together at a table, playing the game Bananagrams. Harrison Horblit, VP of Paid Media, smiles at a colleague.

Play Is Serious Business

There is a closet in my house that, depending on who we’re hosting, I either hide or show-off. It is filled with board games from floor to ceiling. And I’m not talking about 10 versions of Monopoly. I’m not exaggerating when I say its contents are equivalent to a small tabletop game store. 

I have bidding games, strategy games, party games, Eurogames, worker placement games, role-playing games, and so on. I’m so deep into this world that sometimes I have to recognize that a good portion of you probably don’t fully understand the previous sentence. 

Let me put it this way: Have you ever gone to a party where people are deep into a board game, and there’s that one guy with a rulebook in front of him, absolutely boring everyone with endless explanations of the gameplay? Hi. That’s me.

I’m very enthusiastic about games. Yes, they’re fun, of course, but it’s more than that. It’s deeper. I believe in the power of games to bring people together. Games can be shared between people as a hobby, passion, or interest. Games also encourage interaction, engagement, and understanding.

I think playing games with another person is one of the easiest ways to cut past the small talk and really get who they are. 

What are they thinking? 

How do they strategize? 

How do they solve problems?

How do they collaborate? 

How do they compete?

Playing games is a fascinating way to get a close look at someone’s personality. 

But gameplay doesn’t need to be limited to the recreational world. It fits very neatly into the professional realm, as well, in my opinion. 

How We Use Games In a Professional Context

At Formada, we use the power of games to bring our team closer together. It might be more formally planned, like at one of our end-of-month team lunches. It could be a way of blowing off a little steam while bonding during our day-long team building events. Or sometimes, it’s totally informal, where we decide to end our daily team meeting with a quick round of what we’ve dubbed “Animal Lifespan.” (More on that later.)

But why? Why do we do this? Why do we think it matters? Let me tell you about it. 

Corporate life pushes you into a lot of “teams.” You probably have, too. But how accurate was that label? How much did you really feel like a high-performing team? 

Personally speaking, I’ve been on some pretty dysfunctional teams and some incredibly efficient and productive teams. 

Most of the time, I’ve found, feeling like a team in the truest sense of the word is less about the external circumstances and more about the internal dynamics and relationships of the people involved. Games are a great way to develop these internal relationships in a positive way.

Playing games teaches you about one another. It shows you strengths that your coworkers possess you might not have seen otherwise. You see how people react to pressure. You see how they have fun. You get to see a lot of things that exist outside of traditional work dynamics, and that’s kinda the point. 

What Playing Games As A Team Can Show You About Your Colleagues 


One of Formada’s three mandates is transparency. I can tell you that I have seen time and time again that a lack of transparency in a professional context has led to failure. Here are a few examples I’ve seen play out:

  • Leadership requests something that is time-intensive and falls out of scope, but gets no push-back from the team
  • A bad policy or process persists without someone asking “why”
  • A client makes a request that could be achieved through a better method, but the specialist doesn’t feel comfortable letting the point of contact know
  • Two team members don’t get along and settle for passive aggression instead of discussion
  • A perceived slight from one team member disrupts their relationship
  • A team member doesn’t communicate they are overwhelmed and hit burnout

Believe it or not, playing games as a team can lead to solutions to every single one of the above issues. Games lead to communication breakthroughs. They are the perfect way to get people past the initial awkwardness of speaking their mind. They get people talking and they create specific rules to permit them to talk or engage. The more we can get people talking, the better. 

Removing Hierarchy

At Formada, we work hard to encourage our team to speak truth to power at every level. Managers and executives should hear our team’s thoughts without letting ego get in the way. Our team should be able to provide their professional expertise with confidence. Both are difficult things to teach. 

We can repeat to our team over and over about how we believe that the best ideas will win out no matter who or where they come from, but new hires understandably don’t believe that until they actually see it for themselves. 

Having been in organizations where CEOs were treated as near gods, I know how hard it is to believe that when you hear it from a new employer. This is where games can help. 

They’re a great tool to help new hires understand our approach to hierarchy. 

Why? Games are a great equalizer. Each player is (typically) on the same playing field, so ideas of hierarchy are removed for the time being. Team members can pose questions, be appropriately aggressive, poke fun at each other, and do things that in a professional setting they may not feel as comfortable doing. 

All team members participate and get to see how interactions can play out positively. 

The next time that team member is talking to their manager about a concern they have, the barrier is lowered. They have built some familiarity and trust through just playing a simple game.


I’m not gonna lie to you. I’ve worked with some interesting people

Once upon a time, I shared an office with a certain co-worker. On a near-daily basis, she would ask me what I thought the average lifespan of certain animals was. I’d make a guess and then she’d look it up on Wikipedia. It was a silly game, but it was fun. It somehow helped us create a more meaningful rapport. 

And that co-worker? Well, Meghan and I have a successful business in its fifth year. So, yeah, games can bring people together, I’d say. 


I have learned a lot about the people I work with through playing games with them. I love to hear not only about people’s interests, but also about their opinions. 

I’ve worked with people who paid for a meteorologist tier account with a weather software company so he could stay up-to-date, a person who memorized the script to The Empire Strikes Back and had a copy of one of the drafts, and a co-worker who had an Instagram account dedicated to kicking food. (Yes. Kicking food.)

People are interesting, but you don’t often get to know that with small talk. Games create spaces for people to express their personality in a safe environment.

Are Games Really A Good Use of the Business’s Time?

I think a lot of people would have been resistant to the idea of team building or playing games on the clock. Any instance of “wasting time” would have been perceived as a loss. But I think most companies now understand that taking time to play together builds familiarity and helps improve their efficiency.

In my opinion, they’re important to any sort of business’s bonding strategy, but as a remote company, they’re doubly so. That said, I don’t think that you should just do anything and expect it to be successful for your organization. 

It’s important to pick games carefully. For example, our games we play are tailored to make everyone feel comfortable. On our software games we play in team lunches, it is set to remove NSFW content or questions. 

With some of our party board games, we always let team members draw new cards in case they don’t feel comfortable with the question or prompt. Giving people an out is important and making sure that they feel safe is vital.

We never want to force anything. The whole point is to lower the stakes, have some fun, increase communication to see if it improves team efficiency and relationships.

If this exercise is making people feel uncomfortable, then it’s not the right track. 

My recommendation would be to pitch this concept to the team, find out what kind of games they like, and start with the ones that serve everyone’s interests. And have fun! There are few other ways to make your team feel more like a team than through game play. Enjoy!


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