Game of the Month February - CYBER! A Hackers game for all ages

There are so many games to choose from. But which ones are really worth the effort? Of course, being the Happy Scrum Master, I have quite a few favourites which I'm more than happy to share with you. Last time, we were desperately trying to find ways to make changes and more changes and even more changes in the Change Game. This month, we’ll be trying to find the answers by hacking our way into the system. This month we'll be playing:

CYBER! A Hackers Game

….or the Detective Game as it’s more commonly known, but I wanted to play this game during this month’s Hacker Hotel in Garderen so I changed it to Cyber Game because, hey, it itches when you say ‘cyber’ in a hackerspace. ;-)

But seriously, the real reason I decided to hack this game was not only because I could, obviously, but because it would make the game so much more suited to the group I’d be playing it with. In Serious Play it’s very important for people to be able to relate to the games you’re asking them to participate in, it makes it so much easier to get your message across.

What is it?

Cyber Game is a really fun way of getting to know each other better and creating a positive atmosphere. It’s played in a group and is designed to test your analytical skills. I’d say you need at least five or six people to play this game but the more the merrier. Depending on the size of the group, one or two players get chosen to be the Hackers – or Detectives, if you’re playing the Detective Game. All the other participants are the Nodes – or Witnesses – and the purpose of the game is for the Hackers to uncover the Algorithms – or Facts – by asking questions. As a Hacker you’re only allowed to ask ‘yes-or-no’ questions but, to keep things fair, all the Nodes are programmed – or have taken an oath – to answer the questions truthfully and to the best of their abilities. Obviously, you’re also not allowed to ask direct questions about the Algorithms either.

And why is this one of my favourite games?

Because you can play this game, or an adapted version of it, with people of all ages and in all kinds of different settings. It’s very inclusive. It’s one of those games that really should be part of any Facilitator’s basic toolkit. It’s a fun game with no deeper layers, so I’m able to combine it with other, more demanding, games to create a balanced session. It’s a good way to end a deep and challenging session on a more light-hearted note and end the day with a positive vibe. Or, if you’ve already been working with a team for a longer period of time, it’s a good way to start a session in order strengthen their team spirit and create a creative mindset before you dive into the real challenge of that day. I wouldn’t use it to start a session with a group that doesn’t know each other really well yet, because two people will be playing a different role and that usually doesn’t work very well.

‘Hey Nancy, why have you changed the order of this Game of the Month blog? You usually explain how the game works before you let us know why it’s one of your favourite games!’

Well, you’re absolutely right. I’ve changed things up a bit. Want to know why? It’s simple, this blog contains a HUGE, and I do mean HUGE, spoiler. So, I decided to put that bit at the end and give you a heads up. It’s impossible to play this game if the Hackers already know the Algorithms but I can’t explain how the game works without letting you know what they are. So, if you’re interested in playing this game make sure you have at least two people who don’t know it yet, otherwise it won’t work…

What makes this game so interesting?

Because it is so very inclusive and such a good way to create a positive atmosphere. It really helps to bring a team together. The game is interactive and a real puzzle to get your teeth into. It’s a really good example of the constructive influence of working together in a positive atmosphere. What usually happens is that the closer the Hackers get to finding the Algorithms the more supportive the circle of Nodes becomes. In the end everybody’s rooting for the Hackers to crack the code – or for the Detectives to solve the mystery – and find the right answers.

How does it work?

Everybody sits down in a circle. Once the Hackers have been chosen, they are asked to leave the room. You then tell the Nodes what the Algorithms are:

Algorithm 1: You answer the questions for the person sitting on your right.

Algorithm 2: If your answer is wrong the group stands up, mingles and sits down somewhere else.

When all the Nodes understand the Algorithms, the Hackers are invited to take their seat and start asking questions. If a Hacker asks a question about the Node sitting on your right, you activate the first Algorithm by answering that question truthfully and to the best of your ability. This is where you find out how well you actually know your team members. If the Node sitting on your left gives an incorrect answer to a question about you, you stand up to activate the second Algorithm and the rest of the group follows your lead. As soon as everybody has mingled and is seated once more the game continues. The Hackers are expected to work out what the Algorithms are based on the Nodes’ answers and behaviours.

Can you imagine the chaos this creates? It’s absolutely hilarious. I played the Detective version of the game with my family during a family holiday and almost fell of my chair laughing when my partner, a wonderful, forty-something, tall and gangly man with a scruffy beard answered ‘yes’ with a deadpan expression on his face when the Detective asked if he was wearing a black dress with bananas on it. Which my nine-year old niece sitting next to him was wearing. As I said, it’s a very inclusive game that can be played in all kinds of settings, with all kinds of people, including little nieces and grandmothers.

Credits to Jonty Wareing for letting me use the Cyber Sticker Photo :D

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