Team-building Is Simply A Game At HoloDek

By John Deming, Atlantic News Staff Writer

Atlantic News, Friday, April 15, 2005

[The following article is courtesy of Atlantic News.]

HAMPTON -- So, a person shoots his boss with an AK-47; his boss laughs it off, pats him on the back, and shoots him right back.

You have seen the future of corporate team-building.

"There's nothing like seeing a first-person shooter to see how much of team player you are," said HoloDek CEO Kit McKittrick. "It's telling about their environment, it's telling about their culture."

With a line out its door at 3 p.m. on a Friday afternoon, local video-gaming headquarters HoloDek in Hampton has become one of the more popular places in town. For an hourly rate, gamers can play their favorite video games on the largest screens and fastest computers around.

"They're playing on much better computers than most people have at home," said Dr. Amy Flowers, director of corporate events.

But HoloDek — until now a spot only for the obsessed gamer — is looking to spread its wings.

Flowers and McKittrick have developed an idea to host corporate retreats at HoloDek. Each participant would play on their own large screen, either working with or in opposition to their co-workers.

Video gaming can teach co-workers about each other, and show how each person's strengths can be fully utilized; ultimately, it can build a quality team.

"We're the first people to go into large-scale interactive theatre video-gaming," McKittrick said. "Especially when it comes to team-building."

Oftentimes companies will attempt to develop unity among their staff by staging corporate events like a unified bungee jump, explains Flowers.

"We give them that same sensation that gives them a sense of team camaraderie," she said.

And HoloDek's team-building is far more calculated.

Flowers, an expert in the field, was brought on board by McKittrick solely for the purpose of the developing the team-building program.

Before their session, each member of a team — be it a sales team or any group of employees from any company — takes a "simple psychology test" lasting about 10 minutes, Flowers said.

"You find out the dynamics of the team, how people do and don't fit in," she said.

Flowers then uses that information to decide the appropriate game for the team. There are racing games, gunning games — even a game titled "Rise of Nations," wherein co-workers can partner up to develop and construct a society — and go to war against their co-workers' societies. There are flight simulators as well as deep sea simulators.

"It's a way of doing team-building exercises that have never been done before," Flowers said.

One time, McKittrick said, some co-workers came down to play a shooting game. The president and vice-president of the company were partners, but the president repeatedly and laughingly shot and killed his vice president.

"But if they want to eventually win the game, they're going to have to work together," McKittrick said.

After the first two hours, they take a break, sit down as a group and discuss the dynamics of the game so far.

"You teach them to better utilize their teammates," Flowers said.

And the best part is, it seems to work.

"I think when people become aware of what's going on it gets better," Flowers added.

HoloDek has become extremely popular, and McKittrick has been able to get it that way with no advertising.

"We cater to a certain group that is technologically savvy, and they create a buzz," he said.

During the weekdays, corporate events will take place, opening HoloDek open for gamers on nights and weekends.

They offer half-day, one-day and two-day packages and, he added, "it's very affordable and well-customized."

HoloDek is on the cutting edge in the video gaming theatre, Flowers said, and is the first place to offer constructive video-gaming as a corporate tool.

And HoloDek is also looking to the future. Though it is not yet operational, they have a giant 180-degree screen, allowing someone to use their peripheral vision, and have a gigantic dome for 360-degree, realistic gaming.

Flowers doesn't expect their business to be mimicked, because they are so far ahead on the technology curve, she said. They plan to open a new facility in Portsmouth within the next three or four months, according to McKittrick.

"I think we're pretty far ahead of the rest of the crew," he said.