Build & maintain complex distributed systems
October 1–2, 2017: Training
October 2–4, 2017: Tutorials & Conference
New York, NY

Lessons in interpersonal dynamics from massively multiplayer online games

Margaret Gourlay (VictorOps)
1:30pm2:10pm Tuesday, October 3, 2017
Technical Leadership
Location: Grand Ballroom West
Average rating: ***..
(3.80, 5 ratings)

Who is this presentation for?

  • Development directors, technical leads, software engineering leads, DevOps engineers, and software engineers

Prerequisite knowledge

  • A basic understanding of role-playing games and DevOps and Agile methodologies (useful but not required)

What you'll learn

  • Explore new ways to approach group dynamics and how to improve the construction and scaling of a successful development team


Epidemiologists and economists alike have long struggled with overcoming the unpredictability in human behavior. In 2005, a bug was introduced in the massively multiplayer online game World of Warcraft that ended up lending valuable insights into this difficult problem. Scientists realized that because the game was played by people of both genders, all walks of life, races, ages, and demographics, their behavior during this glitch-induced plague could potentially add insight to insufficient computer models.

Margaret Gourlay draws on this research to share insight into what works and what doesn’t for functional teams within massively multiplayer online games, as well as lessons learned from older massively multiplayer in-person games. Margaret outlines what constitutes a functional and happy group of people working toward a common cause, in games as well as software engineering or development teams, and explains how using these ideas has helped VictorOps strategically grow its engineering team in unexpected ways.

Photo of Margaret Gourlay

Margaret Gourlay


Margaret Gourlay is a senior QA engineer at VictorOps. Margaret’s background is in video game quality assurance. She holds a degree in theoretical math. When she’s not working, she enjoys playing games with friends far and wide, learning new things, and playing outside with her kids.