8 things I learned from playing Fallout Shelter

For those of you who are not geeks, Fallout Shelter is an app game where you manage a post-nuclear-apocalyptic survivor’s vault, trying to keep all of your dwellers alive, fed, happy, and radiation-free. You do this by building rooms, generating power, growing food, purifying water, and maybe sending some lone wolves into the wasteland to scavenge crap you need. After way too many hours of playing, it struck me how many of the strategies that help you survive translate directly to the modern office. Let’s review:

  1. Assign folks according to their strengths, not necessarily where you need a live body. Decide to put them in an area that demands their strengths? That area thrives. Put them where they suck? That area performs poorly (and you need more people to get the same work done).
  2. Give dwellers the tools they need, and they’ll work more efficiently in their given area (duh).
  3. When natural ability gets them only so far, give them advanced training to work more efficiently.
    1. And have enough folks to cover their absence.
      1. And sooner or later, get everyone the training.
        1. And change your training program to meet new needs.
  4. Explore! You can’t survive without looking out your front door once in a while. You might find something wonderfully useful you hadn’t imagined. Or you might get ripped apart by a rad scorpion.
  5. Check in with explorers regularly – pull them out if they’re in trouble!
  6. Arrange your rooms for anticipated growth. If you bunch them up poorly, it costs more to build more or rebuild later.
    1. If you have a sucky arrangement, fix that as soon as you can. The longer you limp along, the longer you have to limp.
  7. Keep track of morale – happier people produce more.
  8. Have frequent ethics/morality checks, or have someone on board as the voice of conscience. (Just because a process is more efficient doesn’t make it right, e.g. human breeding farms for repopulating a nuclear wasteland: totally efficient, but totally wrong.)

This shit seems obvious, right? Yet in the heat of a crisis, I made the mistakes of:

  • Moving people off their strengths just to cover an area, and then never getting them back where they added the most value. Sooner or later, everything went to hell.
  • Not reviewing my people enough to make sure they had the tools they needed. For long periods, they underperformed.
  • Skipping training because it was too expensive, or I was too lazy to reassign folks.
  • Forgetting about my explorers until they died.
  • Not paying attention to morale, and so they underperformed, or wandered off their tasks.
  • Building hastily and then regretting the inefficiency it caused, and wasting a lot of money ripping things down and doing it properly the second or third time.

Bethesda recently deployed an upgrade that makes the game even tougher. Playing it now is like shoveling mud – many of my dwellers are getting killed by invaders, giant roaches, or random fires. Yet it remains addicting, and the lessons still hold. Whether you’re a geek or a manager, you’ll get a lot out of this game. So play it.

If only corporate life were as straightforward as an app game filled with smiling idiots…

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