Experimenting With the Pacman Retrospective Agile Format

Alex Vernik
Alex Vernik
Engineering Ops Specialist
Posted on
Nov 24, 2021
Updated on
May 23, 2022
Table of Content

The Pacman Retrospective Agile Format will help you put the retro back in Retrospective, and is so quick and easy you’ll be seeing results before you can even say, "Waka Waka.” So why not get into the spirit, gather your team and confront the ghosts-of-Sprints-past! 

What Is the Pacman Retrospective Format?

The Pacman Retrospective Format uses elements from the Pacman video game to thematically highlight different talking points about the last Iteration/Sprint. Each element represents a different question in focus, which then gets answered by each team member.

This format is visual and simple. It involves the Pacman himself, the ghosts, the energy pellets, the remaining lives icon, the high score counter, and the fruits to signify similar aspects of the team's last project. By completing this retrospective, as happens when your team completes any retrospective, you should be able to see marked improvements in software development, morale and teamwork around your company. 

When Can This Agile Strategy be Used?

The Pacman Retrospective Format is best suited for reflection periods directly after an Iteration/Sprint culminates. Feedback has to be relevant and thorough, which is easiest if it's recalled soon after the experience. 

On that same note, the results of the Retrospective (new insights and goals) are also most effective when put into motion soon after the meeting. You’ll also want to bring aspects of your company culture into the meeting, and ensure that your retros are becoming as productive as possible.

How to Generally Execute the Pacman Retrospective Format

The Pacman Retrospective Format uses each part of the Pacman game to represent a question or discussion prompt, based on its function in the game. The theme incorporates the following;

The Pacman

The Pacman represents the team as a whole in pursuit of success and ease. It begs the question:

  • What did we do well?

Its answers are written in the Pacman column, or on yellow sticky notes.

The Ghosts

The ghosts represent some difficult conflicts along the way. They prompt the discussion of:

  • What problems confronted us and how can we avoid them next time?

Its answers are written in the Ghosts column, or on pink sticky notes.

The Energy Pellets

The energy pellets represent the strive for abundance and inspire the question:

  • What should we do more of next (because it's so effective and went well this time)?

Its answers are written in the Energy Pellets column, or on white sticky notes.

The Remaining Lives

The remaining lives signify do-overs and second chances. They beg the question:

  • What would we do differently if we could do it over again?

Its answers are written in the Remaining Lives column, or on orange sticky notes.

The Fruits

The fruits represent bonus rewards and could translate to:

  • What was a pleasant surprise/bonus during the process and how did it come to be? 

Its answers are written in the fruits column, or on red sticky notes.

The High Score

High scores signify progress and future attainment. This area will hold the answers to the prompt:

  • What is our next exciting short-term goal and how will we get there efficiently?

Its answers are written in the High Score column, or on GREEN sticky notes.

Each of these elements is super flexible based on the resources at hand (color variances of sticky notes, drawing boards, etc) and the questions/prompts can be modified as needed. 

Pacman retrospective board
Pacman Retrospective tremplate

There are two ways to run the Pacman Retrospective Format. For the first way, take a white board or virtual space and draw up a Pacman game screen (maze/trails of pellets, ghosts dispersed enroute, high score up top, Pacman at the center of the maze, fruits below, and remaining lives below as well). Sticky notes get filled out by each member as the gamified questions are announced, and are then stuck up on the board in their designated area. They're then all discussed one-by-one as a group. 

The second way to create a Pacman Retrospective Agile board is to go into your GoRetro interactive retrospective dashboard and create a custom five column retrospective board. Once inside the board, add an extra column to the end, and rename each to represent one element of the Pacman game. Then, you’ll conduct your virtual retrospective in the same manner you would if you were doing a physical retrospective. This will allow your team to add comments, have discussions, and effectively analyze the past sprint, alongside the new iteration. 

You can even incorporate some action gameplay (roll a die to move up pellet spaces and encounter questions/sticky note answers one-by-one)!

Who Is This Format For?

All members should be in attendance at the Retrospective meeting to present their points of view and experiences. Other relevant attendees for the Retrospective could be Scrum Masters, management, partners, customers, testers, etc. 

This format works best for employees who thrive in gamification settings, where metaphor and themes are used to convey ideas. It's also great for Gen X-ers who'll find great nostalgia in the Pacman theme, and perfect for anyone who prefers a fun and productive retrospective meeting. It's an easier format for introverts since feedback is submitted on sticky notes and then later discussed as a group discourse. 

What Makes This Retrospective Strategy Effective?

This is a totally tubular way to get employees invested in the process of giving feedback and reimagining goals and approaches. Plus, you can direct your team to create some SMART goals so that your next sprint is more specifically outlined. It's super fun, colorful, and nostalgic. 

Each element of the game helps to categorize thoughts/feelings so that the Retrospective is systematized and focused! 

How to Run A Pacman Retrospective In GoRetro

This retrospective is easy to organize virtually on GoRetro. The collaborative platform invites all members to join the collective dashboard and pick out their preferred template to run. From there they can customize visual and functional aspects to their liking and designate roles and accessibility within the software. 

Features like commenting, voting, and privacy settings make group and individual thought submissions so easy to manage and to record for future use! 

Learn more about GoRetro's flexible retrospective templates here, so you can get Waka Waka Waka-ing!

About the author

Alex Vernik
Engineering Ops Specialist

Engineering leader, passionate about coding products and value creation. Vast experience with managing R&D teams at various scales. Embracing innovation and transformation for constant improvement.

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