Pitfall Themed Retrospective

Do you remember the classic 80’s video game Pitfall?

Pitfall was released by Activision in 1982 and is one of the all time highest selling game for the Atari 2600, amassing over 4 millions copies sold.

The Atari 2600 was the first video console that I owned and as I kid I remember spending countless hours playing this video game with some of my best friends. The aim of the game was to race the clock and collect gold bars whilst navigating the obstacles and traps that presented themselves along the way (in nutshell).

I can’t quite remember how Pitfall came up one of the conversations I was having recently, but I remembered at the time to write it down in my notebook as I thought it would be a good theme for a future retrospective.

The opportunity to use it as a theme came this week with one of the teams I’m working with.

How did it work?

Before the session I searched for an image from the video game which gave me the structure for how we’d use this theme. I asked the team at the start of the retrospective if the remembered playing Pitfall as a child, and was actually surprised by how many people (half of the team) couldn’t remember playing it or had never heard of it. This was largely due to them being slightly younger and their first consoles being either the Nintendo (NES) or Sega Mega Drive.


Based off the image above I took at stab at drawing something similar on the board and then explained briefly how the the game worked and how we’d use it for the conversations during this retrospective. The sections were:

  • Swinging through the trees (what worked well?)
  • Falling through the black hole (what is puzzling us or unknowns do we have?)
  • Landing on the scorpion (what didn’t work, what isn’t working or what challenges do we have?)


The team then wrote their thoughts and reflections on post-it notes and placed them on the whiteboard. We then grouped the common thoughts and begun discussing each one from the scorpion, to the black hole, and finally swinging through the trees. As always we also took actions throughout where we needed to so that we can follow up the things we need to do before the next retrospective.

What did we learn?

Like the Cricket and Ice Hockey themed retrospectives this was another theme that worked quite well.

The session itself was time boxed to one hour with five minutes at the start for drawing and context setting around the theme (explaining how Pitfall works and who remembered playing it). Five minutes was then spent on our thoughts and reflections, before grouping and conversations.

Having a video game theme was fun and it got everyone involved early in the session. It was a good ice breaker, as people shared memories either playing the game or a game similar.

This theme also brought out a number of good conversations around what was puzzling us or questions we had within the team and around the project itself. The emphasis on the black hole may have helped drive the conversation that way.

So do you remember playing Pitfall as a child? Here is some footage from Youtube to bring back those memories.

If you have any other themed retrospective suggestions it would be great if you could share them in the comments section of this post or send me a tweet – @jhyett

This entry was posted in Agile, Culture, Digital, Kaizen, People, Projects, Retro, Retrospectives, Scrum, Teams and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Pitfall Themed Retrospective

  1. Good stuffs Jay. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Pingback: Speaking at LAST Conference 2016 | Jay Hyett

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