Investing and Game Team Management

There’s a great article on Gamasutra about iteration. I know, I know, if you’ve been in the industry for more than ten minutes, you’ve already gone deaf hearing the iteration drum beaten. But this article has some choice bits worth consuming. In listing the factors facing game teams today, he ends with “Management focus on risk because of all the factors stated above”. Then he elaborates:

That last one (increased management focus on risk) has created a cyclic dependency in some of these items that have actually increased them even further, particularly infrastructure. Increased focus on risk brings with it the wish to control the chaos, and implement systems that provide increased visibility and predictability into that chaos.

I assume this is the problem with so many bland unadventurous games out there.

Managers feel useless unless they are doing something. So they worry. They worry about what could happen to us developers while we pound on our keyboards. The market could change. The estimates may be wrong. Marketing partners could come up with something that HAS to be done. A meteor could fall on the studio and wipe out all life on Earth.

So they worry. And feeling that doing something must be better than doing nothing, they act. Like an overprotective parent, they pull back at anything that is a risk factor. Because what would be worse than a risk factor harming a project and having to tell their boss that they saw it there but didn’t think they needed to act?

Think back to your childhood. What are some of your favorite memories? Are they watching TV at home? Or are they when you went climbing in the woods with your friends? Is it sitting inside by the fire or outside sledding down Dead Man’s Gorge?

Moderation in all things. Something isn’t rewarding because it is risky. Don’t play in traffic. But risks have to be taken to get rewards. It is similar to supply and demand. If your currency is risk and something is free and useful, then everybody would buy it until there was a shortage. If you could get rich investing in savings bonds, everyone would do it and no one would buy stocks. So stocks have to provide a better long term return than bonds to reward people for taking the risk.

The same is true for developers. Take no risks and be the investor stuffing currency into his mattress losing to inflation. Take ridiculous risks and be the investor putting their life’s savings into a single penny stock. But smart investors take as much risk as they need and diversify and monitor their risk. Likewise, smart developers diversify their risks and embrace the uncertainty, trusting their teams to create more winners than losers in the long term.

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