Grow Your Agile Mindset With Video Games
I was fortunate to recognise Agile as a mindset when working in video game development.
When I look back to video games I have delivered, the Agile mindset was championed by people. I remember the creative effort, the fun moments, and the long hours past midnight, with my colleagues and friends.
It did not matter if we delivered video games using Scrum or Scrumban or Kanban. Frameworks or methodologies did not influence our process. Sometimes we substituted daily standups for evening demos. We focused on doing the right things rather than following a process that did not consider our needs.
Technology and tools became the enabler. People owned the process.
The Agile mindset was always challenged by the creative and chaotic nature of video development. Finding fun is very hard and requires endurance and commitment.
The following four video game development values influenced my Agile mindset for ever:
Groups of people can belong to teams or tribes. Teams share a common goal like winning. Tribes also want to win. However, tribes are primarily driven by loyalty, common values and common beliefs.
Without passion for video games it is very challenging to join a studio. Passion is a key value to form tribes. As a result of tribal formation, often friends worked together across several studios and locations.
The impact of tribes on productivity is reduced ramp up time and effective knowledge sharing. Tribes also ease the emergence of resilience (when will we find the fun?), cohesion (we are together until the end) and stamina (short-term long hours) required to find the fun.
Users are the boss
Video games are a hit driven business. If players are not at the center of every decision, commercial success is at risk.
In general, software development teams are either not obsessed about users or have ever met one. On the other hand, video game developers are creators and players. This latter duality is critical to reduce the risk of finding fun fast.
Meeting users is a great employee motivator boost to meet the people you help and to cultivate higher purpose. If you work in HR, I recommend you promote employee-end user sessions or think about how new starters can meet users. If you are a Product Owner, think about bringing with you developer(s) to the next client visit or user testing session.
In video game development, the single point of truth is not the product backlog. It is fun. If fun is subjective, when do we ship a video game?
Tribes relied on interactions and behaviours to manage focus, alignment and clarity. During the tail end of video game development, often game play changes were scrutinised. In my experience, clarity around completion was managed by tracking separately improvement tasks (e.g. code changes) and fine tuning tasks (e.g. data-driven changes).
It is far easier to track velocity or check a cumulative flow diagram than to understand how people interact. To manage behaviours, we first need to understand our individual strengths and limitations. Giving up control is not easy and supporting a leader-leader behaviour model is even harder. If you have not read a book on project psychology I recommend Project Psychology.
Without experiments it is very difficult to nurture emergence of fun. Experiments allow tribes to test hypothesis and learn from results to progress along a creative path.
Often software product roadmaps focus on features and solutions, and forget about the original problem. Instead of thinking about features, teams can be assigned problems on a quarterly basis. Through continuous experimentation teams can constantly evaluate minimum solutions that can be built and released in short cycles. No longer relevant problems can be quickly terminated early in the cycle.
Next time you plan for your product also consider continuous experimentation. Estimations may not be needed if you focus on minimum solutions that can be built and released in short cycles to get rapid feedback.
Did you first experience Agile values and principles in video games?