Sunday, April 03, 2016
Why Agile Game Development?
I made my first computer game in 1976 and became a professional game developer in 1994. Within five years I was nearly burned out: I had been promoted to lead seven game projects and had turned into that whip waving manager that we all hated.
But I have been inspired along the way by witnessing how people like Shigeru Miyamoto made games and what Mark Cerney wrote about his ideal process. I have also been inspired by being on a few teams that made great games and loved making them together.
This all came together when I read the first book about Scrum in 2003. It wasn't hard to make a connection between Miyamoto's "find the fun" philosophy and Mark's preproduction experimentation approach and the values of Scrum.
So we started experimenting with Scrum in game development. It wasn't a perfect fit. For example, we had to go beyond Scrum for content production and support. Along the way, we attended courses by Ken Schwaber and Mike Cohn (who also coached us onsite). They both inspired us about the human aspect of agile.
But after using it awhile, we began to see the benefit. Teams became more accountable. We leaders focused less on solving daily problems for them or baby-sitting a prescriptive process. We learned to serve their need for vision, clarity and support. Engagement, passion and fun grew.
A few years later, we were acquired by Vivendi and I started visiting their other studios to talk about how Scrum works for game development. I also started presenting the topic at GDC to large audiences. I enjoyed doing this and was encouraged by Mike, now a friend and mentor, to do it full-time.
So I took the leap in 2008 and began life as a one-person training crew. I had plenty of time and barely enough savings in the first few years to finish the book. Following that, the business became sustainable and I have loved every minute (OK, some of the airline travel hasn't been great). I do miss working on games directly with small teams, but walking inside over 100 studios over the past eight years and getting to know the people within is rewarding.
I'm not doing this to grow a big consulting firm. I still consider myself a game developer first and a trainer/consultant second. However, I am a Certified Scrum Trainer and have worked with some of the most skilled agile and lean trainers and thinkers. Combined with my game development experience this has helped me translate the purpose and values of agile and lean to the realities and challenges game developers face.
My goal isn't to ensure teams are following some rules by-the-book, but to help them find ways to make great games through iterative and human-focused approaches that work for game teams...and have a blast doing it.