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Too Big To Succeed

We all knew 08's favorite media cliche was bull. Let's take a look at what's better. If you use agile production with a lumbering confused giant, it's not agile anymore. But there is a way...

Hey guys and gals, I'm back from hibernation. Many things have happened in my life since I've last shared some thoughts on here: a company I helped start has bit the dust, GDC10, my best friend got injured at work, I moved into an apartment, I got a day job, I'm starting a new company, new girlfriends waltzed into my life and then we had to kiss goodbye.  And the world has been in a big state of change too.

Ah cliches, how the media love them.  Let's cast our minds back a couple of years to 2008.  A huge election in the US had been decided, the economy had already started falling apart and everyone just wanted to hold on to the way things were.  

Funny how things had already changed without them and the more they held on to the old days and the old ways the more that they fell apart.  The news media coined this clever way to make the US population happy, or at least understanding of the epic failure of a solution to the economic woes: "It's too big to fail."

Well, this is a game dev/biz blog so I'm not here to talk about the economics and political ramifications of government "bailouts" of big businesses.  It's enough to state that no one thought it was a good idea, except those who got the money.  Truth is, if they have brains or hearts (which I actually believe is entirely possible) they know it's bad even if they convinced themselves to think otherwise.

Instead let's talk about the opposite of "too big to fail": "too big to succeed" and how it affects the game industry.  Or as I will re-word it later: "smaller makes it easier to succeed."

Let's talk physics for a minute: (This is really basic so hang in there it's not tough).  Imagine a massive object.  Let's say an asteroid the size of jupiter, a lot bigger than Earth.  Our giant asteroid is a huge rock that is being hurled towards Earth.  Oh crap!  We're doomed!  

Now before you phone one in to Bruce Willis, or the Lifestream and Aeris, consider something for a minute: it's really not possible to succeed in saving the Earth in this situation.  But maybe it is.  What if Earth were going to be hit with a meteor either way, but we could decide the size of the object?  

Let's imagine it's more like the size of a medium sized house.  Oh crap!  It's still possible for it to do a lot of damage.  Imagine the poor family's house that gets hit by a house sized rock!  Here's where we get creative with physics.  Anyone got an RPG to shoot at it?  The family might have some rubble to clean up, but considering they just lived, they'd be glad to.

The point of this seemingly stupid analogy is that the big, massive object is nearly impossible to change it's course and avoid disaster.  The smaller and better sized object can be redirected, stopped, or ignored (maybe it landed in the sea away from any boats).  This silly little metaphor has important wisdom for your work ethic.

Big changes are falling all throughout our world, and especially our industry.  Just in our industry alone there are things like motion controls, new technical abilities, new tools to learn, new people playing and buying games, new ways to make money, new ways to get your games out, new people signing on to work in development with new ideas, the list continues, I'm sure you can add many more.

Big changes with no easy way to change directions add up to failure for big companies.  It's ok.  It's not going to happen overnight.  And what I imply with failure may not be what you imply with failure.  You may succeed in getting some resume padding, "cashing out," having a hell of a launch party, rave reviews, and get on the gravy train.  How can any of that be considered failure?  

Actually, it's not.  Those are pretty good things to have happen.  The problem is what they cost you.  There's a story in the Bible where the devil tempts Jesus by offering him everything in the world.  Jesus, being the wise person he was, responds: "What good is gaining the world if in the process I lose my soul?"  

Wow, way to cut through the crap.  I'm not trying to beat you over the head with the Bible here, so please listen even if you don't care about my religion.  You are a person and you believe in something.  Or did at one point in your life.  And there's plenty of room to get back to that.  If you believe in something, take a stand for it.  

Grow a pair, have backbone.  If you start to work with a big company that doesn't honor you for who you are and encourage your personal growth or care for you, you are setting up the stage for failure.  What do you want in your work/workplace?  Are you getting it now?  Why are you compromising?  Is it worth it?  Are you treated like a person not a number or a gear in a machine?  Are your customers treated like real people and not numbers or whales(people that brainlessly give you money)?

If you are worried about how to get your job done and haven't figured out why, you are doing it wrong.  How will work itself out.  The "why's" are more important.  Once you get that you'll see the flipside of too big to succeed: smaller is more successful.  With a small company you can do anything you need and want and let anything that doesn't matter truly slide.  
What if I told you that you could do much better work on a 20 hour work week than a 60+ crunch period.  I'm not even lying.  When you work at a company that is going the wrong direction you can't just throw more workers at the problem to fix it.  If you are on a collision course with doom, that's only getting you there faster, or make you self destruct before doom, which is effectively just speeding that up.  
But look at the other end of things: say you work in a small company that allows you autonomy to do things your way.  You know your customers better and naturally make a better simpler product for them in less time and are happier about what you do.  By the time a big company finds out about new tech, new trends, new demands, it's already too late for them to act on it, not to mention that it would take them forever to do so.  
Rethink what you are doing in the industry and make your own way.  You'll be much better off like that.  Even if it means not listening to me.  When did I become the expert of your life?  Hell, I don't even know most of the readers of this blog or ever talk to you.
I'd love to get to know you and change that, but let's call a spade a spade. For now, more people read this than I have a personal relationship with.
Let me close be recommending the inspiration for this post, Fried and Hansson's (of 37signals) book, Rework.  I finished reading it this weekend, which is a rarity for me. I usually consume media by only the first chapter or two, first few levels of a game and put it down forever.  (But that's a blog topic unto itself).  
I highly recommend reading the book.  And I'll leave you to a challenge: Why do you make games? Why do you like/dislike where you work? What really are your priorities? Why not forget everything else that's clearly not important? Why not have a small company and love work, love play, love life?

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