"Hard work often pays off over time, but laziness always pays off now."

Additionally, the game industry is so in the dark when it comes to project management, many really can't imagine that another way exists. ("You mean we don't have to crunch from day one?") Indeed, some developers have flatly stated that they had no idea such process improvement tools and techniques - which have been used for years elsewhere in software development - even existed. A related problem is the fact that the game industry has had much success under the current regime, and no one is willing to gamble their career on killing the goose that laid the golden eggs. Well, some are, but they are in the minority...

On a more practical level, a major challenge to widespread adoption of such improvements is that much of the production research and knowledge about their benefits is not directly from the game industry. For one, this means developers are too ready to dismiss the research as irrelevant (certainly, some of it is). But, more pragmatically, they don't have the time or ability to "translate" and apply lessons from other types of projects to games. Moreover, the game industry has an ongoing and rather serious case of xenophobia, manifested in an unwillingness to adopt or in many cases even examine ideas from the "outside." This behavior is less likely the result of arrogance, than from hacker ethic roots and of caution bred by constant battery from outside forces.

On the whole, everyone is still fighting too many fires related to today's milestone to be looking at a longer-term pay off.

Churn and Burn
Of graver concern is the widely held view that developers are replaceable cogs in the machine. With a rampant developer-as-commodity attitude, it's no surprise that more isn't done to invest in workers' long-term careers.

No doubt, any discussion of quality of life or saner production schedules framed in an "I don't want to work hard" context is career suicide. Rather, the industry needs to take an approach that proclaims the ROI potential of happy workers running under smart project management.

Ignoring all the massive ROI potential discussed previously, the reality is that driving staff to the point of burnout is bad business. Humanitarian treatment aside, the friction cost of losing, and subsequently finding, replacing and training someone new ranges from $20,000 to $100,000-plus per head (the total is a mix of direct costs, like recruiting fees and relocation expenses, and indirect costs, like lost productivity during training or loss of tacit knowledge). An entire team walking out at the end of a project is not unheard of. Kudos to the producer who got the project out, but at what expense?

Let's not even get into the massive costs buried in health care expenses and lost productivity due to sick leave.

Inside Out
In a nutshell, there are investments to generate money and investments to save money. Both approaches are viable paths to a healthy and profitable company and industry. In that regard, it would be interesting to measure the game industry's actual profitability. We all know about the vast revenue growth ($10 billion in the U.S.A. and counting), but is the industry as whole turning a profit?

RELATED CONTENT
Comments on