From my own observations and those of other industry veterans whose insight I find particularly valuable, video game production is headed into what I’ll refer to as a post-agile world. Here’s what I mean by that…
Sometime around 2006 we started to hear more about Scrum and Kanban and other Agile practices being adopted into game development. It was certainly sparse at first, and the introduction was championed by only a few. But the value of using an explicitly iterative framework for making a game was undeniable to many and so these practices soon became fairly mainstream across most sectors of the industry. Fast forward to 2010 and many job descriptions – especially for production positions – either mention familiarity with Scrum as a requirement or don’t even bring it up because the familiarity is implied, in much the same way as the description wouldn’t state, “applicant must know how to send and receive email.”
Over the years between industry introduction and widespread acceptance, Agile practices have been put into place in many studios with varying degrees of success. New defense of Agile practices that had been modified to meet specific needs of particular projects or organizations. In summary, the industry took about five years to go from “Wow, this Agile stuff seems to be a great fit for making games!” to “OK, it doesn’t really fit what we’re doing exactly” and now, in 2011, we’ve arrived at “That was interesting, but our company has moved on from Scrum.”
For all of the conference sessions and post-mortems from years past that described Agile adoption at any given studio, you can now hear (if you’re listening for them) just as many stories of companies evolving their production practices well beyond out-of-the-box Scrum. Or to be more descriptive, companies are realizing that what’s most important is not a matter of production practices themselves, but rather the bigger development picture, of which certain practices are only a part.
Certainly how you management styles, and company culture. I’d like to think the open discussion of these topics is an indication that our comparatively young industry is taking steps toward maturity. Is it emotional growth? Or are all of the above links just disconnected observations? How can we even tell the difference?
The reason I put “Part 1” in the title of this article is because – as you can see from the last paragraph – I have more questions than answers at this point. But I’m going to continue my musings because I think there’s real value in treating improved production practices as a means to an end, not the destination itself. It’s a piece of the puzzle, but the puzzle itself is improved companies and an improved industry.