In the book, Changing the Game, by David Edery and Ethan Mollick, the authors give several examples where business failed to understand system dynamics. Basically, retailers didn’t talk to wholesalers or salespeople didn’t communicate with upper management about the circumstances on the street. So, when the salespeople had a sale to move a slow-moving widget, upper management only got the message that there was an increased demand in widgets. Thinking they’re onto something big, upper management puts in more orders to buy the parts needed to make more widgets. The factories churn out more widgets and the salespeople end up with a glut of a product that nobody really wanted in the first place. As you can see, when businesses fail to have system-level thinking, they can find themselves in a self-defeating spiral.
Designing systems, of course, is a part of game design. And game development itself also has systems and feedback loops. For a while now, we, like other writers, have advocated including the writer early on in the development cycle. This is so the story can go through iterations just like any other aspect of game development, but also because the narrative should not be confined to a vacuum. It is, in fact, part of the system and should be integrated into the system. If you don’t know your story, how can you give a really good reason as to why your player is fighting that enemy and why the world looks that way? Or maybe the story is out of sync with the gameplay, thus making the game world illogical.
What do you think? Do you have other examples of system breakdown or self-defeating cycles in game development?
This post brought to you by Writers Cabal, a game writing and design partnership.
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