You’ve already got the book — that’s Professional Techniques for Video Game Writing — and you’re anxious for more. Whether you’re a game writer, or you’re a game developer, you’ll want to know two situations to avoid when game writers work as a team. They’re so common, they even have names!
Working as a group, throwing out and adding to each other’s ideas leads to some of the best results out there. We’ve already talked about the different ways to run a team — ownership, compromise, and consensus — and the different drawbacks and benefits. But when you gather in a group, production blocking can occur no matter how you organize the decision making.
What is production blocking? Whenever someone is talking or you are moving forward on one idea, it prevents all the others from moving forward on their ideas. I have been in groups where, in an effort to avoid criticism during the brainstorming phase, we’ve drilled down on an idea that didn’t show much promise instead of gathering as many ideas as possible and focusing on the best ones.
I love the name for this problem, and it’s more common than you think. I’m reminded of a time in junior high when I was working in a team of three. We were supposed to work on a script for a play together, but aside from some initial efforts researching together, we’d never sat down to write the script. The day before it was due, I sat down and wrote the whole thing so we would get it in on time. Were my teammates demonstrating social loafing?
Social loafing occurs when people in a group don’t contribute as much as they normally would. Social loafers don’t feel like their contributions will be valued or even recognized. It also happens when people don’t feel their task is all that important. A good example of social loafing was in an episode of Top Chef. In a catering challenge, a caterer tried to get her point of view heard, but her teammates repeatedly dismissed her thoughts. When the team lost, she expressed her anger loud and clear, surprising the judges. How is it that she didn’t fight this hard when she was actually in the team? The answer: it didn’t matter how loud she yelled, her opinion didn’t matter to them. When she felt confident she would be heard, in front of the judges, that’s when she really spoke out.
So how do you combat these two pernicious problems? Were my friends in junior high social loafers? All these answers and more in our next post!