Game Development Reference
Climate is one of the most powerful determinants of the quality of a
game because it suffuses everything. It changes how people relate, how
they think, and how they act, everywhere, every second of every day.
feaR anD love
There is a strain of leader that uses anger to motivate. These leaders like
to use some combination of screaming, subtle insults, and disappointed
sighs to push people. The idea is that the threat of emotional pain will keep
people from getting lazy.
In other jobs, this can work well. I once watched a hidden-camera
documentary about how celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay ran his kitchen in
his earlier days. He inspected everything. The slightest error in a dish or
a mistake in cooking would bring down his wrath. He screamed at cooks
and waiters for the tiniest mistakes. He fired an employee every week. And
it worked well—Ramsay received the highest honors of the chef trade at a
young age. But consider the nature of the work. Ramsay's method was all
about maintaining standards. His restaurant was great not because of the
creativity of the team, but because of their ability to perfectly execute well-
defined cooking and serving procedures. Ramsay's inspections worked
because mistakes in cooking are clearly visible to a trained chef. There
is no value in a kitchen staff being creative or taking risks during dinner
But game development is totally different from cooking. Design
requires risk taking, failure, and creativity at all levels of development.
Anger and fear destroy people's willingness to take risks, and their abil-
ity to be creative. Self-identified commitment becomes impossible when
you're always being forced to dance while someone shoots at your feet.
Anger is seductive because it looks effective in the short term. The
leader yells and sees a lazy developer scurry. What he does not perceive is
the shifting risk ledgers of the 30 people watching that exchange. He does
not perceive the risky but interesting idea that a subordinate will now be
too afraid to bring up a day later.
The great puppeteer Jim Henson would never shout at subordinates or
try to make them feel bad. Jim would say, “You're trying to get to the moon.
You should be aiming for Jupiter. If you aim for Jupiter, you'll definitely get
to the moon.” He led by inspiration, collaboration, and appreciation. He
focused on making the other person look smart, not himself. At the height
of his power, when he had millions of dollars and owned houses on several
continents, he remained kind and approachable. People worked for him
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