The Games Continue

Taken from a comment from a member of the C3 team in CthreeProjectTerminated, referring to AlistairCockburn's CooperativeGameWithinInfiniteGames.

Perhaps it's time for the "games" to stop. The point Alistair makes in CooperativeGameWithinInfiniteGames is true, couched in the familiar language of Wiki. But "infinite games" is not the way to talk about wider aspirations and goals with any GoldOwner I've met. It's vital that someone establishes rapport with this person that allows early warnings of seismic shifts. But "games" is far from the most helpful way for any part of the technical team to think about the ultimate source of their material reward. It really is too important for that, however amusingly enlarged the egos sometimes appear on the "other side".

Believing too much of our own hype is the game I've seen played out in almost every project which becomes better known for its "success" outside the company than it is to its own customers. Whether we like it or not, all our successes are only funded to have an impact on the "infinite game", often known to others as their careers and livelihoods.

This is an argument about a shift of terminology and emphasis, not a disparagement of C3, which even "just as an experiment" may have provided enough data about the core practices of XP to change the world of development. I hope so. -- RichardDrake

Its true that the use of the word game doesn't go down well in a lot of management hierarchies, a shame because it often describes so well what is going on. The British Empire described its campaigns against Russia on the North West Frontier as 'The Great Game', and it does seem to fit.

Anyway, the important thing to remember is that these things are going on and that to remain oblivious is not an option for any length of time. I recommend Machiavelli's The Prince (especially on introducing change) to anyone taking up a Management Position in a large corporation. If you are not a manager find a strong patron or don't do anything too adventurous. If your patron moves on then keep a sharp look out as their successor will want to make a big impression by 'improving' the department. If you don't like it and don't want to ChangeYourOrganization then follow MartinFowler's advice and ChangeYourOrganization. --TomAyerst (feeling particularly jaundiced today)

I sympathise with whatever experience you've had Tom that's made you jaundiced this week/month/year/career (reduce as applicable). I feel empathy as only a fellow Wiki-ite can - out of complete ignorance in other words. But many people don't like others to tell them that what they get up at work is "only a game". More importantly, such language does not promote the EthicOfService? that I believe software engineering badly needs for maturity. -- Richard
Interesting... I would never describe a software project as a game without the leading adjective, that is a cooperative game. I have no trouble in saying this to any level of staff or management. My sense is that saying that "our project is a cooperative game" has a very positive ring to it, where saying "our project is a game" has a strong negative ring to it. --AlistairCockburn

Cooperative game is very good, agreed. It's the use of the word game, without positive qualification, for other stuff more distant from the development team that I'm drawing attention to. The danger is that in saying "they're only playing games" we're not listening, we're not learning about things that are often crucial to our survival, to doing a really good job. In any large organisation we need to find the people who are not "playing games" in the negative sense and seek them out to be our customers. Otherwise we are almost certain to die. "Software's too ****** hard" to take any other view. -- rd

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