Developer's Dilemma: The Secret World of Videogame Creators

May 1, 2021
Developer's Dilemma: The Secret World of Videogame Creators

An examination of work, the organization of work, and the marketforces that surround it, through the lens of the collaborativepractice of game development. Rank-and-file game developers bringvideogames from concept to product, and yet their work is almostinvisible, hidden behind the famous names of publishers,executives, or console manufacturers. In this book, Casey O'Donnellexamines the creative collaborative practice of typical gamedevelopers. His investigation of why game developers work the waythey do sheds light on our understanding of work, the organizationof work, and the market forces that shape (and are shaped by) mediaindustries. O'Donnell shows that the ability to play with theunderlying systems -- technical, conceptual, and social -- is atthe core of creative and collaborative practice, which is centralto the New Economy. When access to underlying systems isundermined, so too is creative collaborative process. Drawing onextensive fieldwork in game studios in the United States and India,O'Donnell stakes out new territory empirically, conceptually, andmethodologically. Mimicking the structure of videogames, the bookis divided into worlds, within which are levels; and each worldends with a boss fight, a "rant" about lessons learned and toolsmastered. O'Donnell describes the process of videogame developmentfrom pre-production through production, considering such aspects asexperimental systems, "socially mandatory" overtime, and theperpetual startup machine that exhausts young, initiallyenthusiastic workers. He links work practice to broader systems ofpublishing, manufacturing, and distribution; introduces the conceptof a privileged "actor-intra-internetwork"; and describes patentand copyright enforcement by industry and the state.