ESIPBLOG: Team dynamics & the art of communication – 7/1/24

Published on Monday, July 1st, 2024

Team dynamics & the art of communication

By Yousuf SH Mohammad, Khalifa University

Imagine the following scenario, your team is discussing a hot topic regarding player mechanics/movement for a video game project. After conducting a brainstorm session, the team generates three mechanical concepts; A, B, and C. Let’s say you really like concept (B). What I have witnessed in the past is one of the following ways, someone would word out their “opinion”:

  • Concept (B )is absolutely the way to go, as it fits the game’s Vibe the most.
  • Concept (B) is great as it’s realistic of what the player could actually do.
  • Concept (B) seems to be the most realistic to apply to the player, for reasons X, Y, and Z.

Notice how the first one uses absolutist language, which makes what they say seem to be a fact rather than a discussable opinion. From what I have witnessed in the past, such behavior kills the mood of discussion and either turns the team aggressive against you if they hate the idea, or simply makes them accept it with low motivation to actually apply the concept into the game. Furthermore, notice how there is no clear reasoning behind the first statement, whatever “fits the game’s vibe the most” means.

As for the second one, it adds an extra layer of depth to the reasoning behind choosing such a concept, but it still lacks the details that would make the team actually engage in a fruitful discussion about what would exactly make them agree/disagree with you. What I mean is, the responses you would receive from your team for if you spat out the second statement, would look like something in the lines of: “but what if we applied concept (C) instead, it too looks reasonable”. Notice how their response is equally unfruitful.

As for the third statement on the viability of concept (B); it should be how someone would word out their suggestions. It has all the elements of reasoning that could spin out a fruitful discussion, in case someone disagreed with your reasoning (X, Y, Z). Also, notice how it has a flavor of “elegance” or “etiquette” by using words such as “seems”, or perhaps you can use something similar such as; “appears to me”.

Going back to my experience with ESIP, my team got into an argument trying to decide the art style of our game. One side suggested a specific style, providing reasons such as ease of implementation, compared to the expected level of detail for a background, for a desert themed, endless running game. The other side proposed a different art style on the basis of influence from previous games they played (so it looks “cool”). Won’t get political, but it turns out that the second suggested style, which our team settled on, wasted two weeks of painful, and slow art development, until we realized our mistake, and switched to the more viable, easier to implement art style. If the pushing party had traced back the logic behind their choice, we would have been in a better place art wise. But we are healing, and going strong!

In conclusion, whether concept (B) is actually the best doesn’t matter if the team doesn’t understand the logic behind the acceptance or rejection of such concept. You would find people passionately pushing for an idea just because it sounds/looks cool, without thinking of the consequences of its application. Furthermore, put in mind the added thought of “working for a purpose”, when your team understands why it’s implementing such feature into the project/game.

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