A Video Game Studio’s Case Study

Teaches a Surprising Amount About Technical Communication and Team Development

The case study from n-Space, an independent game studio in Orlando, Florida, provides a case study to understand how game developers make “meaning of their behaviors” and pinpoint the factors that most affect the dynamic in a complicated communication environment. A video game studio is a great place to study technical communication because there are many relationships at play. The relationship between the story and the player/audience and the relationship between developers, engineers, and designers, etc. Video games have a background of complex game theories and ever changing frontiers. The pace at which breakthroughs, platforms, and code metamorphize is enough to lead a team spiraling out of synch, but more universally recognized workplace challenges also play into how well technical communicators collaborate. 

n-Space conducted their research through a series of interviews with employees of various levels and collected thorough data from workplace documents. A key lesson from the interviews was that the participants must feel safe and free to express themselves honestly without fear of retaliation or influence from their superiors. The study found that some departments have conflicts due to fundamental motivational differences. For example, an artist may want to add creative features, however, this conflicts with an engineer’s motivation to cut down seemingly unnecessary extras that can muddle coding. Bridging gaps like these are relatable for many technical workplaces where departments might clash. The study found that diplomatic word choice and prioritizing common goals helps bridge these gaps. We can apply these lessons to our own workplaces by finding ways to communicate the goals we have in common as a whole and respecting how one’s work affects the process. 

Technical challenges are just as important as the social challenges n-Space faced. Creating language tools that act as a sort of glossary to help clarify cross communication amongst workers. De-prioritizing rank and hierarchy office norms cuts down on frustration and tension between employees. When all levels of employees feel they can utilize open communication it increases productivity and morale. 

It turns out that a video game studio can teach us a lot about technical communication. If we allow teams to establish universal guides to reduce esoteric language and prioritize respectful, open communication we can all benefit and create better content. 

Resources

Developer Discourse: Exploring Technical Communication Practices within Video Game Development, by Rudy McDaniel & Alice Daer


Viewpoint Written by Eliana De La Garza, Texas State University

Viewpoint Edited by Laura Soran, Texas State University


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