Bonus Stage Hurricane Survival
Unless you’ve been living under a rock (or the constant fear of imminent nuclear warfare) you’ve probably heard of my good friend Irma. Sure she may have devastated the Caribbean in a manner no one could have prepared for and that they may not recover from for quite some time, but she also shut down my school for a week leaving me able to see her as a benefactor ignorant of my own privilege. My jest aside, the university was so worried about the hurricane that our servers got shut down. This is unfortunate as those servers are needed to run our version control software. Locked out of all of our resources for about a week, in the middle of our first game prototype assignment, our cohort learned a very valuable lesson about planning, deadlines, and improvising.
Prior to the hurricane, we had received our team assignments to the first series of prototype games we were expected to build. Half of my team was already out of town for the weekend so we were already off to a delayed start. Then the “once in 500 years” force of nature that was Irma decided she was done waiting to come on stage and that Florida was to be her unwilling audience. Having seen enough bad shows to push this joke any further, the fam and I evacuated the state and headed for Louisiana. We left before dawn in what I could only describe as a War of the World’s style escape. The entire process was eerie. Once in Louisiana, internet was limited, we had no access to our school resources, and our lines of communication basically broke down. I was completely unable to get a hold of one of our artist in this time period.
As a producer this put me in a rather awkward position. I believe it’s my job to serve as a focal point for the team’s creativity. It is not my job to make decisions as some sort of creative tyrant, but rather to inspire the team to contribute their best ideas given their specialties. For this reason, I am a fan of group think. If someone on the team doesn’t think it’s a good idea, we should look for a better solution together. Granted I say this all in theory, but still work on executing this in practice. That being said, with the fate of our assignment due date in the air and no way to effectively communicate between team members I was faced with either waiting and potentially having our game ship incomplete or making decisions and implementing them in the abundance of free time I had been granted by my evacuation. This is not a position I wanted to be in. I enjoy the collaborative process and I despise group projects wherein the work falls on “The Chosen One.” Moreover, I dreaded the idea of excluding my team from the decision making process, they’re all brilliant and creative people whose input is equally valuable as my own. But time was ticking. I made what I considered the best decision at the time: I took everything we talked about right before the hurricane and I spent most of my evacuation period creating power ups and mechanics to elevate our game play into something that would be playable and fun by our original target deadline.
As it turns out our professors are not unreasonable ogres, unlike the pcs in our project. Our deadlines were extended to make up for Irma’s inconsiderate timing and we were granted access to our resources and servers again in the middle of the week. When I reconvened with the team this week they all seemed pleased with the work I had done and no one, to my knowledge, gave off the feeling that they felt excluded from the creative process. I learned a valuable lesson about planning for the worst in game design projects. Also, maybe it is unwise to start my future game studio in a place that may need to be evacuated with some level of seasonal regularity.
Also I know I've had some fun at Irma's expense but the hurricane has damaged thousands of lives and if you're capable of helping out the folks at Mashable has put together list of places you can contribute to that I highly recommend.