Always start with why
When thinking about the strategy of an organization, it’s important to look at the big picture. However, it’s as important to look at the smallest unit in the organization: the human being. Who are driven by purpose, which the question Why captures in its simplicity.
People work in groups as a way to achieve more than they can do on their own. When a human is part of a group working at a company, all his base needs are taken care of. But oftentimes individuals feel a lack of purpose in their work. This means that they struggle to fulfill their self-actualization needs.
Strategy has to do with the self-actualization step of the Maslow pyramid of needs. When the strategy of the company is aligned with the self-actualization needs of the individuals that are part of that company magical things can happen.
This the why power. The reason you get up in the morning and know that there’s a mission waiting for you.
The most motivated people are usually conscientious and know the reasons why they’re doing what they’re doing.
A well defined “why” eliminates unclearness and lack of transparency.
What about games?
In the oldie but goodie book A Theory of Fun, Kostner talks about the noble mission of creating fun games.
It’s easy to get side-tracked in understanding the reason why you’re working on a certain game.
In the mobile industry, the gods of analytical growth and monetization focus on the revenue-generating potential of the product. And it’s sometimes almost tempting to wish that you just got that good black box that has a good KPI profile.
However, nothing can be farther away from the truth. The trailblazers of the industry have very strong identities. Think Supercell and Voodoo. You know what these companies stand for.
When starting a new game or IP, it’s more important than ever to have a mission in order to stand out in this crowded market. When you have a clear vision, backed up by a strong why, the game development process becomes easier.
Why are you developing the game you are developing:
- There’s a lack of good X in the market, and people need X in their lives.
- We want to have a diverse innovative portfolio focused on Y, which will let a lot of people recognize our brand.
If you know why you are building a certain product, then it gets easier to validate it. You just keep checking your results against your premise.
Final Thoughts on Why as the ultimate question to guide your strategy and game development
Knowing the reason behind what you’re doing creates alignment. People flock towards a strong purpose. If you have that sense of purpose in your organization, studio, game you’ll attract the best people. Those who want to be self-actualized seek visions and missions backed up by the why power.
The fact that you’re developing a game that tries to maximize ROI is no excuse to not try to have a good reason behind what you’re building.
At the end of the day, the dollar follows the value. Asking why is the best tool to diagnose whether that value is present.
PS – This is a bit of a philosophical article that was stuck in my drafts for a while until last Thursday. When I watched a Ted X Video from Simon Sinek over lunch talking about this same topic and it inspired me to revisit and post this article and read his book.
I have a tendency of being caught in nihilistic thought patterns. However, I’ve grown to realize the importance of purpose in order to live a happy life.
Both the optimist and the pessimist are wrong but the optimist has more fun.
Knowing the reason why I’m doing what I’m doing has helped me to do more and to be more. I believe that individuals, teams, and organizations can use this power of why to reach higher.
Over the years, working on many different games, (most of which killed before they saw the light of the day), help me use this why-centric approach to increase the likelihood of succeeding. If you would like some help in diagnosing your game/product feel free to reach out.