We’re continuing our exploration of collaborating in game writing. We started yesterday with consensus, and today we tackle compromise. Compromise has both negative and positive connotations. You can compromise your values, while at the same time, being willing to compromise suggests you’re flexible, open-minded, and a good team player. Love it or hate it, compromise plays an important role in game development and can be an effective tool in a writing team.
Returning to our good friend Merriam-Webster, compromise results in “a settlement of differences by arbitration or by consent reached by mutual concessions.” Like consensus, compromise leads to a decision that takes into account at least some of everyone’s concerns. Unlike consensus, compromise often allows the group to make a decision quickly and move on.
The process for reaching compromise resembles consensus. However, compromise often means taking less time delving into the reasons why a team member objects to a problem. If concerns continue to arise, instead of working to achieve everyone’s “best case scenario,” a compromise allows everyone to agree to a scenario that works. Avoid time-delayed compromise, such as “We’ll do it my way this time; next time we’ll do it your way.” When next time comes, this compromise may long be forgotten.
The simplistic example strikes back. Joe and Sally are arguing over the character’s dress color. Unfortunately, Joe and Sally can’t agree on the character’s personality. Joe doesn’t think the character is all that mysterious, while Sally wants to avoid depicting the character as seductive. While they do need to discuss the character more fully, they are pressed for time, and they would not be able to change much of the story if they revamp the character at this point. Bob, another writer, suggests they compromise by emphasizing the character’s role, rather than her personality. Since the character is a healer, they agree to dress her in green. The solution works, so they agree and move on to more pressing concerns. Although Joe and Sally didn’t get what they were most passionate about, they don’t feel like they lost more than they gave.
When to compromise:
- When time is short, but you still want others’ input
- When the issue is important, but not a hill to die on
Drawbacks: By cutting the baby in half, sometimes both parties are left feeling like they lost. When the compromise is imposed from somewhere up the chain of command, writers may feel like the heart of their work has been torn out, leaving them to complain about it in ways that are counter to team-building. Ultimately, you want to avoid compromising your game into mediocrity.
Have any good stories about compromise, or horror stories? Next we’ll be tackling that hallmark of the game industry: ownership.