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Big Orange Slide

Friday, August 1st, 2014

How StarCraft made me a better producer

June 16, 2010 by Jacob Karsemeyer

Illustration by Brian Ross

When I was invited into the StarCraft 2 Beta two months ago, I accepted with mixed feelings. I’ve played the original StarCraft obsessively for a decade, and it has eaten up more than its fair share of time that could have been put towards something more . . . productive.

To compound the issue, I had just embarked on the daunting task of hunting for a job.

While I was excited to take part in the Beta of a game I was looking forward to, I knew that all the Zerglings in the world wouldn’t get me a job. But after a few weeks of carefully balancing the two, I landed myself an internship here at Grip Limited as a Producer.

With no experience in project management of the scale that goes on at Grip, I found myself looking to past experiences to try to find some insight into the daily tasks I would be taking on. It was a surprise when I realized that it was StarCraft, the very thing I thought would impede my job hunt, that ended up being my most coveted tool.

Let me just state that again for impact.

StarCraft 2 – a video game – has helped me be a better producer.

How, you ask? If you scratch a little bit beneath the surface, you’ll see the two actually have a lot in common. The most important aspect of either is the effective management of time and resources – replace marines and zealots with designers and programmers and StarCraft becomes a training exercise in the fundamentals of production.

A StarCraft player starts out a game with a standard opening. They allocate their resources to the most imminent task, gathering minerals, a necessity that precedes all other tasks. Once those resources have been gathered, it’s the job of the player to determine the most effective allocation of those resources.

Bad StarCraft players, like bad producers, operate in a stasis, making the same decisions every game without considering external factors. A good player continuously observes his opponent so that they have as much time as possible to react to their strategies. Whether you’re on B.Net playing StarCraft, or in your office, you never want to be caught off-guard by some unexpected problem knocking at your door. The more aware you are of the nature of the potential problems you might face, the better you’ll be at mitigating the frustration they cause you.

The composition of your team is also an important consideration. StarCraft is designed around the “paper-scissors-rock” mechanic, where each unit is strong against some things, but weak against others. Units that can win you the game in some situations will get eaten up in others. Conversely, some team members in a creative agency will knock certain types of projects out of the park, and then fall apart trying to complete others. Understanding the capabilities of your resources and what situations they perform best in can save you a lot of time and energy.

World of Warcraft (WoW) players have long trumpeted the professional benefits of high-end group play and managing a guild, but I think it’s time we turn our sights to StarCraft. By avoiding the monotony of WoW, StarCraft allows players to focus on an important workplace skill: tactical deployment of resources to maximize efficiency and minimize the negative effects of the variety of inevitable problems that come up.

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