I'm On Offence

13 Aug 2016

In a world of infinite to-do items, you need some way of categorising them to make sure that no area of the business is being neglected.

In a past life, we used to structure work into Strategy, Operations, and Infrastructure. That's a useful way of thinking about things, but we're a games company, and those aren't fun words. We need something else.

So we call it Offence and Defence.

On Defence, you're trying to stop things from going bad - or in some cases, stop them from getting worse. Defence tasks are incoming missiles with their own deadlines; for each one, your only options are to shoot it down or soak the damage.

If you don't do enough defence, you die quickly and spectacularly.

For Fire Hazard, defence tasks include things like "prepare the Undercover game on Saturday" - it has to happen, the deadline is fixed, and if we don't do it, we're going to end up with a smoking hole in the ground. Or "pay the VAT bill". Or even longer-term projects like "the rota is getting thin; run a recruiting round".

We've had plenty of moments when the entire company is on defence at once. But if you do that for too long, you'll win every battle and lose the war.

Offence projects are optional; they don't come with their own deadlines, and nothing particularly bad will happen if you don't do them. They're attempts to strengthen the business, or to grow or capture new territory - anything from "let's make the Raiders plot better" to "we should be running regular games in Edinburgh".

The tricky bit is that, where Defence projects are a matter of choosing a too-small subset of a too-large pool of obvious threats, Offence ones are creative. There are a thousand things we could do to make a dent, and a thousand ways of doing any of them.

It gets worse: you can fire something off and not know, for months or ever, if it was a hit. Probably half of our Offence work is wasted, but we don't know which half. And sometimes it's a boss fight without a health bar - we can see that we're doing a lot of damage, but we can't tell if we're winning.

But if you don't do enough offence, you die slowly, through stagnation and irrelevance.

The exciting thing is that, with a full-time crew of five, Fire Hazard finally has plenty of defenders. I often get to start the week with "You guys have got this. I'm going on offence."

Let's get 'em.