Academic Research & Business Engagement

Applying Game Architecture to Project Management


There is a fundamental expectation when immersed in an MMOG and learning the rules in the hope of mastering the strategy necessary to defeat key obstacles. Game developers have placed these in our way to keep us from winning.

Obstacles are conceived in the mind of game architects and  coded into the software, however, there is always a winning strategy. MMOGs are essentially an open world labyrinth with many dead ends and several successful paths. Players usually figure their path via an iterative process of playing the game, making mistakes, replaying the game, and avoiding the same mistakes all whilst developing a strategy that will achieve success.

The philosophy behind the game is embodied in the algorithmic processes of the software, through the actual software development of the game’s architecture. Project management can be thought of as similar to adopting a game strategy where some of the obstacles are known and the logic to avoid them identifiable and programmable. The number of use cases is inexhaustible to the extent that every possible iteration of potential mistakes can be predicted within the limits of bounded rationality.

A high degree of all projects fail to actually achieve their end objective without some modification of the cost, schedule, resource, or performance parameters of the project (Chen, 2009). In other words, many mistakes are made in the definition and conduct of the project and the criteria that the project operates under.

Project monitoring and control processes are in place to detect and alert the project manager of a potential problem. However, it is a reactionary function, not a proactive corrective action. The damage is already done. Requirements may be poorly defined from the onset, or unrealistic cost estimates are made in the haste to get the project started or the work breakdown structure (WBS) is incomplete and missing critical steps, or the time and dependencies of project WBS elements are poorly done. A game playing mentality applied to the process could eliminate mistakes prior to them taking place.

Game architecture in the development of MMOGs is designed to exploit the mistakes of the player and cause them to lose. The logic is powerful and unforgiving. The creative minds that put these games together are equally brilliant and innovative. Why not put that brilliance and innovation to work designing ‘Project Management: The Game’ with a slightly different twist. Why not design the game to detect the player’s weaknesses and penchant to make mistakes through predictive analysis based on known use cases and develop game logic that counters this strategy, i.e. cut down the error rate and increase project success rate.

To reflect on another point, project management is generally an exercise in systems engineering where we use the process of engineering synthesis, using known parts to create something new, to accomplish set objectives. What is required is to interface, modify, and integrate all known parts into a product that works. Through the implementation of game elements present in MMOG architecture in project management processes, this may provide further insight into how most of the obstacles that will lead to project failure can be avoided.

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