Sunday, June 28, 2009

Post: Claps And Singing Along

Friday was my final day heading up game production for Nokia San Francisco. I had joined Nokia in 2003, about a month before the launch of the original N-Gage, and let me tell you, going from Sega to a Fortune 100 organization (whose market cap is bigger than the entire games industry) is the kind of experience that leaves you at first fearing that you will die, and at second fearing that you will not die.

Two platform launches and two hero games later: I'm still alive, thanks in part to the platinum advice of Ecco the Dolphin creator Ed Annunziata, who would always chide me during times of stress, "Good lord, Scott: We are making toys, not nuclear weapons." (Ed also talked about my no-no parts in an interview, once - what can I say, the guy's a character.)

To be perfectly frank, many friends in the core gaming space were not supportive of my move to Nokia - and to be perfectly kind, strangers in the industry were less than "not supportive." But Nokia provided resources that most can only dream of, and our work carried both the challenge and the excitement of pioneering. (A harsh reality when it comes to pioneering: Sometimes, "the second mouse gets the cheese.")

We never made anything as useful as a nuclear weapon, no - we didn't even aim to create the opposite of a nuclear weapon, like an Alternate Reality Game that encourages homeless people to help feed and care for other homeless people. Still, I am exceedingly proud of the work that we did and the games that we achieved: Pocket Kingdom: 0wn the W0rld and Reset Generation were both world-beaters, defining connected handheld entertainment.

I am strongly grateful to Nokia for all of the amazing opportunities that I was offered during my residency: Responsibility and authority for game P&Ls in the millions, the hats to manage title marketing in addition to production, speaking opportunities and academic lectures, travel to exotic (sometimes frozen) locations, lots of face-time with the press, coursework at the UC Berkeley Center for Executive Development, and that's just off of the tips of my typers.

In April, I gave a "Ten Questions" interview with the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences, where I was asked about the "biggest challenge facing the games industry" ...

Q: What's the biggest challenge you see facing the industry?

A: I seriously question how heavy games publishing organizations need to be to compete effectively in the current and future markets? Is there a true advantage in the publisher owning the developer? Does worrying about (and investing in) creative activities dilute the publisher's focus to market and distribute? One of the biggest challenges facing the games industry will be that facing publishers to both renovate and innovate organization, processes, and practices for tomorrow.

... and my sentiment has not changed: I guess that the best way to start my sabbatical is to wish Nokia luck in renovating and innovating organization, processes, and practices for tomorrow. And I hope that Nokia, in-turn, will wish me luck in making it to the beach in time for first-person frisbee - sabbatical, here I come.