[Air-L] Book Announcement - Developer's Dilemma: The Secret World of Videogame Creators

Casey O'Donnell codonnell at alum.rpi.edu
Tue Nov 18 06:04:48 PST 2014

I know many of you have either heard me talk about the book or been annoyed
by recent giddy social media postings. However, it is a real physical thing
in warehouses and getting shipped to actual worldly locations (as opposed
to just a thing I talk about as if it was real), so I'm sending an official
book announcement:


Developer's Dilemma: The Secret World of Videogame Creators
By: Casey O'Donnell

Rank-and-file game developers bring videogames from concept to product, and
yet their work is almost invisible, hidden behind the famous names of
publishers, executives, or console manufacturers. In this book, Casey
O’Donnell examines the creative collaborative practice of typical game
developers. His investigation of why game developers work the way they do
sheds light on our understanding of work, the organization of work, and the
market forces that shape (and are shaped by) media industries. O’Donnell
shows that the ability to play with the underlying systems—technical,
conceptual, and social—is at the core of creative and collaborative
practice, which is central to the New Economy. When access to underlying
systems is undermined, so too is creative collaborative process.

Drawing on extensive fieldwork in game studios in the United States and
India, O’Donnell stakes out new territory empirically, conceptually, and
methodologically. Mimicking the structure of videogames, the book is
divided into worlds, within which are levels; and each world ends with a
boss fight, a “rant” about lessons learned and tools mastered. O’Donnell
describes the process of videogame development from pre-production through
production, considering such aspects as experimental systems, “socially
mandatory” overtime, and the perpetual startup machine that exhausts young,
initially enthusiastic workers. He links work practice to broader systems
of publishing, manufacturing, and distribution; introduces the concept of a
privileged “actor-intra-internetwork”; and describes patent and copyright
enforcement by industry and the state.


Casey O'Donnell, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Department of Media and Information
Games for Entertainment and Learning Lab (GEL)
Michigan State University


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