Quest for a Job: Librarian in a Game Studio

August 10th, 2012

When people ask me "why did you become a librarian" the easy answer is that I worked with librarians, enjoyed the work, enjoyed the people I worked with, and waned to join their ranks. But the deep underlying motivation is that, after working at a few game development studios, I saw a major need for improvement in the way games are made; and I saw how librarians are just the kind of person to fix those problems.

So I've begun my quest for a job as a game studio librarian. It's a bit of a ridiculous quest: I want a job that doesn't exist. But I think it should exist, and the hardest part of the quest is getting the job created.

The basic argument for why the job should exist is summed up in this Gamasutra article I wrote earlier this week. But basically, game studios are heavily reliant on knowledge and information and their knowledge is largely mismanaged. Hiring a librarian as a Knowledge Manager would go miles to improving workflow, saving money, and - crucially - improving the quality of the games being made.

This last part of the argument is the most important to me, because, as a game critic, I've often found myself in awe of the poor design choices made in games. I realize now that many of those poor decisions are made due to poor communication and a lack of information.

Socrates is attributed with the theory that people only do bad things because they don't realize what they're doing is bad; that no one is willingly evil and that evil arises from ignorance. His teachings suggest that if everyone knew the right thing to do, everyone would only do good. This theory may fall short of describing all of ethics and human behavior, but it does seem to apply to many of the things humans strive to do: when we try to make games, we don't try to make bad games, we only do so out of ignorance that what we create is bad.

I'm sure that's not entirely the case either. No doubt plenty of game studio veterans will be far more willing to lay the blame for bad games on budget cuts, time limits, and belligerent studio execs. But what are the causes for those things, if not ignorance? They didn't know what budget they needed, or didn't know what they could create with the budget they had? They didn't know how much time they needed, or didn't know what they could create within the limits of the time they had?

There's a much harder case to be made for the studio execs side of thing; I suppose an argument could be made that many of them just want to make money, even at the cost of making a bad game. But I don't want to write off execs just yet; if nothing else, recent trends towards Metacritic requirements suggest that execs at least have some concept that a good game is more profitable.

Which brings me back to that core issue: how do we help execs to know how to make good games? The answer, obviously, is librarians. Librarians facilitate knowledge exchange, and one of those bits of knowledge that could be exchanged is knowledge of what is a good game and how to make it. With a good knowledge management system in place in a game development studios, execs can tap into their entire pool of expertise to assist in crucial decision-making tasks, rather than bear the brunt (and pay the costs) of decision-making alone.

So my quest continues to get a job as a game studio librarian. The catch, I suppose, is convincing those execs that librarians can help them make better games and make more money. And I'm not really sure how I'm going to accomplish that.

Posted by: Simon Ludgate

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