The first and longest-living topic on the forums at Gamewatch.org, one with over 9,000 pageviews, is that frustratingly zen-like question: What is quality of life, anyway? We all know we want it, most of us want more of it, but that doesn't bring us much closer to knowing what it is.
This column, which The Escapist has so graciously offered to sponsor, will be an exploration of that question, how it reaches through every aspect of game development (as through any profession) and how its successful implementation can be used as a barometer for the health of an industry. And an industry's health always benefits the products it produces, and therefore its consumers.
It took a long time and a lot of suffering for the discussion of quality of life to become kosher in the game industry. I won't even go so far as to say it's cool (though it should be), because ultimately we are artists as well as craftspeople, and artists always like to suffer for their work. Talking about quality of life in certain areas of the industry is considered manifestly uncool, a chore at best, and anti-quality-of-game at worst; set rationality aside, because rationality is boring.
The problems with this are legion. First, feeling guilty about talking about quality of life perpetuates suffering, point blank. Not wanting to use the words "quality of life" for fear of being uncool causes us to do our jobs less effectively, suck less of the marrow out of life and overall be weaker human beings.
The thing with game developers and uncool is a lot of us spent our youths carrying around that label. Only within the last decade has anything having to do with computers become chic or trendy. And boy do we ever not want to be in the nerd camp again. So heaven forbid we talk about something so uncool as "quality of life," and don't even get me started on scheduling, child care or education.
But quality of life is bigger than all of that. As an industry, we are poised to launch from the leading edge, not just of graphics technology or multithreading but of process design. The game development process is inherited from other paradigms of software development, but in its perpetual change and persistent use of the most cutting-edge technology, it is by nature more flexible, more responsive and more innovative than its big-corp brothers. What's phenomenal about the videogame as an expressive medium is its precious newness and its close integration with the basic way the human mind works. Its culture of exploration gives rise to one of the most kinetic and insightful professional communities in the world today. And there is no greater cause for this tremendous engine than to improve the lives of those that dwell within it, so that that energy can spread.