Philadelphia Game Lab History Postings

I wrote this post last year, but never went back and tweaked or published it. In the time since, I’ve really accepted that PGL was ending as I and others moved on to new initiatives. Maybe that completion actually makes posting this and followups more relevant, I don’t know:

For some time, I’ve promised myself and others that I would write down the bizarre and often wonderful story that has been Philadelphia Game Lab (PGL) to date. Thus far for me, it has included pivots, cancer, divorce, friendships, an amazing new relationship, some great work and satisfaction, joy and a fair amount of pain.

I want to get the pieces of this story into text for several reasons, and it may be worthwhile for me to list them as a starting point:

1. I strongly believed when setting out on this journey that this city had reached a positive and exciting turning point, and that part of getting to next levels was the participation of everyone who could be of use. I hope that laying out what has and has not worked will be of use to others who are similarly motivated here.

2. To refine what we’re doing now at PGL and related entities, those involved (and I as well) should benefit from a comprehensive review of past successes and failures. I have been involved in every piece of this effort, as no-one else has yet, even those who have given great time, energy and skills toward its successes. Everyone deserves a more comprehensive perspective.

3. Some were able to succeed in their projects with us and achieve next stages of careers in coordination with us. For others things didn’t work out as well, sometimes because what they wanted to do didn’t align with what they wanted or they weren’t able to do the work that was needed. Overwhelmingly, the people that have worked with PGL have been exceptional humans, and the environment has been one of highly talented and motivated individuals generously helping each other to advance. We have employed more than eighty developers; in areas including technical, art, and diverse other fields, such as linguistics.

4. Beyond our use to Philadelphia, our function as a skunkworks likely has useful lessons to others who could emulate our successes and avoid our failures. As I’ll describe in other posts, a core mission of the organization has been to raise the visibility and credibility of the region in development of sophisticated creative technology. It would be in keeping with this goal if people elsewhere find our experience useful to their own.

5. Lastly, there’s an element of our story that I want to think through and understand better than I do currently. I’ll describe it in brief here, but obviously dig deeper later. It has seemed to be very consistently true that the projects that had fewer resources produced more benefit more competently than those projects that were fully supported and staffed. The psychology of project execution becomes much more complicated and significant when people feel they have what they need. This isn’t a matter of focusing on “Minimal Viable Product” (a strategy with which I generally agree), but of humans who have to grasp and scramble for resources becoming focused on what is most vital to their core essence, while those who have what they need become more outward focused for approval and direction. I would identify the person who likes to “grasp and scramble” and will tend to take this role even when they have a choice, as an “Engineer”-type.


I suppose that’s an Introduction. Next, “Conception.”


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