The McCarthy Show #1: Introduction

Alright. It’s time to tell the truth: While I will definitely be focusing on audio and game sound design in this blog, there is a ton more to game sound design than just creating sound effects and music. Teamwork is important. So it’s time to talk a little bit about functional teams, and a great place to start is in the world of agile development.

For those unaware, Agile development is a really neat paradigm which relies on creating self-organized, cross-functional teams. It emphasizes adaptability and flexibility in attaining long-term goals and utilizes many different approaches to create great software without being bogged down by heavy game design documents. The main advantage is that the designer of the software (in the case of a game) can “nail it and scale it,” as one of my former professors likes to say. The purpose of this adage is to allow the designer to find the fun aspects of the game and then build it up.

As part of the curriculum in his class, we practiced a method of agile development known as Scrum-ban, which is a product of the joining of the Scrum and Kanban methodologies. I will talk more about Scrum, Kanban, and Scrum-ban in another series of posts, but what I want to focus on first is the McCarthy Protocols, which were an awesome experience to have in the classroom. Whereas Scrum tends to focus on the team members and their commitments to the other team members, I find that the McCarthy Protocols are more directed to the securing the individual commitments of each individual team member to the team as an entity in of itself. There’s a lot to discuss about “The Core” – the commitments and protocols utilized to promote great teamwork. In a nutshell, it is made up of several named protocols and commitments – made to the team – which help deliver effective team communication and ultimately, good software. I will cover all of these protocols and their associated commitments over the course of a few posts.

For now, the these named protocols are:

  • Pass/Unpass
  • Check In/Check Out
  • Ask For Help
  • Protocol Check
  • Intention Check
  • Decider Protocol
  • Resolution Protocol
  • Personal Alignment
  • Investigate Protocol

The core commitments are:

  • To commit to engage when present.
  • To know and disclose
  • To know what I want, what I think, and what I feel.
  • To always seek effective help.
  • To decline to offer, and refuse to accept, incoherent emotional transmissions.
  • To immediately either propose for decisive acceptance or rejection (or explicitly seek the improvement of) when I have, or hear, a better idea than the currently prevailing one.
  • To personally support the best idea, regardless of its source, however much I hope an even better idea may later arise, when I have no superior alternative idea.
  • To seek to perceive more than I seek to be perceived.
  • To use teams, especially when undertaking difficult tasks.
  • To speak always, and only, when I believe it will improve the general results to effort ratio.
  • To offer and accept only rational, results-oriented behavior and communication.
  • To disengage from less productive situations when I cannot keep these commitments, or when it is more important that I engage elsewhere.
  • To do now what must be done eventually when it can effectively be done now.
  • To seek to move forward toward a particular goal, by biasing my behavior toward action.
  • To use the Core Protocols (or better) when applicable.
  • To offer and accept timely and proper use of the Protocol Check protocol without prejudice.
  • To neither harm—nor tolerate the harming of—anyone for his or her fidelity to these commitments.
  • To never do anything dumb on purpose.

If you can’t wait for the next post, make sure to check out the official Core Protocols document online. I hope nobody minds that I’ve modified the wording of the commitments for legibility. The next few posts in the McCarthy series will be published on Wednesdays, offering both my experiences with and critiques of the individual protocols and highlighting some of the commitments put forth by Jim and Michele McCarthy.

I hope you will enjoy!

– Chris Prunotto

There is an overview page set up here for these posts, or you can go on to part two by clicking here!

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