As I’m sitting here in my cube, two unfamiliar faces walk in. One is a local guy, who knows me but I do not know; we introduce ourselves. The other is, I am informed, the new Producer from corporate for our project. I only mention this because their behavior in the moments that follow is so striking to me. I’ve been in the games industry for seven years now, and over and over this moment occurs. Here’s the setup:

  • We are all People of Importance. That is to say, leads, or producers. Folks with Influence.
  • We have not met before.
  • We are engaged in our normal work-a-day existence. Say:
  • I am sitting at my desk, typing away.
  • You are being given a tour of a new office, chatting away with your tourguide, who is also a Person of Importance.
  • We meet. As in, you are brought to my cube, and we are introduced to each other.
  • In this situation, several things happen right off the bat:

    • “Hi, I’m the producer on [insert project name].” “Oh, hey there. I’m the lead designer on your project!” [smiles, handshakes]
    • We all know that we would do well to know one another. This is clear from the moment the titles are exchanged.
    • And, suddenly, we have nothing else to talk about. I mean, we hardly know each other, weren’t prepared to meet & discuss anything, etc.
    • But, we’re not quite ready to bail on the opportunity to get to know another Person of Importance.

    What happens next is the strangest thing: the human urge to connect and make an impression on someone that we know will be important in our future kicks in, and you strike up a conversation with the person that you do know (in this case, your tourguide), right in front of the person you just met. And you pick a topic that hopefully will be of interest to your new acquaintence.

    The scenario progresses as follows:

    • I sit and listen. I’m learning things about you (and your tourguide), and as you are a Person of Importance, I want all the data I can get on you, and thus am more than willing to do this. Happy to, in fact.
    • You, thus, have an interested audience, which makes the conversation you are having with the other guy easy to have.
    • It works really well. For about thirty seconds.
    • Then, the strangeness of having a conversation with 2/3rds of your group kicks in, and the conversation swoops to a swift close, and with semi-embarassed grins on their faces that they indulged in this strange “talking in front of someone you just met” behavior, everyone breaks.
    • “Nice to meet you!” “Really great! See ya around!” [ more handshakes ]
    • Everyone leaves happy.

    This has happened to me, oh, let’s see here, maybe 50 times over the course of my career? The exact same process. It fascinates me, these human behaviors that emerge 100% of the time that we are often completely unaware of.