Game Over: The 5 Phases of Project Management in Video Games

Project Management in Video Games


Project management can show up in your everyday life even without you knowing it. From home renovations to going to the grocery store and even sitting down and playing your new favorite video game. It’s this long time love of video games and my recent knowledge of Project Management that inspired me to write today’s blog on the 5 phases of project management in video games.

Think of your favorite video game such as Candy Crush, Super Mario, or even The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim.  What is the overall end goal of playing these games? Actually, it can depend on the game and which generation of player is playing the games, but that’s a blog for another day. For now, let’s talk about action RPG (role-playing games). In this genre of video game, the player is brought into a world with endless possibilities. The player sets out on an adventure to choose their path with various quests, complete with responsibilities, risks, and rewards. Let’s discover how the 5 phases of project management can be applied to video games.

Initiation Phase

This is where a new project is initiated, named, and defined at a broad level. A new RPG game has just been released and you are interested in purchasing it. Initial research about the game is being conducted by looking at certain aspects such as the time period, gameplay, and the main premise. The reviews are looking positive and an overall analysis is in progress. Just like a real-world project, you might calculate the return on investment (ROI) of how much gameplay you will get for your hard-earned dollar. After completing all the research, you have to decide whether to purchase this game or hold off and wait for another one.


Planning Phase

In this instance, you have decided to move forward with the game and eagerly anticipate developing your approach for playing. This is akin to planning out a project, where we put together high-level estimates around schedule (when to play the game), cost (how many in-game purchases can we afford) and scope (are we going to play straight through the story mode, try side quests or try to earn all the trophies). This is also the phase of project management where we need to think about any risks that could occur (e.g. losing Internet connectivity, a controller breaking, a work emergency cutting into playing time).


Execution Phase / Monitoring and Control Phase

Once we’ve proactively thought through these elements, our “project” is underway, and we are able to follow our mapped-out plan. As you progress through the game, you start earning key performance indicators (badges, trophies) that let you know that your planning has paid off. As you explore this vast new world, you also start learning if the project is going to be a success (whether you’ll like it enough and are good enough to finish it).  In doing so, you are comparing the original expectations of time, cost, and scope to how the project is unfolding.


Closure Phase

Once the game has ended, you reflect back on your in-game defeats and triumphs, making note of both for the next time you play the game, or one similar to it. You also note highlights from your experience so that you can share with fellow gamers as they begin to embark on that same project. Ultimately, you will review the time, cost, and effort you put into all phases of the project to decide if this is something you would do again (when does the sequel come out?).  



I hope you enjoyed this look at the parallels of the 5 Phases of Project Management in Video Games. I’d love to hear what your favorite games are or if you are able to draw any other PM similarities out of them. If so, drop me a line at

If you want to take a break from video games and learn more about Project Management, check out our website and/or download our variety of free templates and case studies.

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Dalton Metzer, Digital Marketing Coordinator – Arrowhead Consulting