[Series Review] New Game! (2016-17)

There’s a gag in New Game!, a cute-girls-doing-cute-things anime about videogame development, where director Shizuku (right) presents whimsically unreasonable change requests to chief programmer Umiko (center). It’s amusing, until you’ve worked enough gigs where customers innocently request major changes even after deadline. Then, you empathize with Umiko. Some adjustments are fine. When seemingly-innocent requests actually require extensive researchdev-time, and rewrites, the customer isn’t always right. Showing these career nuances makes watching New Game! worthwhile.

Season 1: ★★★★☆ [4/5]
Season 2: ★★★☆☆ [3/5]
(Highlight to reveal spoilers: Like this!)

We follow high school graduate Aoba as she joins Eagle Jump.

Aoba is nervous about starting work, awestruck at everything, and makes all the same awkward mistakes we all do when we start new jobs. Learning career skills becomes almost secondary to practicing interpersonal skills as we meet the team, chat about tangential topics ove tea, and occasionally focus on work; seemingly antithetical to working hard.

Aoba quickly realizes that socializing enables a “working smart” environment.

Everyone works differently. Some are social while others are reserved. Finding common ground with her colleagues helps Aoba overcome rookie personal and professional mistakes. When Aoba receives a lecture from her manager Kou for being tardy, followed by an apology after Kou learned what happened, Kou feels guilty because she also makes rookie managerial mistakes.

I enjoy New Game! most when it covers these career nuances.

The first season shows the grit of working ad-hoc projects and short-term gigs. There’s the ideal ramp-up time before crunch time. When everyone needs to work long hours to complete their tasks before the deadline, it’s better when the friction is related to the technical aspects of the project, rather than personal or professional problems.

While the second season coasts along without urgency, it’s still good.

It’s just less compelling overall, although these screenshots are from episode 10.

Let’s explore how that introductory gag goes, since it highlights how innocently scope creep can sneak up on anyone. Most of the way through development, Shizuku comes up with a whimsical new idea that would require extensive work to implement and casually brushes off any of her staff’s concerns. Projects should have some flexibility, right?

Umiko’s team is already stressed and overworked because deadline is approaching.

The scene concludes off-screen, as we follow Nene to socialize with Aoba. This gag came to mind during a recent gig, with a specific event nearly mirroring these interactions. Even after deadline, the customer requested some adjustments that would require more research and development time. I politely shut the customer down. OK, related tangent over.

These sort of career arguments have multiple conclusions, depending on severity.

The series takes a casual approach to working. Work is stressful, yet never causes overwhelming stress, and everyone leaves work as friends. Golden Boy tackles the gig life with more nuance, though its erotica can detract much more than New Game!’s occasional PG-13 sensual shot. While I’d recommend both series, New Game! is more approachable.

New Game! is seemingly-innocent entertainment that touts some worthwhile life lessons.

My big goal is to write. My important goal is to write "The Story." My proudest moment is the most recent time I overcame a fear, which should have been today. I'm a better zombie than I was yesterday. Let's strive to be better everyday. (Avatar)