Software development is a loser’s game

Ben "The Hosk" Hosking
5 min readMar 29, 2021

Great code doesn’t save you, but bad code will kill you #HoskWisdom

I’m not saying developers are losers but most software developers are not beating software development, software development is beating them.

The reason developers struggle is because they don’t know what game they are playing or the best tactics to use.

You need to know what game of software development, so you can play effectively.

In the creative process of writing code, it’s not if the code will be wrong, it’s when the code will be wrong and fixing it in the easiest way possible.

Winner and losers

In the essay Loser’s Game by Charles Ellis, he notes that professional tennis is a winner’s game where players win points. Amateur Tennis is won using a different strategy of keeping the ball alive and letting your opponent beat himself.

“In expert tennis, about 80 per cent of the points are won; in amateur tennis, about 80 per cent of the points are lost. In other words, professional tennis is a Winner’s Game — the final outcome is determined by the activities of the winner — and amateur tennis is a Loser’s Game — the final outcome is determined by the activities of the loser. The two games are, in their fundamental characteristic, not at all the same. They are opposites.” Charles Ellis

The same game but the effective strategy depends on who you are playing with

“Expert tennis is what I call a Winner’s Game. Victory is due to winning more points than the opponent wins — not, as we shall see in a moment, simply to getting a higher score than the opponent, but getting that higher score by winning points. Amateur tennis, Ramo found, is almost entirely different. The amateur duffer seldom beats his opponent, but he beats himself all the time. The victor in this game of tennis gets a higher score than the Opponent, but he gets that higher score because his opponent is losing even more points.” Charles Ellis

The game of software development

I have worked in software development for 20 years, worked on many projects with many software developers. I estimate 80 percent of…

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Ben "The Hosk" Hosking

Technology philosopher | Software dev → Solution architect | Avid reader | Life long learner