Arun Tejasvi Chaganty about articles blog thoughts research

Captain Vs. Champion

There is a fantastic open-source turn-based strategy game that goes by the name of “The Battle for Wesnoth”. It has some excellent code, celebrity hackers (rusty and esr), engaging game play and pretty good graphics. It’s goal was simplicity in design, and richness in game play. Inspiring as it is, I found it to be an anchor for a question that’s been mulling in my head for quite a while now; Which is better, Captain or Champion?

To explain, the characters in the game can level up (to a certain extent). There are places where you have to choose between specialisations. Across all the various races, there is a choice between a “champion” unit, a unit with excellent combat skills, better moves and more health, and a weaker “captain” unit who has “leadership”; the ability to raise the ability of neighbouring lower level units. In the game, I found the latter far more valuable (though a small group of 3-4 “champions” can really raise hell), and I am realising (rather late I agree) that that’s the case in real life as well.

At the outset, let me say that I have terrible leadership skills. I’m no champion, but I can see that my decisions have taken me along a path of personal skill development. At the expense of the ability to teach and train others. In many situations, I’m realising how much of a failing that is. For example, I am a Webops “core” (a high position in the Shaastra hierarchy), for which I’m supposed to inspire, and train the next generation of Webops wizards. I can’t recall the number of times over the summer that I’ve been frustrated at the coords not doing something or getting something I think I might have gotten were I in their position.

All I needed to get them moving, and with impressive pace that too, was a short fundaes session, and some direction. On a related note, I remember meeting Andrew Cowie at two years ago. He was talking to us about how frustrating it is to be a maintainer sometimes. He would often get very trivial patches that were rather horribly done. Most of them were things that he could easily correct in a few moments, but he would make sure that he’d get the submitter to do the fixes; not only so that (s)he would learn, but also so that the submitter would realise that (s)he’s getting some feedback, and feel more inspired to contribute. To inspire people to join out of their own volition, without any monetary compensation, without any real compulsion - that defines leadership for me.

I can’t recall the number of team projects that I’ve mismanaged to end up taking most of the load upon myself. The simple fact was that I didn’t really care if the team-mate was wilfully surrendering an opportunity to learn something new - I was more than happy to grab that opportunity for myself. And I realised how wrong I was in all those cases. In retrospect, to anyone who’s been a victim of my project hijacking, I apologise. As for my own position, I can’t pay enough respect to gods like Vikram S.V., Vimal and Akarsh Simha who’ve nurtured so much talent. I hope that some how I’ll be able to follow in their footsteps.