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FCW@20: The software improvement game

There’s nothing like an old-fashioned board game to make you feel nostalgic about good software development principles.

Bob and Vicky Holeman developed a board game in the 1990s because they said they believed in applying good engineering principles to software development. The Holemans named their $55.95 board game the Software Process Improvement Game. Each track on the game’s Monopoly-like board represented a software process improvement step developed by software engineers at Carnegie Mellon University’s Software Engineering Institute.

Here’s how Federal Computer Week described the game in its March 20, 1995, issue: “It’s not as exciting as Sega, but it’s better than reading a manual.” FCW technology reporter John Monroe found the game educational. However, the game might be more exciting, he wrote, if players faced the risk of landing on squares labeled “Lousy documentation, lose points.”

We contacted Frantzie Couch, director of contracts at Advanced Systems Technology, to see if we could still purchase the board game that the company was selling in 1995.

“Talk about a blast from the past!” Couch replied in an e-mail message.

“The Software Process Improvement Game, affectionately known around here as the SPIG, is no longer available for purchase. We don’t even have any extras around. If we did, I’d be glad to send you one.

“There was an experimental electronic version, but it was never developed for commercial production as far as I know. The game was never updated to reflect evolutions in the Software Engineering Institute’s Capability Maturity Model on which it was based.

“Sorry I couldn’t be more help.  — Frantzie”

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