Career Strategy: Insights from Terra Invicta

I am enamored with Terra Invicta, a standout in the realm of sci-fi grand strategy games. My appreciation for hard science fiction, especially works like The Expanse — a clear influence on Terra Invicta — only heightens my enjoyment.

A large armada burning towards an alien fleet

The intrigue begins in 2023, as humanity grapples with the arrival of an alien ship. This unprecedented event spurs the formation of diverse factions, each advocating a unique strategy to confront the alien threat. The factions' dynamics, reminiscent of groups in other science fiction narratives (such as the Escapists and ETO in the Three-Body Problem), add depth to the storyline.

The gameplay unfolds in a typical 4X fashion: you commence by extending your influence on Earth, utilizing your council to seize control of various countries. These territories serve as springboards for your expansion into the solar system. This phase is extensive, entailing the establishment of extraterrestrial bases for mining, securing research perks, and shipbuilding.

Resource management comes to the fore during the 'exploit' phase. Your access to resources, such as fissiles or solar energy, dictates your investment strategies — perhaps favoring nuclear fission-driven ships or antimatter drives. This advantage becomes instrumental in countering the aliens, who, due to current AI limitations, struggle to recover from setbacks. Similarly, the human factions, constrained by underdeveloped AIs, rarely pose significant threats beyond Earth.

Interestingly, Terra Invicta's 4X model of Explore, Expand, Exploit, and Exterminate bears striking resemblance to ideal career progression — with the notable exception of Exterminate, reflective of 4X games' zero-sum nature.

Exploration in a career commences with understanding how to add value in professional arenas. This self-discovery phase, spanning school years and early career, involves diverse experiences, from academic coursework to initial forays into the job market.

Upon finding one's niche, expansion is the logical next step. This phase entails sharpening one's skills to excel within a chosen field. For instance, a backend software engineer might focus on mastering that role, despite the risks associated with over-specialization (the volatile nature of sectors like crypto being a case in point). Achieving a distinct edge over labour market competition is crucial here.

A fleet burning towards Jupiter to establish a new colony

Then comes exploitation, where you leverage your unique skills or positioning. It's a juncture for critical decisions: do you seek a new specialty, restarting the cycle, or focus on amassing savings for an early retirement?

Mars littered with mines

The exterminate phase, while common in 4X games, is incongruent with career strategy. In the non-zero-sum game of capitalist economies, eliminating others is not just unbeneficial; it's detrimental. Recognizing that colleagues aren't adversaries but individuals with their goals can shift strategies from undercutting to collaborating, learning, and network-building, enhancing prospects for all.

In summary, the 4X strategy mirrors career planning:

  1. Exploration: Discovering your professional interests and strengths.
  2. Expansion: Broadening your skill set within your chosen field.
  3. Exploitation: Maximizing the career capital you've accumulated.

This analogy underscores the strategic nature of career development, reminding us that professional growth, like conquering the solar system, is an intricate game of decisions, risks, and continuous learning.