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Suffering, recovery and participant experience in a video game development accelerator

Devon Gidley (School of Management, Queen's University Belfast, Belfast, UK)
Mark Palmer (School of Management, Queen's University Belfast, Belfast, UK)
Amani Gharib (School of Management, Queen's University Belfast, Belfast, UK)

Journal of Organizational Ethnography

ISSN: 2046-6749

Article publication date: 20 December 2022

Issue publication date: 4 April 2023




The authors aimed to explore how involvement in a creative development accelerator impacted participants. In particular, the authors considered the role of suffering in the acceleration process.


The authors conducted an ethnography of a rapid prototyping program in video game development. Data collection included participant observation (162 h before, 186 during and 463 h after the main prototyping), interviews (23 formal and 35 informal) and artifact analysis (presentations, documents, games).


Acceleration led to individual suffering via burnout, lack of sleep, overwork and illness. In turn, participants required varying periods of recovery after participation and diverged in their longer-term reaction to the experience. The authors make two contributions. First, the authors deepen empirical understanding of the embodied impact of participation in an organizational accelerator. Second, the authors develop a theoretical process model of suffering in an accelerator program based on time and initiation.

Research limitations/implications

This paper focused on a single iteration of a program based out of an incubator in the United Kingdom (UK) Suffering was discovered as part of a larger study of the program.

Practical implications

Business and technology accelerators are becoming a popular way to organize work. This research suggests that accelerator structures might lead to unintended and negative participant experiences.


This research challenges the assumption that accelerators always benefit, or at least not hurt, participants. The authors add to the limited attention paid to suffering in organizations. The authors conclude the impact of an accelerator is more complex than usually portrayed.



The authors received no funding for this research. The authors would like to thank the editor Harry Wels, the two anonymous reviewers, Sabina Siebert, Min Zhang, and Amanda Lubit for feedback on various drafts.


Gidley, D., Palmer, M. and Gharib, A. (2023), "Suffering, recovery and participant experience in a video game development accelerator", Journal of Organizational Ethnography, Vol. 12 No. 1, pp. 31-45.



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