Infinite Technical Debt


Code ridden with Technical Debt (TD) has motivated software engineers to keep the quality of systems under control to ease future maintenance tasks. In the last decade, there have been significant advances regarding TD management (TDM). However, research about incorporating TDM into the software development lifecycle remains scarce, and existing approaches aim to control TD through different processes. This proposal leverages the concept of infinite games from game theory to posit a different perspective. We argue that TD cannot be entirely removed and that its effects or consequences cannot be considered ‘managed’ even when an occurrence (i.e., a smell) is repaid. Rather than using a mathematical approach, we present TDM in terms of the four components of infinite games (players, rules, goals, and time), its tradeoffs and relationships, to discuss its potential impact on TDM activities. As this is an incipient area, our goal is to motivate a change of mindset regarding TDM, stimulating reflective thinking and thus, posing a new line of research. We conclude with a series of potential research questions organised into three key areas.

In Journal of Systems and Software, Vol 190


  • A new perspective to approach Technical Debt Management to motivate a change of mindset.
  • Interpretation of Technical Debt Management from a Game Theory perspective
  • Proposal of future works based on this new perspective.


This study is partly supported by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, RGPIN-2021-04232 and DGECR-2021-00283 at the University of Saskatchewan, and RGPIN-2019-05175 at the University of British Columbia. The authors declare that they have no known competing financial interests or personal relationships that could have appeared to influence the work reported in this paper.


title = "{Infinite Technical Debt}",
journal = "{Journal of Systems and Software}",
volume = {190},
pages = {111336},
year = {2022},
issn = {0164-1212},
doi = {10.1016/j.jss.2022.111336},
url = {},
author = {Melina Vidoni and Zadia Codabux and Fatemeh H. Fard},
keywords = {Technical debt, Game theory, Software lifecycles, Software maintenance and evolution},

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