Monthly Archives: November 2006

Why passion is more important than confidence when solving problems

You’ve heard it a million times before. “If you have confidence you will set yourself up in the right frame of mind to succeed.” Many people have taken this mantra to heart and proceeded to square peg round hole and bash their heads into the wall until they can’t see straight because of it. I used to believe that my successes were due to my confidence, but recently realized that the statement was a cop out.

The only way to achieve confidence is to succeed. There is no other way around it. You simply can’t fake confidence. I have confidence because my hit to miss ratio has been high enough. However, like anyone who aims high, I have had my own streaks of frustrations. Streaks where my confidence has been “compromised”. But more often than not I still am able to achieve my goals.

What is this missing ingredient?

It is passion. Passion is persistence on steroids. Even when I am faced with extreme obstacles I am best able to overcome them when I love what I am doing. Having passion for something focuses your mind on asking the right questions. This is the advantage to confidence as well. But if you don’t have confidence having passion can get you the same effect.

When you truly love something you enjoy it so much that you don’t get frustrated as often or tripped up over the little things. You don’t constantly think about what can go wrong. You put your mind in the right emotional frame. Passion gives you the benefits of confidence even when logically you feel like confidence would be faking it.

It’s a well known fact that stress and negative emotions impede problem solving. One study that comes to mind is detailed here. Confidence often brings a positive frame of mind that make problem solving most effective. I would certainly advocate any reasonable methods to promote confidence.

At the end of the day, there are some things you just don’t know. And when you don’t have the confidence trying to delude yourself with false confidence both feels and is wrong. But passion makes up for the gap. Being in the moment and having a true love for what you are doing and avoiding the stress that comes with the surprising twists and turns is the key that keeps me going.

After all, the way you respond to things emotionally is in a large part based on perspective. One man’s setback is another’s valuable learning experience. Loving what you do will both make doing it more enjoyable and increase your chances of success. As Steve Jobs once said, “The Journey is the Reward”.  It’s important to keep that in mind at all times.

The process of achievement is when you are in the flow, in the now. Once you have succeeded you will look for that next problem to solve in short order. That is, if you’re doing it right.

Why the game industry should be more like Hollywood: Part 1

I have been in the game industry on and off for the last 12 years. I have seen commercial games go from a programmer and an artist and a budget around $100,000 go up to teams of 30 people with multimillion dollar budgets. In all of this time I have seen an insane amount of pain caused by management trying to manage 30 people as though they were 2. Once you have 30 people working on a project for several years you have a machine – like it or not. Things have to be remarkably well structured or they just don’t work at all. Currently the game industry often has a disfunctional model of production. As teams got this large a working model for running this process already existed. Hollywood has had an effective process of making movies for years now. This series will concentrate on the various aspects of what concepts can be migrated from the movie industry to the game industry to make it flow more efficiently and predictably.

Today we will concentrate on the game design/script analogy.

A huge problem in the game industry is when the game designer holds the game development team hostage. In many development houses games are pitched and won and a game designer “assigned” to the project. Say a dev house has access to a great piece of IP. They will take advantage of it and make a game. But by simply assigning a game designer and having him prep a game design document before game development begins a rats nests of problems occur right off the bat. This model lacks the proper incentives to get a fully fleshed out design early and up front.

A game designer dreams of creating the best game he possibly can. It’s in the game designer’s best interest to keep himself/herself from getting pinned down, that keeps things open-ended for later so that changes can be made. That also keeps things honky-dory with the game team. When things are “fluffy” and poorly defined everyone is happy. Until the project is underway and work can’t get done. With a team of 20-30 other people on the project it’s a nightmare. Their are plenty of management techniques to “extract” the information from a designer and pin him down. But the truth is that at this point it is way too late. It’s like filming a movie and writing the script as you go. Who would possibly do that.

The solution? Go the Hollywood route. If multiple game designer’s had their game designs “as complete as possible” up front and then had them compete to be selected this would put the motivations in the right places. The producer, art and coding leads that had been earmarked for the new team could review everything for completion. In the end the game with the best “proposed” gameplay and highest level of demostrated definition would be chosen by a group comprising the producer, programmer, and art lead. This would motivate the game designers in all the righ ways. He would make his design document as detailed as humanly possible in order to win the position of game designer. You wouldn’t see a script written in Hollywood with big vague blocks to be fleshed out later.

In the rare circumstances that Hollywood lets a movie go forward without a decent script you get movies like “Speed 2″. If the game industry would sit up and take note, create a competitive market for game designers, and only greenlight games that win this darwinian battle, a lot fewer games would end up being schizophrenic, poorly inspired “Speed 2″‘s that lack any kind of cohesion or true focus.

Next article in the series: Vetting from the A list