Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Big Guys

I've been obsessed with computer games for as long as I can remember. Eventually, I progressed to MMOs, or Massive Multi Online games where players can meet others online and play together. These games became legends and I dreamed about one day making a game of my own.

I go to the websites of these big games and listen to what other players had to say about them. Many of them were negative. Many complained about the tiniest detail, and rarely did any of the complainers do it politely. I went to a BBQ for a game company called Cryptic Studios. I asked one of their main designers how he could stand to have kids constantly insulting him and his work. He said you just had to have thick skin and roll with it.

So I was going for a second BA degree--something more game related than Anthropology, when in October of last year, I decided to start looking for gaming projects. I found a lot on I figured out most of them were kids with huge dreams and little to no skills to be able to make it happen. But out of all of them, there was one that was a lot more organized. They weren't looking for a writer, but I replied to them anyways. I talked my way into the job. After all, I'm a good writer and was willing to work for free. How could they say no to that?

It seemed so promising, that I dropped out of my programming classes. Well, I already had a BA in something. I decided that I made no money going to college. So why not make no money working on a game instead? I want to be a game writer. So instead of spending 4 years in school to get a job that I didn't really want in the first place, I could spend that time working for free as a game writer getting experience. Made sense to me.

So, for almost a year now, I've been writing lore and creative fiction for the game. My Anthropology degree turned out to be really, really helpful in designing an alien eco system based on unique science fiction elements. Because I understand culture like I do, I'm able to make really weird alien civilizations that make sense without being Earth Culture rip offs.

A couple weeks ago, I designed a few monsters and how they fit in nicely with the eco system. One of the very talented artists on the team created concept art for it. It's going to be then modeled, rigged, animated, textured, and put into the game. It's really exciting to see something that came purely out of my brain and put into a game.

Speaking of the team, we have several people that have worked in professional studios in the past. And as we get closer and closer to getting funding, we're getting a lot more attention from talent wanting to jump on board. Now we don't have funding yet, but we passed a lesser, but still important milestone tonight. We got our first bit of press.

Joystiq wrote a very vague article on us. Joystiq is a very popular gaming website. As a result of this article, over a 12 hour period, the number of our Facebook fans have doubled. We'd been getting a thousand unique hits to our website a day, but that's greatly increased with this article.

Immediately after, several other gaming websites have been talking about our game on their forums. Much of what's being said about the incredibly vague and limited information that people have on the game to form their opinions have been really negative. One guy said that if the high number of typos on the site was any indication, the game probably sucks. Maybe others had negative things to say about the game mechanics.

But you know, all that made me really happy. I feel like we're being insulted by whiney little kids just like all the other big companies get insulted. It makes me feel like we've made it.

Next stop--funding so we can get paid and I can relocate to where ever we're relocating to.

Monday, August 8, 2011

August Frustration

So I'm 38 and still trying to figure out life in a civilized society. I've always been as much introspective as I have been an observer of human behavior. But sometimes my introspection has hampered my ability to understand people. Case in point, the idea of leadership.

I've always thought that leadership meant that one person establishes a frame work to keep everyone on the same page so that the team can grow and create. Essentially, this is what I need from a leader. I need to know what needs to be done and what are the ways I can and cannot use to achieve it. As I struggle in leadership positions, it becomes more and more obvious to me that this is not what a leader should do.

Most people are not like me. Most people do not have big dreams or seek out challenges. Most people are content to just be--work some crappy job with no creativity or purpose. Now, I realize that my life would probably be easier if I was like most people. And instead of trying to break into the highly competitive and low paying gaming industry, I would go out and get a conventional job, buy a house, and raise a family. Those are good goal too and ones I aspire to. But I'm determined to do something big with my life or fail trying even if that means I accomplish nothing with my life.

Anyways, my point is that in leadership positions, I always assume other people are like me--need to be told what the end goal is and to be left alone to do it. But that's not what most people want in a leader. Most people want to be told what to do at the base level and ordered around like sheep. Most people don't care why they need to do something a certain way, needing only a general understanding that their efforts accomplish... something important. Most people are stressed out with big concepts and become easily overwhelmed, needing to be hand held through every step or they get frustrated and don't even try. As a leader, I frustrate people that need this kind of attention.

As a teacher, which is another type of leader, I'm always saddened by music students that pay to learn from me, but don't actually want to learn. As musicians go, there's a lot of kids that want to be rock stars, but don't want to do the hard work.

It's strange how people strive to be leaders and bosses despite the frustration of it. Why do we do it? We do it because we know that if we set the rules, things will get done correctly. The frustrating part is when people with less experience than us argue with us or refuse to do what you tell them to, or worse, do it their way when you're not around and end up breaking something that you didn't foresee or plan a fix for. I want to be the kind of boss that respects people and values my team. That gets to be really hard when some people want to make that as difficult as possible, and you just want to start yelling at people. Then you become that asshole boss that no one likes. I'm starting to figure out that it's easier, maybe even desirable to be an asshole boss. People complain about assholes, but maybe this is exactly what they want. If your boss is a jerk, you have stability. You know exactly what to expect. You know you're be told to do certain tasks and chewed out when you don't do them the way they're supposed to be done. If your boss is nice, you don't always know what's important because they don't yell at you when things go wrong. It's left sort of ambiguous. The nice boss will explain the good and bad of different things, leaving on you to figure out what you need to do. From my experiences, people don't like nice bosses. People feel lost with nice bosses.

I dunno. I'm just really frustrated right now.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

There's no "i" in Teen

I'm really swamped with teaching the Stairway to Stardom program that I've been involved with since 1991. It's interesting to me on several levels. I connect with teenagers really well. Being a teenager is really difficult, and us adults miss the point of it, not despite the fact that we lived through it, but because we lived through it.

Essentially, it boils down to fear. To give an example, this was many years ago, but while driving down the twisty Highway 1 over the cliffs of the Pacific coastline with my girlfriend at the time, I thought it would be funny to drive a little faster than I should be going. The car skid on a turn, fish tailing right towards a cliff with the ocean directly below us. She screamed and I laughed. I've driven that car for years. I knew exactly how to make it fish tail, exactly how fast it could break, accelerate, and turn. *I* knew we were completely safe. Now, I wasn't actually trying to make it fish tail and scare her, but I did think it was funny that it did. It was immature that I was driving fast and that I laughed--not one of the high points in my life. But my point being, I wasn't scared because I was in control and I knew I was safe.

But teenagers don't know that. Teenagers have lots of pressure on them to be what their parents, friends, and society wants them to be. They have no idea if they actually want to be any of those things. As we get older, we figure out what of those things actually ended up being important. Pay more attention in class... that one turned out to be true. Follow clothing trends so you fit in... not important in the least. Kids don't have hindsight / live experiences to fall back on. They have to make decisions on what activities and pursuits to invest in or not. They know that they can seriously screw up their life if they choose badly. But they're making these decisions blindly which makes it a lot more stressful. I'm still amazed at kids that go to expensive trade schools right out of high school. What are you thinking? How the hell do you have any idea if you want to be doing that when you get out of school?

Parents often make this worse. We know that getting invited to Sarah's party is not going to have any real impact on our lives. We can tell teenagers not to stress out about those sorts of things. But they're surrounded by peers that do stress out. Clearly, parents taking it lightly demonstrating they don't understand--making it all the more ironic. A worse thing adults can do, tell a kid that working hard and taking responsibility is important, while not following their own advice, thus clearly demonstrating that working hard isn't important, and worse still, that the adults word and opinions are not entirely accurate or important--and worse still--that their word need not be accurate.

I find it interesting how efficiently culture replicates itself. Remember, the function of culture is to give us tools to know how to survive our environment. Hanging out with teenagers, I see how they shape each other to duplicate society around them. This is the concept of hegemony. Through hegemony, we learn which way we're supposed to face on an elevator, how we greet a new person, what political party we should align ourselves with, which God to worship or not worship, and how to grieve when we lose someone we care about. Our culture evolves over time, but it's always there to tell us how to act and behave.

I don't have a problem with it. And I know I'm not above it, even though I understand the forces shaping me to do otherwise arbitrary things such as brush my hair before I go out in public or dress a certain way.

In either case, instead of ignoring the concerns of teenagers when they worry about things that my life experiences tell me are irrelevant, I try and listen. If nothing else, it reminds me of when I was a teenager and worried about the things that stressed me out