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Monthly Archives: February 2013

World Balloon

I imagine a giant, immensely powerful but unwilling to move because of the unbearable inertia of his massive body. He has such power, but he gives it up every day and chooses instead to tell his servant to fetch him things. It gives him no more power in the world around him than any other man, but all he must do is speak the word. It is much easier that way, for him.

He sits there in his castle and wonders, when he never has to raise a finger to support himself, when he has the power to crush worlds at his fingertips, why he feels so weak, why he feels so powerless.

I imagine a man sitting at home in a dark room in front of a glowing monitor. He has an advanced degree which it was guaranteed to him would bring him a well-paying job, but finding such a job means defeating the massive inertia of his life. He’d much rather order the avatar on his screen from place to place, have them live a fulfilling and adventurous life in his stead.

He sits there in his room alone and wonders, when he never has to raise a finger to support himself, when he has the power to crush worlds at his fingertips, why he feels so weak, why he feels so powerless.

The most terrifying gift that games have to offer is their effortlessness. Even difficult games tend to offer up to us a world where a flick of our wrist or a tap of our finger causes our avatar to do something majestic, incredible, improbable.

It is addictive.

Games like QWOP are important because they challenge this paradigm. They posit a world where movement is more difficult even than in ours, where we are outweighed by our inertia even more than in our normal heavy lives. And the effect of this inversion of the design philosophy of most games is often an inverse of the effect those games have on us, where instead of feeling heavy and sluggish we, for once in our actual selves, are made to feel graceful by comparison.

Most games are not willing to take the burden of being clumsy for us.

How many people, now, have been trapped by the perception of their bodies as unaccountably and immovably heavy? How many people have found shelter in worlds without mass, where all things bear equal weight in their weightlessness?

We all float down here.

As easy as it may be to feel that it is infinitely removed from our real lives, our dream lives, we cannot forget how to move our own selves. They say that in the dead sea you it is difficult to swim because the buoyancy makes it difficult to gain purchase on the water, more or less what it feels like to be trapped in a virtual space.

Given the choice, would you rather live in your own head or someone else’s?

Given the choice, would you rather live in your own head or in your own life?

Fake worlds are easy to perceive as infinite only because they are so poorly defined. Our own, where the boundaries between what is and isn’t, between possible and impossible, seem so clearly defined, actually holds true infinity.

Maybe we just want a more manageable infinity.

He also programmed robots to write books and magazines and newspapers for you, and television and radio shows, and stage shows, and films. They wrote songs for you. The Creator of the Universe had them invent hundreds of religions, so that you would have plenty to choose among. He had them kill each other by the millions, for this purpose only: that you be amazed. They have committed every possible atrocity, and every possible kindness unfeelingly, automatically, inevitably, to get a reaction from

YOUThe above passage is quoted from Kurt Vonnegut’s novel Breakfast of Champions. This is actually from a story within the story, a science fiction novel, and when Dwayne Hoover, a man suffering from increasingly severe mental illness, reads it, he takes its word as literal truth and goes on a violent rampage.

This provides an interesting counterpoint against most video games, which often go to extreme lengths to convince us that the world they take place in is a real place full of real people and then hand us the gun and tell us to rampage. It’s rather funny that video games have constructed for us a sub-world where solipsism is literally and demonstrably true, where we really are the only sentient entity in the world (almost certainly) and therefore anything we do is ethically defensible, but the implications of our desire for such a world are perhaps, at times, troubling.

Of course, it’s debatable whether that’s actually what we want, or if human forms are just a nice intuitive way to skin the challenges we require of our games. There is, much of the time, no fundamental difference between an archer and an arrow trap, and maybe we kill the archer or maybe we disarm the trap. These are often arbitrary decisions, a mere aesthetic layer over the challenge, but these aesthetic choices can have a real impact on the way the game is received by the player.

In other words, what your game is about is important. The setting, tone, atmosphere, aesthetic, whatever, all provide context for the actions we take within a game, and sometimes the easy solution of making everything which opposes us into an ‘enemy’ can lead to, uh, basically a playground full of simulated meat toys for us to slaughter.

I ain’t saying Jack Thompson was right, but there’s a reason he stuck with his dumbass crusade for so long. Without a gamer’s context, without the understanding that these characters are really just a presentational layer, without knowing that the slaughter of simulated people isn’t actually the main draw: That shit is mad creepy.

NOT IN MY BACK YARD

NOT IN MY BACK YARD

It’s not like this is an impossible conundrum to resolve, it’s more that most designers don’t seem to really try. One easy way to avoid these creepy solipsist worlds is to remove all NPCs from the game completely– a step which seems drastic, but can result in very powerful and unified experiences: Myst, Shadow of the Colossus, Journey, Braid…

Games do loneliness very well.

There is an honesty to lonely games, to being in a world apart from a world and doing things far apart from everything else. It feels safe sometimes, and profound sometimes, to know that we are in a pocket world where nothing we do can have any effect. It can be honest, and sad, and beautiful…

But I think it would become tedious if the only games were lonely games. The Walking Dead provides an interesting solution to the problem of players gaming NPCs: The characters in that game are as artificially constructed as the characters in any game, and hypothetically the player would be just as motivated to manipulate them to achieve her goals as she would be in any other game, except– The way the game is framed, one of the main goals the player has is the welfare of those very same NPCs. If something bad happens to one of them, it feels like a failure on our part– even if, as is often the case, there was nothing we could do.

This is an interesting approach. Very few games have this kind of intimate personal motivation, most focusing either on survival or some grand and distant goal which is tangentially related to people as a concept but not to any persons in specific. It’s particularly interesting because it’s so goddamn obvious and yet so goddamn rare.

If developers want us to care about their characters, why is this never reflected in the stated goals of the game? Or in the mechanics of the game? Or anywhere except for in a crappy cookie cutter cutscene that establishes some basic character traits a little while before the character dies?

Multiplayer games are not as innately solipsistic in their outlook as most single-player games: We do know there is another person on the other end and that they are controlling their game avatar. However, most online games make it extremely easy to forget this fact.

GIFT

This is also basically most people on television I think

Here’s a question to consider: How do single-player games prime us for the way we interact with multi-player games? The moment-to-moment gameplay between the two game types is identical, but one is filled with actual human beings and the other is filled with animatronic piñatas. One is sanded down and made as painless and empowering as possible, the other has to balance each player’s empowerment and comfort against each others’. How much of our behavior in multi-player games is shaped by the ‘training’ that single-player provides?

This is a question primarily aimed at competitive games, though it has some applicability to cooperative as well. Certainly I’m sure some of the rage built up towards crappy escort missions over the years has been unleashed onto more than one poor Left 4 Dead newbie’s unsuspecting head.

It’s worth examining the role that NPCs play in your world, their function, their meaning, and how you’re asking the player to regard them. And, for multi-player games, it’s worth examining how you present the players to each other as well, since it’s very easy to make us dehumanize and objectify each other: We’ve been doing it for a while.

Or, if nothing else, maybe at least consider acknowledging that the way these characters are treated is, hey, a little fucked up.

Do you like hurting people

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Basically spent the entirety of this week wrestling with AS3’s 3d API. It’s not well documented and it’s not very elegant, but hopefully once I figure it out it will at least be fast. That said, after days of wrestling with it and finally getting the test-render doing approximately what I wanted it to do, I was rewarded with a 20fps drop over doing it the way I’d been doing it before. Over the next couple of days I’ll be looking into why, but yeah that’s basically been the last 3 or 4 days in a nutshell.

Coincidentally and probably not entirely unrelated, I’ve been dealing with a lot of frustration, anger, anxiety, and depression this week. There’s really not a lot more to say about that, except that now that I’ve got something up on screen to work with the worst of it will hopefully be allayed and I can satisfy myself with tinkering. If there’s one thing I’ve learned over my time in game development, it’s that visible progress is super important, particularly when it comes to keeping people invested in a project.

Other than butting my head repeatedly against stubborn programming problems, I haven’t gotten all that much concrete done this week. I have actually been doing some writing and developing the plot further, but I kind of pace myself when it comes to that stuff because I recognize that it doesn’t advance the overall state of the project that much. It is fun to do, though, and it gets me into the soul of the world I’m creating a bit.

So yeah, ugh. I guess that’s it for this week. I imagine I’ll be spending a lot more time hammering on programming problems over this coming week as well, but I will really try to get some more asset production time in, for my sake, for the project’s sake, and for the audience’s sake– because I know that this programming shit is probably tedious for most of you to listen to.

Thanks for the ongoing support, all. Wish me luck for this week!

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A long time ago there was a kingdom which waged war with itself. No one knows how the war began, but once it did it raged on, day after day after day, until children were born and raised within it and had no memory of its beginning and no conception of its end. Perhaps it rages still.

Everyone in the city stood and fought together, secure in the certainty that their cause was just– almost everyone, that is. Not everyone was able to fight: The sick, the deluded, the orphans, especially the orphans, were trampled and starved and killed in the midst of the fighting and there was nothing they could do. They lived day by day in sorrow and despair

It went on like this until, one night, as these orphans clung to each other and cried, they were overheard– the night herself heard their tears and was moved to pity. For, you see, her own children were long dead, her beautiful star children suffocated and extinguished by the dust and the poisonous haze of war.

She could see the entirety of the city, she touched it everywhere lightly, so she knew where the orphans could be safe. She appeared to them that night, dark and silent, and told them of the great palace gardens, long since abandoned and overgrown, where the walls were cracked open and where no soldier ever bothered to go.

That night, there was a silent pilgrimage of orphans through the war-torn streets and into the peaceful gardens. They left the city to its ceaseless war.

Over time, the other poor souls lost in the war found their way to the gardens as well, and were welcomed, and were sheltered. For a while, things were good. Fruit grew plentiful on the garden trees, water ran through it to nurture them, and it was spacious with no dangerous animals. The children’s cares abandoned them, and they played in the trees.

But the war raged on and, day by day, crept closer to the gardens…

The night mother saw this and worried. She appeared once more to the orphans and told them they should take steps to defend themselves. The oldest and toughest children should all band together and be ready to fend off any intruders.

This they did, and sure enough some stragglers soon began to investigate the garden, and were rebuffed. Several times this happened, and each time the older children protected the garden, and it remained secure, and the younger children played.

However, the more attacks they repelled, the more restless the older children became. Why, they asked, should they have to live in fear? They had become strong, more than a match for anything out there– or so they believed. Mother night knew better, and appeared to them once more to try to warn them from this folly, to plead with them to stay safe in the gardens– but, this one time, they ignored her words, and planned their sortie with childish fervor.

They were preparing to leave when the sky went black. The gaps in the wall were filled with thick impenetrable darkness. They could not leave. The night had come to love them so, she couldn’t bear the thought of having to watch them perish even as her own children had: So she wrapped them all up together in her great black nightrobe and held them tight, so she embraced the gardens in an endless and safe and loving night.

And they were never seen or heard from again.

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Guernica

What do we owe reality?

It’s an interesting question for artists of all sorts: How important is reality to our art, how far can we warp it before we lose relevance and begin to disappear up our own asses? This question tends to define peoples’ and  cultures’ relationship with art, and perhaps has done so for as long as art has existed– and how did art come to exist? Was it invented? I think the history of art has been one of interpretation as much as one of creation. My own personal interpretation of the term prefers the inclusive: Anything that people call art is art, and can be judged as such. It sounds like a wishy-washy-hippie definition, but I don’t think it really is.

The labels that we give things matter– to a degree that is sometimes distressing.

When we label something as art, that is a cue to other people as to how they should interpret that particular bit of communication. Now, whether they’re actually able to parse out and interpret that art in a way that makes sense to them has a lot to do with their personal understanding of what art is, but that’s part of the process.

Imagine our understandings of art, of what art means or can be, as being like codecs. The artist encodes his message, perhaps a message not communicable through other means, into his piece using his personal understanding of the world in general and of art in particular. His audience decodes it with their personal understanding of the world and of art, if they are able to. Occasionally (frequently), members of the audience won’t have the particular cultural or educational background that comprises that ‘codec’, and will reject the piece as ‘not art’.

Which, I guess, is fine. It’s not really a problem being unable to parse certain ideas– some ideas are actually deadly poison, and having a lot of codecs can sometimes be a security flaw. Perhaps I’ve extended this metaphor too far: Let’s regroup.

What do we owe reality?

To some extent we cannot escape it: The art we create emerged from reality’s effect upon us, from our interpretation of the reality in which we live. There’s two important aspects here, neither of which can be ignored: First, the reality, and second, the interpretation. Art cannot exist without either of those two.

There’s a flow here: First, we experience reality; second, we interpret it; third, we encode it into art; fourth, we share it.

Or, from the other side: First, we consume a piece of art; second, we decode it; third, we interpret it; fourth, we apply it to reality.

Often we don’t like what we hear, but it can often be a bit tricky blaming the author for such things. No matter how supposedly overt the message embedded in a work of art is, it’s still the product of at least two people’s understanding of the world, two understandings which might simply be tremendously incompatible.

The message received may bear no resemblance at all to the message sent.

And yet, that’s probably part of why art is so powerful. We embed incommunicable meaning into the things we create and have them parsed by other people in their own unique way to create their own personal and incommunicable meaning. It is an evolutionary idea algorithm, mutating our ideas as we regurgitate them back and forth, and sometimes because of that a new impossible mutant idea takes root, a beautiful and novel idea that perhaps could never have emerged by another process.

If you don’t see something which is called art as artistic, there is an opportunity there, isn’t there? An opportunity to expand the field of ideas you can digest, interpret, engage. An opportunity to explore your own mind, your own imagination, and leave the world behind for maybe just a little bit.

After all, what do we owe reality?

The Robot Devil

Rules are most of what defines a game, but there tends to be a method, a principle, by which a game’s rules are applied, and these principles, the meta-rules that dictate the design of the game to the designers, are rarely evaluated. We tend to think that just because we make the rules that we have infinite control over the nature of the game world, but there’s a step missing in that assumption: Just because we made the rules doesn’t mean we necessarily made them self-consistent– and, even if we have, we haven’t necessarily communicated them well to the player.

in other words, it’s easy to make them broken from the start. If you make a broken watch, you haven’t made a watch, you’ve made a locket full of gears– very handsome, I’m sure, but not functional at all.

I should clarify here, since I’m using the three terms ‘rule’, ‘principle’, and ‘contract’. In this case, the distinction is between what the player is able to do in game space (rule), what the designer decides he is allowed to design (principle), and what the player perceives the game is allowed to do in the game space (contract). For instance, there’s nothing in the rule set of a game like Super Mario World to dictate that there can’t be a blind drop, which the player is forced to fall into, randomly arrayed with spikes and platforms. All of those are components of the game which are used in very similar configurations, so it’s demonstrably within the rule set. However, the designers decided that it would be a principle of the game that it wouldn’t contain trial-and-error challenges like that, and over time the game establishes an implicit contract with the player that it won’t do things like that because they aren’t ‘fair’.

kaizoworld_op

Many romhack developers operate on, uh, different principles

Creating the game’s rules is a different task than creating the game’s principles, and creating the game’s principles is a different task than communicating these principles to the players as contracts. This can cause problems. Many games violate the contracts they seem to be conveying to the player, and this can be frustrating– after all, how are they supposed to know what to expect if you can’t even keep the rules straight?

Here’s an example: In one of the Suikoden games (a Japanese RPG series), there is a character who you can only recruit if you let his text scroll at normal speed rather than pressing a button to make it move faster. Now, pressing a button to make the text move faster is a convention of the genre, and it’s never been implied in any game within that genre, save under this one circumstance as far as I am aware, that advancing the text means that your character is waiting impatiently, looking at his watch, tapping his fingers, and sighing. There’s no implication that advancing text has any effect on the game world at all.

Sure, it’s unexpected, it’s a gameplay twist, but the level of unexpected we’re dealing with here is along the lines of saying “I’m seriously not lying! I swear to god!” when, actually, you are totally lying. Yeah, it’s kind of surprising, but only because no one expects anyone to be that much of an asshole. It’s understood that certain user interface conventions are there for convenience’s sake, and horrible form to punish the player for embracing them in that spirit– at least, doing so without some indication that you’re doing something different with this game.

Not all players perceive a given game as having the same contracts. I’ve seen some people frustrated by puzzles and ideas which I loved in games because it violated the contract they expect of that game. For instance, there’s one puzzle (a few actually) in Braid which requires the player to die to solve, and one person I know was infuriated at this, considering it, I think, ‘ungamelike.’ It was one of my favorite puzzles in the game, particularly since the solution occurred to me out of the blue when I was doing something unrelated, always a very satisfying way to solve a puzzle. This solution was absolutely consistent with the rules, and consistent with the principles of the game as the designer understood them– the design principles of Braid actually lie unusually close to the ruleset, one of its distinguishing characteristics– but because this is a behavior uncharacteristic of games, or at least the genre of games this player had associated the game with, the player felt betrayed.

Wait, I'm being punished for looting a civilian's house? Are you sure this is an rpg?

Wait, I’m being punished for looting a civilian’s house? Are you sure this is an rpg?

Also worth noting is how well the contracts which seem to be most popular coincide with good storytelling. Just as a player encountering an unmarked trap and dying instantly feels cheap and unsatisfying, someone dying unexpectedly with no foreshadowing and for no apparent reason in a movie feels like lazy writing most of the time. I’m sure it’s very realistic, very depressingly realistic, to have characters dying all the time for no good reason, but that doesn’t make it good writing. No, in games we want to have the possibility of that stereotypical black lady yelling at us, “don’t go in there, you gonna die! Aw, told you! Dude with a knife!”

(Which, now that I think about it, would be an excellent variation on the narrative formula used in Bastion. How is this not a thing? It would be amazing.)

Now, I’m not saying that you have to follow the established contractual conventions of your genre, but you do have to do your best to be aware of them. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Valve, who established the principle of never taking control away from the player so boldly in Half-Life, was also the developer to break that principle more boldly and intelligently than any other developer in Left 4 Dead. For another interesting example of very intentionally breaking with the contractual conventions of a genre, look at I Wanna Be The Guy: hardly a perfect game, it must be admitted, but it is actually very smartly designed around the kind of sadistic traps it loves, the exact kind which Super Mario World scrupulously avoids, by making check points frequent and trial-and-error a hilarious-if-somewhat-infuriating experiment.

iwbtg

All part of the experience

So here’s a question to leave you with, one I’ve been pondering: Would it be possible to lie about the principles of the game, build false contracts up in the players’ minds, and make that part of the game? To base the principles of the game on misleading your players and making them think it’s a different kind of game than it is? Is it possible to invoke any emotions except resentment and betrayal using such a method?

Or could this be the unreliable narrator of the game design space? Could this be something new?

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Been working really hard this week but don’t have nearly as much stuff to show for it as last week. It has largely been an exercise in frustration, both in terms of dealing with the infuriating little life things (such as unauthorized charges on my card, forcing me to suspend it and wait for a new one) and in terms of concrete difficulties with the project itself (I may have found a new and exciting bug in Adobe AIR! Oh boy!)

Very, very stressful. Also kind of feeling the lack of social contact, since I’m out here basically 400 miles from anyone I know. Oh well.

So, that’s the bad news. The good news is, despite quite a few setbacks and the fact that most of it isn’t much to look at, I’ve actually been getting a ton of behind the scenes work and improvement/polishing work done. First, the run cycle:

EveRunWiP17

(If it’s not animating, give it a click to see)

Much much closer to what I want it to be now. There’s some flickering around her waist, but it’s just about there. This has been a huge learning experience, and I can only hope that the other animations go faster than this one did, since I’ve spent like 10 days on just the guide for it. I’m thinking I may plan out all of the animations using this method before I start drawing frames, sort of on the idea that drawing them in sessions closer together will give a more consistent feel. Also, it means I’ll be able to start putting together the architecture of animation importation and implementation in-game sooner, and testing them in that context to make sure they work before I put in the hours to draw the frames out– it would suck a lot to put in that work and then find out that it didn’t work in game. Like, even more than it would suck to find out at this stage.

Programming-wise, I’ve been establishing a lot of infrastructure that will be useful throughout the entire project. I’ve developed a centralized bitmap manager which keeps track of loaded images, frees them if they get too numerous, and organizes them for fast access. I’m honestly pretty proud of this thing, it’s one of the more elegant little systems I’ve programmed.

Using this, I’ve made it so details can be loaded and saved into levels using xml files. The detail editor still isn’t very full featured, for instance it’s not yet able to create new details just modify existing ones, but it’s definitely starting to take shape.

Finally, I’ve actually been getting a fair amount of writing done on the game. I’ve started getting a bit more of a feel for how one of the characters will act– I guess for now I’ll call her The Storyteller, although that was my big insight into the character here. This character is the main exposition engine of the game, and she achieves this through telling stories, but not stories which are obviously about the world you’re going through. That is, ultimately, what (most) of them are about, but they’re never framed in that context, and if each story isn’t satisfying on its own then I will consider it a failure on my part.

I’ve also got all of the first area pretty well planned out now. I actually have enough in my notes here that constructing it is pretty feasible, though that’s so far been backburnered while I get these animations and editors constructed and implemented. Still, if I ever want a break from what I’m working on at the moment (goddamn a break sounds nice) then that will be an option.

So, that’s this week. I feel a lot better about it now that I’ve talked about all of the things I achieved with it, because it felt like a slog for a lot of it. Here’s hoping next week is at least as productive and, incidentally, perhaps a bit easier on my mood!

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  Would you like to hear a story? Of course you would, everyone loves a story– at least one story, anyway.

  This was a long long time ago. It’s the old story, the oldest: Boy meets girl, they fall in love, make some kids… and everything’s good, for a while, for a good long time. It’s just them and the kids, their beautiful and talented daughters.

  But, eventually, dad gets to thinking, “wouldn’t some grandkids be nice?” So he has a big meeting, calls all the girls in, and tell them to make some grandkids. Unfortunately, this is way out in the middle of nowhere, and there ain’t no one else around– but it’s okay, see, because dad is a great wizard, and he gives each daughter a piece of his great burning soul so they can make grandkids with his magic. However, as he gives each piece out, he warns them:

  “I am not infinite, I won’t be able to do this forever. You will have to make your kids so they can make their own kids, and on and on, forever.”

  As the daughters left, as they went back to the river to play, they thought about what he had said. Some of the girls hid the bit of fire, in tree trunks and river stones and markings in the dirt, other girls kept it deep in their hearts to warm them at night. The images of their dream children took shape within them and began to shape them in turn, and the girls who kept the fire inside began to swell as the ideas gained substance within them.

  One of those latter was named Dawn. For some reason not entirely clear to the others, she was always daddy’s favorite– Oh, she was smart, I suppose, but not as smart as she thought she was, and she wasn’t very fast or agile, and she was somewhat vain and arrogant. Worst of all, though, she was naive.

The day comes when dad brings them all together to see what they’ve been working on– a birthday celebration for all of the little works-in-progress. Dad, granddad now I guess, offered to give each child a blessing, whatever the mother wished for– wisdom, keen hearing… flight, and so forth, until finally he got to Dawn, saving the best for last I suppose.

And he asked her, “what do you wish for, child?”

What do you think she said?

“Oh, father,” she said, “I wish for my children to have the fire of creation in them, even as we your daughters do, and be free to do with it as they will.”

And even as the words left her mouth it was so, and with them a burst of fire came up as the spirit within her body magnified a thousand times and ripped her asunder. Her children tore free in an instant and spread across the world as though they had always been, as though they belonged, and left her shattered and burned body behind as her sisters watched in tears.

That was that. Dawn was gone, and granddad was forced to leave and watch from a distance in accordance with her final wishes. The remaining daughters were left there, alone, to see their children attacked and consumed by Dawn’s mad orphan offspring.

Until, eventually, they set the whole world on fire, and died as they were born.

So what’s the moral of the story? I don’t know, I think it has something to do with fire safety. Hey, I’ll talk to you later, okay? Bye.

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todo

My last full-time real-person job was as a developer of little Flash games, mostly promotional tie-ins with childrens’ cartoons. More recently, as you may have seen in the recent Eve DevBlogs, I’ve been working quite hard on creating my own game, a personal project I am very invested in. And, in this process, I’ve been trying to apply what I learned at the real-person job– the coding stuff, of course, but also and more importantly the methods of producing a multimedia project.

You see, working for others tends to have one great advantage over working for oneself, and that is that when one works for someone else, there’s someone there to tell one what to do.

This is also one of the great disadvantages.

On the one hand, you never have to figure out what’s next, or wonder what one should be doing at the moment, or worry where the project is going, because that’s Somebody Else’s Job. On the other hand, because of that, you can wake up a year later and find out that no one ever really knew, that it was Someone Else’s Job in perpetuity for everyone in the supposed chain of command, and that your time has been all-but-wasted. Or, more likely, it’s just time put into a project that exists as commercial necessity rather than as an expression of anything meaningful to anyone.

All this is to say that having a job is a lot like playing a video game, and that this doesn’t necessarily say anything bad about either having a job or playing a game. They’re similar because they both constrain the realm of possibility for what you can do next down to an acceptable range, one that you can tackle without having to constantly navigate by the stars you see when you hit your head or cough too hard.

So I now find that among the duties I must take on is that of the producer, writing up schedules, making to-do lists– strictly defining the scope and content of my dream so that, day to day, I know what to work on next.

‘Gamification’ is a big buzz word making a big buzz right now– the idea of making our work more like our games: People seem to like to use this word a lot without ever really understanding the extent to which we’ve already realized that goal. They note ‘hey, isn’t work kind of like a game?’ without often seeming to analyze why we have structured work that way all along. The fact is, we’re all a bit agoraphobic, and I dare anyone to look at the vast expanse of infinite possibility without feeling that crushing ball of tightness in their chest.

If you can, it may just be myopia.

So instead of being crushed by that vast expanse we trim it down, crush it from four dimensions to three, three dimensions to two… And some of us crunch or are crushed down to one dimension, and exist on a line, going forward and backward on a predetermined path until they expire.

Perhaps we are merely three dimensional: However, we can project ourselves onto the lower planes, and infer the higher from motion, and navigate based on the stars we see when we close our eyes.