A game by Heather Logas and her friends

Motivation Monday

GDC, Motivation, Creativity

Dear Dreamers,

Last week was the Game Developer’s Conference.  I skipped last year, having a small baby to watch.  Last year was the first year I had skipped since I started attending the conference in 2003.  I was surprised to note that I didn’t miss it.  This year, with a solid job — no need to find a job, or networking beyond what my whims dictated — I at first felt a little lost.  What was I doing here?  My new boss had paid for an all-access pass so, obviously, bringing back useful information to the hive was one motivation.  Our project is so quirky though that finding talks that mapped to our goals was a little tricky.  Also I had two meetings/gathering for the Parents in Game Development (or Devs with Kids as I prefer) to ostensibly run.  But I needed more sense of purpose to ground me.  So I decided I would undertake my own quest for inspiration and motivation.

BYCYE had ground to a halt, bug-testing on the latest scene seeming to be an impassable hurdle.  So I needed something to get the juices flowing again.  Another kick-start, this time of the soul. Many years ago, I would leave GDC exhausted but also refreshed and re-ignited.  In more recent years, GDC has just felt like it sucked the life from me when I went.  It was depressing to see the same issues tackled year after year.  Wondering where my peers had gone while I struggled to eke a living in an uncaring industry.  The love and passion of games themselves apparently ground out of people who were just trying to get by day by day.  But, dammit, the magic was still here somewhere.  And I was going to find it.

 I did!  I rediscovered my peers (the few who were still there have been there all along!), I met some amazing people, I attended an unconference being run outside and spontaneously gave a talk about social responsibility in game design.  Lost Levels was pure magic for me, and I’d like to spend some more writing about it.  But first I have to finally get around to what I wanted to write about this morning.  

So I went to this talk on creativity, right?  It was actually three short talks related to creativity, in the Indie Games summit.  I will go to hear anyone speak on creativity any time.  I eat this stuff up.  I am fascinated by others’ processes and like to glean tidbits that I can try out in my own life.  For me its not so much about finding new ideas, although I love that too.  My brain is a writhing mass of new ideas at all times.  But I especially like to hear people speak about what inspires them, how they stick with their projects to the end and what they do when they hit road-blocks in their process.  

So here I am at this three part talk by three Indie dudes.  The first two were interesting and I jotted down some notes about what they had to say.  The last guy (maybe I should look up his name but I feel like doing so would be calling him out so I won’t) stood up to give a talk about his creative process.  He started listing off tips, each very sincerely and elaborated on very elegantly.  Here are my notes from this talk (copy and pasted from Evernote):

Toolset for evoking creativity in game design
1) never trust your first idea
2) hold off on concretely defining your ideas as long as possible
3) look for ideas everywhere
4) your gut knows better than you
5) the game is going to be about you, no matter what you do — if you develop your life to be proud of, you will really make special games
6) stop trying to “find” your game; it is trying to find you!
7) your game means nothing until someone else plays it; your game is a communication between yourself and other people
8) when you have a new idea, put it in words (could be writing or telling)
9) every idea you will have is stealing from someone else, don’t be ashamed or fearful.  Just do it.
10) try not to let your game mirror your life.  Use your game to shape your life.  By creating your game, you have an opportunity to reshape your life.
11) your game should exist without its players.  Don’t just make it for others.
12) if someone else could come up with it, don’t use it.,  show a world that no one knew could have existed.  
13. Develop a creative schedule.  A routine.  
14.  Don’t form habits.  Work in relationship with your body.   
Reading through this list you might be thinking “Huh.  But these all contradict each other.”  Yes, there are many contradictory statements.  I wrote them down as quickly as he spewed them.  And it was all things I had heard before.  But still I found it useful to have this all written down somewhere and as I became more and more conscious of the contradictions I smiled to myself, thinking he was leading into something about how different people find different techniques different at different times.  Or maybe he was about to talk about how there was no magic formula, all you could do was try things out and see what worked for you.  
But that’s not what he was doing at all.  With a smirk, he concluded his talk with a heavy handed bit about confusion and leaving the Indie Games summit confused with nothing useful for when you went back to your own studios.  The audience, he told us with his expression and body language, had been had.  Oh the cleverness of him!  
Cute.  The friend I was with offered an interpretation that perhaps the speaker, like himself, occasionally felt frustrated with Indie Game talks because they are TOO MUCH about process, with no actionable items at the end of it all.  Maybe, but I wanted the process.  I love Indie talks because they tend to BE about process.  They tend to be sincere and vibrant and I don’t expect to be given “actionable” items, yet I always am.  The actions are things like “read this book”, “think about this topic”, “feel inspired and get back to work”!  
I’d like to go through his Toolset point by point and talk about my own thoughts about this.  But I am out of coffee shop time this morning and must get back to my day job.  Instead I’ll just leave you with the things I am doing to get my own motivation going again:
1) I’ve joined a “pod” (like a project accountability group) in my former research group at school.  (I’m not a student anymore but they said I could join any way).
2) I am going to attempt to audit a class on dialog systems.  At least until I realize I don’t have time to do so.
3) I am listening to a course on fantasy literature on CD while I drive places
4) I have started using dropbox recently and all my files are in there and updated to the latest version of Choicescript (thanks Dan F!) waiting for me
I just have to do the bug checking…come on, Heather, its not….that…..bad…..
Dream Well,

Where’s my motivation? Tuesday

Dearest Dreamers,

The last week was hard. It could possibly be described as “impossible”. Well, except that I made it to the other side, so I suppose it wasn’t completely impossible. Personal stress abounds and half-way through the week my immune system decided to take a vacation. Fortunately it wasn’t too long a trip, but for days I have felt completely drained and very, very low.

March on, march on…how do you keep moving when you just want to lay down in the mud and sleep for a thousand years? Set the timer and sit with the materials….even if you don’t touch anything, if you don’t write any code, if you don’t design wondrous new worlds and fun new encounters. Just sit.

Showing up, after all, is the hardest part.

Dream Well,

Motivation Monday — Pep Talk

Dear Dreamers,

I am not going to lie to you: last week sucked. It was devoured by multiple flavors of bureaucracy, which took up so much time that I then became very behind on my paid job and had to scramble to catch up. On top of that, the brutal exhaustion of not getting a full night’s sleep (thanks to my little darling boy) is seriously wearing on me. Sometimes I feel like, if I sit very still, I can feel particles of my mind literally detaching themselves and drifting away.

But enough melancholy. The wonder of these lives we lead is that each day is an opportunity for new choices and new chances. I may not be done dealing with the bureaucratic nightmare that is the American health system, but the urgency is past. My daughter should (finally!) be enrolled in Kindergarten after today. And who knows — tonight could be the night that the baby sleeps all the way through. It could happen.

So I will fight through this haze of sleep deprivation and strive on. This week I would like to complete the re-working of the scene where the player first enters Thlanviviak. If all goes well, I may even be able to upload it and have an updated demo! That would sure feel good.

And so onward!
Dream well,

Motivation Tuesday

Monday is a rough day to make blog posts, but I’m not ready to officially switch to Tuesdays yet because I like alliteration.

This week I am revisiting one of the first scenes I wrote. I am adding in the DSA feature so it plays more consistently with the scene where the player is on the road. I no longer remember what DSA stands for, but it allows players to make choices that the game system thinks are “out of character”. Players are given options and then, at certain places, another option to “do something else”. When the player chooses one of the “something else” options, the game comments on how that seems out of character, how the game has misjudged the player, etc. But the player can be stubborn and choose it anyway, at which point stats are adjusted behind the scenes.

Re-reading the text I wrote for this scene, I can feel all the exuberance of those early days of the project when I was funded to work for two months on nothing else. My joy at working solely for myself feels apparent to me in those words. It is fun and exciting to revisit that time. The scene feels a lot to me like something from the Sorcery! books, which are a huge influence on myself and on this project. (By the way, holy smokes these are now iphone apps!!

In any event, I feel like I am settling back down into the world and am excited to be visiting and shaping it again.

Dream well,

Motivation Tuesday 7/31

Several years ago, someone gave me very good and valuable advice which I unfortunately only remembered recently. I was taking a writing workshop, and at the end the women (it was all older women for some reason except for myself) were discussing how they found time to work on their own personal projects, despite their many other responsibilities. One woman explained her secret: She worked for herself first. She woke up before her children and before checking email, before exercising or client work, she wrote for herself.

It makes so much sense. The work that is “required” of me will get done no matter what. Its the creative work that falls off the plate if it has to wait. Its so tempting to say “I’ll just get these three things done today, then use the rest of the day to work on my project.” But those three things might have unforeseen delays, or you may just be too exhausted by the end of the day to get to the work that really matters to you.

My new job has been far more hectic than I was expecting, and I’ve never been able to wake up before my children. But my hours are flexible and my daughter just started summer school. So here is the new productivity plan:
Before bed:

  1. Spend a few minutes tidying the work space
  2. Close all tabs on Chrome that do not pertain to BYCYE (I’m lookin at you: email and Facebook!)
  3. Close all programs that do not pertain to BYCYE
  4. Set Pandora station to my custom BYCYE station
  5. Post on my bulletin board one main goal and one stretch goal for the next day

Steps 1 – 4 are to minimize distractions in the morning, and step 5 is so I don’t have to spend any time the next day deciding what to work on.

Then, in the morning:

  1. Take daughter to school
  2. Take a few personal minutes at community breakfast over coffee and oatmeal
  3. Come home and feed baby, see if he’ll nap. (If not, do next two steps anyway, with him on my lap if need be).
  4. Fill water bottle
  5. Work for one hour
  6. Only then, start my “official” work day.

Step 2 above is important, as it will give me a couple minutes to clear my head of mental distractions. Again, the idea is to set things up to best facilitate working.

This is my strategy, starting tomorrow. We’ll see how it goes. I’d love to hear how others manage to get in time for their creative pursuits, or if you have any other tips I could use.

Dream well,

Motivation Monday 7 – 16 – 2012

My problem lately has not been a lack of motivation. I have motivation in spades. Both BYCYE and the paid project I’m working on are fun, challenging and exciting — exactly the type of work I want to be doing.

No, the problem is the obstructions. I think I am the most frustrated in life when I have things I want to do and can’t. Lately, this has been pretty frequent. Sickness is one problem that has been plaguing (hah hah) me. I have been sick for about two months, with pneumonia and a sinus infection at one point. Last week I had a day when I felt like I was finally turning the corner, and on that day my husband informed me that he had a sore throat. Sure enough, 24 hours later and I had a sore throat too and now feel sick all over again.

Then there’s the administrivia of life. How much time is sucked up trying to resolve medical bills, for example? Or collecting signatures for grants? Or hammering out job details? Someday I will have an administrative assistant and never have to look at a form again. Until that day, entire afternoons will be spent like they were today — filling out paperwork for services my family needs.

The other big obstructions I face are actually quite little. One is only 4 years old, and the other only 5 months. Managing these two while trying to work, especially with my daughter home from school for the summer has been a real challenge. As a matter of fact, the baby is on my lap as I write this. He is pretty sick too, and we’re taking him to the doctor this evening. My daughter is just in need of my attention. She wants to be with me constantly. Endearing, but also aggravating. My husband helps distract her but with no door on my office sooner or later she winds up trying to crawl up into my lap. I have purchased for her her own little “desk” to put in my office, with the accompanying offer that she can sit there quietly and work on a project but so far this has worked approximately two times out of the many I’ve suggested it. She is not a girl to sit on the sidelines. She wants to be part of the action. The baby, too, is a total momma’s boy. As part of my recent office re-do I also established a comfy and fun place for him to hang out. But I made one big error — the baby station is behind me. So there’s no eye contact from mommy while I work. I’m hoping it gets better when he is no longer so sick but for the moment this means he is happy in his spot for around three minutes before he begins fussing and crying.

Honestly, its a wonder I get anything done at all. But this is supposed to be “motivation” Monday not “throw in the towel” Monday. Suffice to say, with everyone being so sick, it may be a low productivity week. One thing I am not good at is resting when sick, which is ridiculous since it just drags the sickness out. But it does mean things keep moving forward, even at a low level.

This week is prep week. During all my mad sprints with BYCYE, file structures have gotten convoluted, the community site needs to be updated so it doesn’t look like the project’s abandoned, and I can’t remember how to use some of the online tools I had been using. I am going through everything, creating a (flexible) production plan, and setting things up so future work isn’t obstructed by inefficient and confusing file structures. Because more obstructions I don’t need!

Dream Well,