A game by Heather Logas and her friends

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,