Sid Meier on Game Design: Find the Fun

We’re all so smart and strategic that we’re not doing enough of this anymore…

“Sid’s never had to write a design document, because instead of debating with you about some new feature he wants to implement, he’ll just go home and at night he’ll implement it,” Solomon said. “And then tomorrow when he comes in he’ll say, ‘Okay, now play this new feature.’ And you’ll play, and then you can have a real conversation about the game, instead of looking at some design document.”

“‘Find the fun’—that’s Sid’s phrase,” said Reynolds. “Essentially, you have to make something in order to have any chance of finding the fun. Fun wasn’t going to be found on a piece of paper, at least fun in terms of a video game.”

Neocities is the New Geocities

Remember Geocities? Remember when you made fun of Geocities after it went away and we were all so smug and advanced and didn’t need Smashing Pumpkins Webrings anymore? Then remember how everything got really boring? Kyle Drake does: 

We used to call it “surfing” the web, and that was actually a good way to describe it. There was a certain adventure to the activity – a fun and excitement in exploring the unknown.

Go to a Facebook profile, and ponder what we have now. Instead of having adventures into the great unknowns of the web, we instead now spend most of our time on social networks: boring, suburban gated communities, where everybody’s “profile” looks exactly the same, and presents exactly the same content, in the same arrangement. Rarely do we create things on these networks; Instead, we consume, and report on our consumption. The uniformity and blandness rival something out of a Soviet bloc residential apartments corridor. And now adding to that analogy, we’ve found out that our government is actually spying on us while we’re doing it, in ways the Stasi could only dream of. The web we have today is a sad, pathetic, consumption-oriented digital iron curtain, and we need to change that.

His solution is to create a new version of Geocities. A place where people have complete control over what their website looks like and their privacy. His full rantifesto can be found here.   

Hat Tip: Bud

Pixar’s 22 Rules of Storytelling

This is gold. Especially liked this one: Putting it on paper lets you start fixing it. If it stays in your head, a perfect idea, you’ll never share it with anyone.

These rules were originally tweeted by Emma Coats, Pixar’s Story Artist.

1.  You admire a character for trying more than for their successes.
2.  You gotta keep in mind what’s interesting to you as an audience, not what’s fun to do as a writer. They can be very different.
3.  Trying for theme is important, but you won’t see what the story is actually about til you’re at the end of it. Now rewrite.
4.  Once upon a time there was ___. Every day, ___. One day ___. Because of that, ___. Because of that, ___. Until finally ___.
5.  Simplify. Focus. Combine characters. Hop over detours. You’ll feel like you’re losing valuable stuff but it sets you free.
6.  What is your character good at, comfortable with? Throw the polar opposite at them. Challenge them. How do they deal?
7.  Come up with your ending before you figure out your middle. Seriously. Endings are hard, get yours working up front.
8.  Finish your story, let go even if it’s not perfect. In an ideal world you have both, but move on. Do better next time.
9.  When you’re stuck, make a list of what WOULDN’T happen next. Lots of times the material to get you unstuck will show up.
10. Pull apart the stories you like. What you like in them is a part of you; you’ve got to recognize it before you can use it.
11. Putting it on paper lets you start fixing it. If it stays in your head, a perfect idea, you’ll never share it with anyone.
12. Discount the 1st thing that comes to mind. And the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th – get the obvious out of the way. Surprise yourself.
13. Give your characters opinions. Passive/malleable might seem likable to you as you write, but it’s poison to the audience.
14. Why must you tell THIS story? What’s the belief burning within you that your story feeds off of? That’s the heart of it.
15. If you were your character, in this situation, how would you feel? Honesty lends credibility to unbelievable situations.
16. What are the stakes? Give us reason to root for the character. What happens if they don’t succeed? Stack the odds against.
17. No work is ever wasted. If it’s not working, let go and move on – it’ll come back around to be useful later.
18. You have to know yourself: the difference between doing your best & fussing. Story is testing, not refining.
19. Coincidences to get characters into trouble are great; coincidences to get them out of it are cheating.
20. Exercise: take the building blocks of a movie you dislike. How d’you rearrange them into what you DO like?
21. You gotta identify with your situation/characters, can’t just write ‘cool’. What would make YOU act that way?
22. What’s the essence of your story? Most economical telling of it? If you know that, you can build out from there.

SXSW: What’s so funny about Innovation with Baratunde Thurston

This is the third in a series of posts I’m doing to recap the SXSW sessions I attended in return for the free ride from my agency.

I was really excited to see Baratunde in person after hearing him on The Nerdist podcast last year. He’s former digital director for the Onion, a standup, and a cofounder of Cultivated Wit. Oh, and he wrote a book called “How to be Black.” Everything went really well until I awkwardly (and badly) slapped him high-five as he ran by after the panel.

Also, I should mention he had a partner for this panel, Paul Valerio from Method (not the brand) in San Francisco.

They did a lot of back and forth around using comedy as a way to explore the tennets of innovation. I took really lousy notes during this session because it was a lot of tangents and side conversations. Overall, they talked about a lot of the things that you’d expect a planner to talk about

With apologies for the presentation of this, I’m not sure how to do it well, so here’s some fragments of some sort of list that they did:

1. Know your audience, and then ignore their advice.

  • In Paul’s experience, Really lousy ideas and really good ideas tested about the same.
  • Knowing the audiences is important, but in standup you get to know them by going in front of them and adjusting as you go.
  • My audience is definitely not everybody (you have to accept that fact)
  • The first audience test I do is to make sure I crack myself up. That’s what matters
  • If its the brand instead if just a product, you should be able to write a joke about it.
  • Knowing what the room knows is important
  • Because of tech, there’s more data than ever, but not truth
  • You don’t need research for insight
  • There are unknowable things…you can feel of something is right
  • Most if us can see and have cameras, but not all of us can see like photographers

Then I didn’t write anything for awhile. Which either means that numbers 2 and 3 were unimportant or I was distracted by god only knows what.

But after THAT, I started writing again…

4. Develop your own point of view

  • Every late night host has to deal with the same news, but can put their own point of view on it.
  • Knowing yourself and what your angle is is important, because having proprietary access to information is gone
  • We have a limited ability to articulate our wants and needs
  • When people discover something that they didn’t expect to discover, it’s more satisfying—The familiar surprise

5. Don’t expect everyone to get it

  • That is part of the process
  • There are people who don’t like puppies
  • Good branding is the art of sacrifice…what you say no to defines who you are
  • Sometimes you failed, sometimes the audience sucks … sometimes you just don’t belong there
  • To be able to make a statement that’s excepted by some and not by others is a mark of quality
  • There is no one definition of success

6. You can’t test your way to a decision

  • Research is an aide to judgement not a replacement for it
  • Testing in standup is open, because the audience is a good portion of the show
  • You test by launching, by deploying
  • You learn ways to do it better or places where people laugh at the unexpected as you try things out.

On creation…

“It takes a thousand men to invent a telegraph, or a steam engine, or a phonograph, or a photograph, or a telephone or any other important thing—and the last man gets the credit and we forget the others. He added his little mite — that is all he did. These object lessons should teach us that ninety-nine parts of all things that proceed from the intellect are plagiarisms, pure and simple; and the lesson ought to make us modest. But nothing can do that.” – Mark Twain