Books, pain, motivation and muppet impressions

· by Steve · Read in about 4 min · (760 Words)

I’ve just finished reading Raph Koster’s book “A Theory of Fun”, and I have to say I found it very thought provoking, and not exactly what I had expected (in a good way). I’d previously read Chris Crawford on Game Design and sort of expected something similar, but from a different perspective, but in fact the books are very different. Chris' book is a pretty technical volume, with extensive case studies and lots of detail, especially on the types of games that the author wrote (which is mostly strategy games). Raph’s book, however, is very different in tone - rather than trying to enumerate and classify techniques for making the games themselves, he digs down to the very core of what play is, and the most fundamental purpose of gaming and builds it back up from there, in a much more holistic but also less specific fashion. I found it very thought provoking indeed, both in terms of why we react to certain types of gameplay and also the ‘art’ dimension - and by that I don’t mean creating models and textures, I mean why games aren’t generally considered to be art right now, and why not. Just like Chris' book I can’t say I agreed with everything, it certainly left me thinking, which I’m guessing was Raph’s intention anyway. Definitely worth a look.

On the downside, my back has been giving me some hassle again recently. I think it might be because the weather has turned cold and damp rather suddenly this year after an extra long summer. One of the things I definitely need to do when I switch Ogre work from my spare time to prime time is to start looking after myself a bit better physically - I certainly know that sitting in an office chair for 12 hours a day is not condusive to spinal health.

But, one thing that is good though is that I’m generally feeling a lot more upbeat and excited about the future these days (despite the occasional knifing pain). That’s despite the slightly unsettling realisation that I’ve given up a regular paycheck in favour of a headful of completely nebulous ideas, and that I might be completely crazy. ๐Ÿ˜€Whilst there was nothing ‘wrong’ with my day job - and indeed I’m sure I’ll miss aspects of it, especially the people - but it didn’t particularly motivate me anymore. That’s not to say it wasn’t challenging - but in the last year or two especially it has been challenging in a way that I always felt well within my existing skill set - ie I may not have solved this particular problem before, but I’ve solved quite a lot that were similar so I was always confident of success. And so my attitude started to become more of a resignation to tackling problems, rather than any excitement. So there I was in a relatively comfortable, adequately-paid job, challenged but not beyond my perceived abilities - some people would kill for that kind of position! But I clearly don’t have the kind of personality that likes to tread water too long, no matter how warm and inviting those waters might be.

So, bonkers though it might seem, the fact that I’m now leaping into something where I have no solid idea whether I’ll succeed or fail, where I’ll likely have to tackle things where I’ll probably have no idea where to start, where making a complete tit of myself is a definite possibility - it makes me grin like a madman. Call the therapist now, please. ๐Ÿ˜• Hey, at least I’ll be crazy and happy, better than sane and miserable. ๐Ÿ˜€And you know, that gels completely with what Raph talks about in his book - that ‘fun’ is, at its core, largely about learning and growing, being challenged and overcoming those challenges by adapting and absorbing new ‘patterns’. The man just might have a point.

So, I’d say my motivation is on the up right now. As well as the change in working life, I’m going to have spare time again, which means catching up with games, reading more books, spending more time with my wife. And, actually having time to read up on new graphical techniques & books and properly ponder them, rather than firefighting all the time as I try to hold down a job and run OGRE too. It’s going to be fun.

You’ve read this far and wondered about the muppet impressions. To explain, I stumbled across one of my favorite music videos recently - pure class. ๐Ÿ˜€