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Crunch Culture in the Game Industry

A lot of people have been talking about crunch culture in the game industry from a moral angle. I wanna take a more utilitarian angle. My background: been in the game biz since ’96, worked everything from 2D kid games to AAA open world. I’ve done the 100 hour work week. My past 15 years have been at ArenaNet where we evolved an anti-crunch culture. Mid-sized studio with lots of sub teams, so it’s not 100%, but the difference between my previous experience (and that of my friends at virtually every other studio) and here is huge. I tweeted that fact the other day and got an interesting range of responses, which I’d like to now parse through the lens of incentives and systems. If that sounds abstract, it will become clear as I go. I’m going to bucket the replies I got into the following categories…
1: This is why your games suck and your studio is unknown.  2: Your studio has other problems [so your opinion about crunch culture is wrong?]  3: Crunch is good because it demonstrates pass…

Difficult Dialog Case Study #2

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The year: 2012. A game called Guild Wars 2 releases. I’m on the front lines, building content for the game. As an MMO, it requires constant work to keep it running and updated with new stuff. It’s like if Disneyland had to add a new ride or themed section every couple months. The first stuff we put out was Halloween content. Several new areas to explore, fight in, and climb up. I love jumping on stuff, both in real life and games, so naturally I tend to make jumping challenges. (Having worked on Guild Wars 1 for many years was frustrating because it had no jumping!) This Halloween event had so much stuff in it, I thought making one little part of it dedicated to a horror themed jumping challenge would be great. Some players disagreed. I ended up conversing with one of them on a YouTube video comment section.While the player started out incredibly hostile, by the end of the exchange they had cooled down and apologized. They didn’t really change their mind about my design decisions, but…

The Last Jedi and the Future of Storytelling

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Apparently this is my life now. Posting countless think pieces about a movie that I only kinda like. Why do I do this? Because the controversy that emerged around this film provides a fascinating case study of this moment in culture. And how the chips fall will have a huge impact on my future goals and ambitions. For context, you can see my grand scheme here, https://breathoflifeart.com/works/tft-concept/ or for the TL:DR version: I want to create a media empire that makes the world more loving with stories. What I see happening in the controversy over The Last Jedi is a conflict between two impulses in culture. One is tradition/privilege/entitlement. The other is expanded empathy/compassion. Here’s your giant dumb caveat because at this point in history it’s necessary:
>>>>NOT EVERYONE WHO DISLIKES THIS MOVIE DISLIKES IT BECAUSE THEY ARE ENTITLED, PRIVILEGED TRADITIONALISTS WHO LACK EMPATHY AND COMPASSION. <<<<
In fact, let me just get this out of the way.Th…

The Selfish Gene Vs Fierce Love

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I finally got around to reading The Selfish Gene.  This is Richard Dawkin’s 1976 classic that lays out a theory about the fundamental drivers (he posits they are genes) of evolution and how that impacts all life, including us humans.  It’s also where he coined the word ‘meme’, positing that -like genes- memes are essentially ‘replication machines’. They are ideas that spread through culture in the same way viruses and genes spread through physical space.  And they are subject to the same laws of selection pressure, being forced to evolve as the environment changes. (Including the pressures of other memes attempting to supplant them.)


My emotional state during the reading of this book could be described as inspired and invigorated.  I’ve come away from it excited and energized. Which could probably be puzzling to many people. This is a book about how our bodies and brains are essentially fancy machines that genes have cobbled together over millions of years for the sole purpose of repl…