Category Archives: Work

Nintendo’s ‘Conductor’

Matt Peckham, writing for TIME, with a great profile of Nintendo’s Shinya Takahashi:

“If all of Nintendo’s content creators were to be seen as a symphony, then Mr. Takahashi is our conductor,” says Nintendo of America boss Reggie Fils-Aimé, when asked to contrast Takahashi’s role with Iwata’s. “What I mean by that is, it’s his decision to bring the different players in our orchestra onto a particular game or a particular initiative. He’s the ultimate decision maker in what gets played by the symphony or what gets created by Nintendo as a company.”

And to follow the metaphor through, audiences rarely get to see the conductor’s face. “He’s been creating this big show, but because you only see his back, you really don’t know him all that well,” adds Fils-Aimé. “But he drives the orchestra and he sets the pace and the bar for the performance.”

Fils-Aimé pushes back on positional comparisons between the preeminent role Takahashi now plays with the myriad ones performed by Iwata, Nintendo’s former “ultimate decision maker,” calling them “different roles, different times, different needs of the organization.” What’s changed, he says, is that after Iwata’s passing, the company decided it was time to ask its less visible luminaries to step up. It’s a a philosophy others in the company, like Miyamoto, have espoused in passing for years.

“The people that came out in the presentation, when you look at it from the perspective of Nintendo, they’re actually not new at all,” says Miyamoto of the varied group chosen to rep Nintendo’s Switch during the system’s January feting. Miyamoto, whose hands have touched virtually all of Nintendo’s storied IP, will be 65 this year, while the company’s new president, Tatsumi Kimishima, turns 67 in April.

Takahashi has a storied career with the company. I especially love his history with Wave Race 64 and 1080° Snowboarding, two of my favorite Nintendo 64 titles. His views on management are similarly inspiring.

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‘Is there an exodus from indie back to AAA?’

Simon Parkin, writing for Gamasutra:

It would be too much of a stretch to imply that, five years after the explosion of indie game development, we’re witnessing a widespread return back to large studio development. It is, however, undeniably true that, for every indie success story, there are scores of independently produced games that have failed to make a mark or to provide, for their creators, a viable new career. And as such, many are returning to more orthodox roles within established studios.

Parkin continues to ship fantastic work.

While game development is certainly it’s own beast, the perspectives in this piece will hit home for anyone who has moved from corporate culture to self-employment or startups. I’m also a fan of Teddy Dief’s (Hyper Light Drifter, Square Enix Montreal) faux three hour meeting:

He keeps a daily faux three-hour meeting in his shared calendar in order to ensure he has time to do “deeper work.”

I strongly recommend Parkin’s 2015 book ‘Death By Video Game‘. My dual-review with Playdead’s Inside here.

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Unpaid part-time job

Jeffrey Jaques, writer and illustrator of Questionable Content, as quoted by The Guardian:

Playing with jerks, is no fun. Having a stoned college kid tell me I suck and can’t fucking shoot when I’m just learning an FPS is no fun. Being stuck at level 40 in World of Warcraft when all my friends are level 60 and don’t have time to help me catch up is no fun. Having to play any multiplayer game for 25 hours a week to remain competitive … that’s not fun, that’s an unpaid part-time job.

Likewise, I don’t have 40 spare hours to dedicate to the story of a single game. I grew up awed by Final Fantasy and dreamt of having the time to play a full story. Since seeing FFVII, I’ve completed two: FFX and FFXIII.

I’m coming to find that games with dailies such as Hearthstone or with “three star” achievements such as (famously) Angry Birds or Mario Kart 8 allow for quicker bouts of manageable playtime.

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IGDA surveys 2,200 devs on industry perception

Tracey Lien, Polygon:

When it came to the factors influencing society’s negative view of games and the people who make them, 68 percent of respondents said reports of the industry’s working conditions were a contributing factor. Sexism in games followed closely at 67 percent. 62 percent of respondents named the perceived link to violence as a factor. 51 percent said sexism in the workforce was a problem, while 49 percent attributed the negative perception to the perceived link to obesity. 42 percent of respondents blamed the lack of overall diversity in the industry.

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Passion

Leigh Alexander writing for Gamasutra:

I mean, I still don’t like the question, but I’ve come to dislike the prompt to passionately deliver a litany of “what I’m playing lately” a little bit more. The “lately” is the cloying part. As if for participation in this field it’s not just enough to enjoy games, to think critically about them, to play them sometimes. To spend all your time making them, as some do. It’s that you also must devote yourself to clawing ever uphill, passionately, as a consumer. Like if you were all at a buffet, and you came back to the table with only what you liked on your plate and not everything, you are merely a casual eater.

Casual! I am enjoying exploring familiar old design spaces. I really am excited to find the energy and motivation to revisit that Final Fantasy X HD remaster. And I am playing a lot of Puzzle Craft, an utterly inane but soothing and manageable “casual game.” And that is it. I reckon I am not very “passionate” about games, in the way I feel I am supposed to be. I am that woman who likes farm games, who everyone brings up in every sexist article about “games for women.” I feel pressured to apologize.

This may be my favorite piece of the year-to-date; chock-full of quotable lines and familiar feelings. Alexander’s sentiment cuts to the core of The State of Gaming. I rarely play video games. I average two AAA titles and a handful of indies as my yearly allotment. As a substitute, I scrape together bits of time to check-in on industry news; Five-minutes here, ten-minutes there. Rather than commenting, I parse together thoughts on pieces in a blog format conducive to my limited time and incessant need to “be in the know.”

While I’m able to justify why I game, Alexander eloquently justifies why I don’t. This piece is a must read.

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Freakonomics Radio: ‘Think Like a Child’

Economist Steven Levitt, Freakonomics Radio:

Video games are fun. My son, Nick, who’s 11-years-old, could play video games for eight hours straight. Could Nick work at a job, say at McDonald’s, for eight hours? No. So it seems to me, what you take away from that is if you could make a job as fun as a video game, then you’d have all of the 11-year-old boys in the world, and probably the 15-year-old and 20-year-old and maybe even the 30-year-old boys lining up at your door trying to take that job.

This sentiment is very much echoed in game designer Jane McGonigal’s book Reality is Broken. A worthwhile read on the fulfilling benefits of games and updating the today’s workplace / social constructs to be more game-like.

Levitt continues:

I think fun is so much more important than people realize and I’ve seen it in academics. When I interview young professors and try to decide if we should hire them, I’ve evolved over time to one basic rule: If I think they love economics and it’s fun for them, then I’m in favor of hiring them. No matter how talented they seem otherwise, if it seems like a job or effort or work, then I don’t want to hire them.

In March of 2013, I wrote about the idea of circling back to childhood hobbies when I am feeling lost. Many of those hobbies I am still fond of today. They act as fantastic through-lines that keep me on track when I feel I have strayed too far off course or have lost sight of my path. See also Finding Your Calling published on The Art of Manliness on the idea of pursuing vocation rather than a job or career.

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