Friday, August 09, 2013

Ronin

I am trying to figure something out.

Over my last thirteen years as a game developer, I switched jobs an average of every two years - Not always by choice. At first, it was because the studio I worked for got shut down or layoffs/downsizing/reduction-in-force happened after shipping the game; it felt like losing a family every time. I tried my best to stop it from happening, but it seemed that no matter how many 12 to 16 hour days I put in or how much the people I worked with really liked working with me, the result was the same... powers beyond my control and beyond the control of anyone I work with would force me to find a new tribe in a new studio and start all over again.

Acceptance eventually set in: "bad weather", "the circle of life", "nature of the biz", "price you pay to do something you love"... These justifications started to wear thin after awhile. I was paying attention to my counterparts at other companies inside and outside the games industry, and that was when I started noticing the pattern. It manifested to a point where it eventually became possible to tell when bad things were going to happen again. Sometimes, the patterns were tied to specific people, but always, they were tied to specific behaviors.

In the more recent years of my career, I chose not to wait for the people who employ me to lay me off. I got good at laying myself off before my former employer could start their own (surprise) round of layoffs. I figured that I could preemptively reduce the headcount and extend the runway before other people got reduced who weren't as flexible as me.

At this point in my life, I now understand that when you work for a company, the decisions that control your fate will not be your decisions, and they may be made by people who do not understand what you do and don't have the time to find out.

I want to make products that I believe in with a tribe that I can get stronger with over multiple projects over multiple years, but none of that is going to happen if I start over every two years. The only way to make this happen is to work for a very stable company and trust that I can grow within the established ecosystem there with its installed residents.... or make that company, myself.
    Today is my first day as an independent game developer. This is an experiment to see if I can succeed by just working hard, being good at my job, and managing who I collaborate with... all while believing in something. At any one time, the things I do need to come from a personal place. The best communications I have ever had with people were the emotional ones. The best code I have ever written was an emotionally driven analogy for some concept in the real world. The best things I have ever done in life were done with the full intention of somehow fixing myself... or those like me. This is a truth that I am at peace with.

    In order to succeed, I need to make this personal and tap into that emotional reserve, but I also need a structure to give the company's output meaningful context in order to achieve cultural resonance. This internal compass has evolved into three sharply defined tenets that relate to the concept of Identity, Agency, and Communion. These three points of a triangle are... The Ring of Blades!


    The Ring of Blades is in service to player experiences that...
       Express Identity with Passion,
          Actualize Agency with Skill,
             and Establish Communion through Introspection