Reacting to Realities

In terms of accessibility of information, we live in the most amazing time that has ever been. And it doesn’t stop with looking up facts about history and reality. It is easier than ever before to try new things. So much of our lives are built upon technologies that allow us to experiment and try things that have never been before. We can quickly gather information about hypothetical futures by quickly making them realities and seeing how they play out. This sounds like it’s a post about AB testing and an amazing middleware that I’m about to pitch to you, but it’s not.

This is a blog post about opinions.

The first games console that I ever worked on was the PS2. It was a console where for the most part, you had one shot at getting the game right. And because of that, there was a very specific way we made decisions on PS2 games. We would argue and argue and argue until we were blue in the face and then we would do something random. It’s not truly random. It might be the idea from the person with the loudest voice. It might be the opinion of whoever has the most years in the industry. But from the perspective of making the right decision, it wasn’t far from random.

Most of us don’t live in that world any more and don’t make video games that way any more. With the speed of modern day tools, we can quickly mock up a prototype, see how it plays, and make decisions based on reality. We don’t spend all our time bickering and designing by rhetoric about imaginary worlds. We try things and we make decisions based on reality. Some times we even do release things to the world or AB test them. The important thing is that we can make decisions based on some sampling of reality.

But as game designers and game players, our culture has not caught up. When we catch wind of something, we don’t have the faith to let it become a reality and see how it will pan out. We don’t let our world have a chance to happen and iterate. More and more, I’m seeing decisions made by rhetoric and theoretical universes where we have trivial access to the data we need.

Today’s discussion is about open development. It’s a fine piece and it could be right. But it is written from a theoretical perspective when we are living in a world where we are surrounded by data about this precise issue. It’s not that I think the author is wrong or that his opinion is invalid. I just feel that with so many developers presently undergoing open development, we can easily gather the data and it’ll be much more accurate than any theoretical view regardless of the intelligence behind it.

I think about when twitter rolled out it’s new block policy and everyone got so up in arms that they had to roll it back and only yesterday I noticed someone who would have benefitted from the new block and not had his day ruined. It’s not that the new block policy was better. It’s that we didn’t wait until someone was suffering from it. I couldn’t find a single tweet of an actual victim of the new policy. Everyone was just standing up for the theoretical victim they imagined. In fact, it took me three or four hours that night to find out what the change even was and another few hours to find what twitter intended to do with it.

When Mighty No. 9 appointed a new community manager, people (and I know we’re all saying “not me”), got upset at the theoretical situation that a female would be running the community and ruining the game. And when Depression Quest hit Greenlight, people erupted at this theoretical world where Depression Quest existing on Steam was going to ruin their lives.

Firstly, I’m not saying the open development reaction, the twitter reaction, the Mighty No. 9 reaction, and the Depression Quest reaction are all the same.

What I’m saying is that they all have one thing in common. We had the opportunity to react to a reality that we experienced but instead we reacted to a theoretical future that we imagined and we took the latter option.

The reason this pains me so much is that with the reality we live in and all the data we have, it’s still very complex and difficult to sort out. But if we spend all of our time focusing on the theoretical futures and never letting the reality play out, we’re really going to struggle finding the future that we want.

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