My dad always inquires on the latest book I am reading. That continued inquiry throughout my life has helped me find a way of connecting with individuals on a deeper level. As words make language, language shapes us. By tapping the language used in a particular book, common words can resonate more harmoniously.
When I saw a tweet from an individual at BioWare (Mass Effect, Dragon Age, etc.) praising a book, I scampered my fingers to Amazon to see the subject matter. The book, Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull had a tag line of “Overcoming the unseen forces that stand in the way of true inspiration.” Upon previewing a few pages, I put in an order for the book. I wanted to know what influences the makers of my favorite video game series.
The book opened with a young man in the early years of digital graphics research. In working his way through college, he found the dream that would dominate his early career – making a full-length digital animation movie utilizing a computer. He accomplished that after a lot of effort and influence (quite a bit from Steve Jobs). When Pixar’s first film Toy Story hit it big, he refocused his career to ensure the culture that produced lauded success would outlast his presence at Pixar.
Pixar’s continued success began to be a problem – too many people were in fear of being on that first movie that bombs. There were many cycles of vulnerability, honesty, mistakes, and success. Pixar is still uncommonly successful. The book continues on the theme of how to replicate the culture elsewhere, highlighting this specifically when Disney acquired Pixar when their own animation division was suffering.
The book contains no bullet points and only one or two diagrams, staying away from any one-trick-ponies or 5 steps to pwnery. Some continuing themes in the book revolve around vulnerability, trust, and how to handle mistakes and failure. One of my favorite quotes is “Failure isn’t a necessary evil. In fact, it isn’t evil at all. It is a necessary consequence of doing something new.”
The video game industry is a graveyard of failures – the only survivors being the developers. Very few organizations have been able to succeed over a long period of time. Those still around were never lucky. They are able to respond to failure with the elements necessary for reacting while retaining momentum.
What were some failures in the video game industry you remember where companies either were able to respond successfully or regrettably had no more extra lives left?
For those who are interested in improving their work environment, or learning how the producers and developers of the stories we enjoy so much acculturate their professional settings, you’ll find this an engaging read.
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