Posts Tagged thoughts

Experiences, Designed

My relatively new position at Wizards (within 6 months or so, although I started laying groundwork from the start of 2012 or so) was honorably mentioned in Director of Magic R&D Aaron Forsythe’s yearly State of the Union style address on our website today!(Aaron’s my boss.) I got some great kudos from friends and admirers on social media. I wanted to chat a little bit about the ups and downs of being an “experience designer.”

My job, as I see it, is to enhance the enjoyment of our products by providing one-time one-of-a-kind experiences for players associated with those products. So, for example, when we release a new expansion set, we make a big event of it (the prerelease) and I am in charge of defining how to make that big event special, memorable and on theme for that product. Maybe a huge treasure chest that the players must work together (in small ways) to unlock, or a special themed “initiate to the group” box chosen by the player when they select a group to join and fight for. Incredibly, I actually got a bit of a start on this sort of design in college, with Caltech Ditch Day – designing a full day of fun, themed activities for underclassmen as seniors.

The best part is that I feel directly plugged into giving our fans opportunities for more fun. We get to do some really creative stuff for these experiences (which I can’t talk about – yet!) and I get to be at the center of that creative effort, which is really invigorating, especially working with so many talented folk all along the line.

The challenges so far have been communication-related – getting everyone on the same page about what we are trying to accomplish with any particular experience – and process-related – it can be a bumpy road, creating these new experiences, since we are new as a company to making these things.

I hope that this year, with a full year behind me of experience with experiences, I can start to lay a more formal groundwork for a kind of template starting-point for experience design!

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On Certainty

I’ve been giving thought to the idea of certainty and how it affects one’s life. In my opinion, certainty is like faith – if you have it, it’s because you believe something so strongly that no doubt remains in your mind. My scientific mind rebels at this, the skeptic in me screaming that you can never KNOW enough to prove beyond doubt using only the evidence of your eyes and your experience. So I remain uncertain, unwilling to commit to only one of many possible outcomes whenever there is even a shadow of a doubt.

There is a hidden cost to uncertainty, though, and that’s insecurity. When you are certain you are doing the right thing, or when you are certain in some aspect of your own future, you are confident and untroubled. Even new information fits into the framework of your certainty, and your faith can remain unshaken. When you are uncertain about your choices and your future, you doubt yourself and wonder how many things lie outside your control or ability to influence. Every new piece of information can trigger a staggering amount of reevaluation and that’s no recipe for confidence.

Is there a middle ground? I wonder about people who “want to believe” – is the desire to have certainty enough to inspire confidence? I feel this way about free will – as many folk I have talked to say, you either have faith in it, or you must live your life like you do, in a “fake it ’til you make it” kind of way. How dishonest is it to fool yourself into certainty? Even if it’s effective, is it worth the cost to open-mindedness?

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2011, Here We Come

Now that I have made the last decision I needed to make for 2010 (which New Year’s Eve party I would be attending) I now face my first 2011 decision: what resolutions should I take with me into the new year as noble goals toward self-improvement?  I’ve been reviewing my choices (from among the 23 or so I put down in the blog over the first part of December) and here’s what I’ve come to:

  • Designate a week where I will reply in the affirmative to every (reasonable) request to go out, hang out and otherwise get out (of my comfort zone).
  • Take Max on a camping trip at least twice, for a period of two or more days each, possibly with other friends involved on the trip too.
  • Track my spending for at least month to create a simple budget.
  • Plan no more than six meals “out” each week for a month, with a “these meals planned” calendar on my fridge at home.

There are a few others that are right over my horizon if I complete these satisfactorily.  Four goals that are relatively timebound should be a good start – we’ll see how it goes!

Finally, thank you, dear reader, for sticking with me during this very interesting and enjoyable year-of-blogs!  I’ll be back in the New Year with some different types of content and I’m sure a few regular-style blogs too.

Happy New Year, everyone! :)

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Year in Review: Summary

I went in to give blood today, and as part of the routine questionnaire they always give, the guy asked me where I had traveled in the last 12 months.  It was an unexpected reminder of how awesome this year has been, as I thought back to the Magic Cruise, my trips to Pro Tours San Juan and Amsterdam, and all of the amazing friends I’ve met and grown closer to over the last twelve months.

One of the themes of this year’s blog, if you read between the lines, is that I am very very hard on myself.  I am constantly upset at how poorly I’m doing compared to the Ideal Dave I have shadowing me in my mind.  I am thinking again and again of all these wonderful projects I could do only to fail to find time or energy to do them.  I fail to attend some social gathering and beat myself up over it.  The list goes on.  But now, taking a step back, I can see that if I look at Real Dave, not some imaginary ideal I have constructed for myself – well, he did a pretty great job with this year, and this year with him.

The highlights of this year were:

  • the Magic Cruise, reconnecting with the folk who attended the first one and meeting some wonderful new people (can’t wait for this year’s!)
  • my 30th birthday in San Juan
  • Karaoke Mondays, especially the, uh, Thursday with the Community Cup folks and later special guest stars Tom, Aaron and PV
  • my career shift into game design working with an excellent set of people
  • the focus this blog has given me in understanding how my brain works and what matters to me
  • the multiple marriages and engagements of my friends (they keep coming, and they are all great!)

Every trip I took for work or related to work brought with it a few days of the same awesome times with those awesome people.  Every night out with friends gave me a chance to cut loose, something I definitely don’t do often enough.  And now every day I spend at work I have a lot of fun and a lot of challenges that are rewarding to tackle.

Sure, some things could be better – they always could – but lots of things are way better than I have any right to expect! :)

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Year in Review: Resolutions 5

Today was a pretty incredible day, even though it feels like I didn’t actually accomplish very much.  I went to pick up a new awesome beanbag chair – a huge one! – through a series of sunny snowshowers, which was surreal.  I also managed to get my new Dance Pad set up with StepMania (the open source version of DDR, thanks Nate and Sam!) along with the old DDR song mixes from the PS2 that Todd and I used to work out to… so the circle is complete!

Onward, to finish up these resolutions!

9. Travel to one of {mainland Asia, Australia, sub-Saharan Africa}.

Hrm.  Well, if I had indeed done any sort of planning on this one beyond simple thought, I might give myself some credit, but the sad truth is that I didn’t.  I got a little wrapped up in other travel this year – Los Angeles, San Francisco, Florida/Grand Cayman/Jamaica, San Juan, Amsterdam, Minneapolis, Madison – that I didn’t really ever have the presence of mind to plan out a trip to Asia/Australia/Africa.  This is still a long-term goal of mine, as I love traveling to new places, so I may see what I can do planning-wise next year.  Overall, major failure. :(

10. Stress less.

This one is super difficult to evaluate – am I less stressed now than I was in past years?  In my work, yes, I think so.  Even though I am often busier in my new role as game designer, I am happier and managing it better.  In my social life, it’s kind of a push – I have a lot of great folk I see, but I stress sometimes because of awkwardness among friend groups or because I just don’t have enough energy or time to see them all.  I stressed quite a bit about women this year, but I wouldn’t say that’s particularly different than other years. 😀  Overall, I’ll give this the barest of minor successes.  I have a ways to go, but I have started along the path to more stress-free living.

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Year in Review: Resolutions 3

I’ve been trying to kickstart this coding project I’ve been meaning to do, but man, the tedium of data access is really bogging me down.  I will probably switch to game designs tomorrow, although tomorrow might be JAM PACKED with ADVENTURE.  We’ll see!

5. Host three different out-of-town friends (or friend-couples) at my place for at least two days each.

Although I have once again spent some of the year taking friends up on offers to stay with them or at least come hang out with them, I was not successful in my plan to get some of them to come out here and stay with me at Casa de Guskin.  Looking back, this was kind of a bad year for friends to visit me in Seattle – not only did I end up doing a ton of travel for work, but I “canceled” our standing PAX plan by going to Amsterdam and I probably levied pressure to visit at my busiest friends – in hindsight, not the greatest plan to acquire visitors!  Overall, moderate failure.

6. Create a pros/cons document for each reasonable career path I could take.

This one is interesting – over the course of the year, I had a pretty major career shift from web developer to game designer (although I was tending toward game-designy projects while still a programmer).  I did spend time categorizing both of those potential career paths, but I didn’t treat a number of others – return to laboratory science, law, some other business role (like entrepreneur).  Still, I did manage to spend a fair bit of thought on this one in the course of making my career change.  Overall, minor success!

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Year in Review: Resolutions 2

This vacation has been nice and relaxing so far, but I don’t feel like I’m getting anything done, exactly.  Which is an odd feeling to have on a vacation, but still.   I have been trying to finish World of Goo, which I have hilariously owned for a while courtesy Sam, but got stuck and left it (not wanting to get overly frustrated by it), and may move on to other video games after that.  I have two games to design and a project to code – I just need to get myself back into a regular “work at home” schedule!

3. Exercise three times a week.

Unfortunately, exercise is one routine I never really got myself back into, and it shows.  I feel pretty out of shape, have for a while, and haven’t been able to consistently get myself to the gym or any sort of reasonable workout ethic.  Over the past year, I have re-started workouts in fits and starts, but never more than twice in a week and often with many weeks skipped.  I *do* have this new DDR workout program going – five days in a row now! – so that’s been helping, but still, mission unsuccessful.  Overall: minor failure.

4. Prepare food for myself at least seven times a week (counting breakfast).

Interestingly, both resolutions today are ones I have been doing much much better at over this holiday break!  I would say that over the course of the year, just like exercise, I have attempted to cook for myself in short runs, and done okay at it.  Especially over the latter half of the year, I have been failing at this goal, but within the last week I have already prepared myself a good 12 meals or so!  So this one is looking up, but I won’t exactly make up the shortfall by year end. :)  Again, getting into an automatic routine never happened with food prep at home.  Overall: another minor failure.

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Year in Review: Resolutions 1

I kind of ran out of new resolutions to make, so we’ll leave it at an awkward 23.  As I mentioned before, I don’t think I’ll be doing ALL of them, but I do intend to pick a few to start with by the start of the new year.  So, how did this past year’s resolutions go?  Not particularly well, honestly.  I’ll be evaluating myself on them over the course of the next few days.  Luckily, today is thumbs up for me!

1. Write one blog entry a day.

I think I nailed this one.  Although there were some days I posted late (the cruise, work trips where I forgot, etc.), the record shows I do indeed have a blog per day for the year to date.  More than that, I really feel like I wasn’t making excuses-for-blogs, and I felt like I connected with the correct part of my mind in terms of lettings my thoughts and feelings out onto the page.  If you were to tell me at the start of the year how detailed and widely-varied my topics in this blog were going to be, and how open I ended up being in it, I would not have believed you.  Overall, major success!

2. Spend five hours each week on personal “side projects” – websites, games, etc.

On average, I think I have been spending more like two per week, and I haven’t really completed anything.  I think the biggest problem with this goal is that although it is measurable, it is not appropriate – I think I would have been much better served choosing a side project and resolving to complete it.  When I made Breeze, I definitely felt like the primary motivator of completing it so others could use it worked very well for pushing me forward.  Overall, minor success (I did contribute to this resolution, after all) with an eye toward re-statement in the future!

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Interlude: Blog… to the Future!

I’ve mused a little bit on how I might continue my blog into 2011.  I may have intended this blog-a-day thing to persist for longer than a year when I started it up, but I think I’ll be a little happier if I don’t force myself to keep updating at that rate.  I do still expect to have things to talk about, but it’ll probably end up being a few times a week as opposed to once a day.  As I was pondering how to get myself on a reasonable blogging plan today, I realized that I might be able to leverage themes into the solution I need – “sub-blogs” for each theme, or sublogs for short.  (That makes them subordinate world wide web logs, I guess?  A lot of definition packed into a few letters!)

There are three separate themes I thought about today, each of which could become a reasonable, regular part of a total blogging effort.  The first was a project diary, kind of like what Alexis has done with her blog recently, to keep track of my thoughts, feelings and plans on a particular project, like a new website or a game.  The second was a memorable quotes/lyrics repository, in the manner of Rachel’s wonderful blog – you may have noticed I have a random lyric I enjoy near the bottom-side of this page, and I could use the blog space to talk a little bit about the source, the quote, or why I like it.  The third was newly created alcohol beverages – I happened to make myself a Black Sand Sunrise this evening, for example – that I could list the instructions for and then do a little review.  Such a sublog could also do new recipes for food dishes.  And these are just three possibilities!

Clearly, there’s a lot I still want to talk about as we roll into 2011.  I just need to make sure I put myself into the right mindset and make it easy to do it the way I want.

Oh, and btw, Merry Christmas!

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#22: Yes Man

So, I may have mentioned this previously, but two of my friends – Lee and Michelle – mentioned how much success they’ve been having with saying “yes” to going out / doing things pretty much all the time.  Both have also had an excellent year, by the sounds of it, so I am intrigued.  I tend to be a bit conservative with my time – I don’t go to every event I can, due to a variety of excuses, some of which are reasonable (need to get home to feed Max) and some of which are less so (I don’t feel like socializing that day).  I could definitely see a lot of benefit to “letting go” of my inhibitions in this way and just going with the flow, at least for some period of time – I don’t think I could do it indefinitely because I am genuinely afraid of losing that much control over my life.  (Maybe that’s crazy, but oh well!)

Anyway, I think a wonderful experiment would be to take a week and just show up for everything I get invited to, go out with any friend who asks, and say “yes” (within reason) to everything asked of me.  I am posting this publicly, so I’m putting some trust in my friends (*cough* you know who you are) who might take advantage of me during this period, but I guess I’m not saying when I will do it, so that point may be moot!  As I am well aware, you can’t meet new people unless you put yourself in a position to meet new people, and you can’t have new experiences unless you are out, well, experiencing.

22. I resolve to designate a week where I will reply in the affirmative to every (reasonable) request to go out, hang out and otherwise get out (of my comfort zone).

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