Posts Tagged work

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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#19: Cleanliness

It’s no secret that I don’t keep my place spotless.  But a lesser known fact is that I don’t clean much (vacuum, sweep, dust, etc.) at home unless I know I have company coming.  Scandalous!  In the past I have made a good effort to get things reasonable before friends arrive (most of the time) but I feel I could do a lot better if I get myself into a new routine of cleaning up a bit each day.  A lot of these resolutions are about routines, actually – I have never really formed a good habit for habit-forming.  Repetition will have to be my guide.

As for what I want to do:

  • Mow the lawn myself (I had a service do it, but more than the money or time, I just need to get in the habit of stuff like that)
  • Keep all my working surfaces (desk, sink, kitchen counters) as clean as I can at all times
  • Schedule laundry and a more robust cleanup on a regular basis (bi-weekly?)

19. I resolve to keep a more rigorous and methodic cleaning schedule, including the tasks described above, for at least three months.

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#8: Moonlighter

I have in the past dabbled with the idea of starting up some sort of company entity where I can do the kind of work I enjoy as “side projects” for fun and profit in a larger scope.  But a question I have not really answered well enough is: am I comfortable doing this while employed by Wizards, in a job I enjoy?  The answer to this question lies in doing some research – research into Wizards’ actual policies with respect to moonlighting and getting a sense of what’s acceptable and what’s risky (and therefore off the table while I work there).

I have had tiny conversations about this with various folk at work before, but I haven’t approached this question like a problem to be solved in an organized methodical way.  Since I am still interested in trying my hand at some independent work (for a while in 2008 I was considering how I might use my bonus to take time off from work and do my own thing, for example), I think investigating the policies at Wizards might be a good way to (a) cover my butt and (b) light a fire in my mind again about starting up a project of this nature.

8. I resolve to fully understand the policies at work about working on the side, and then form a top-level plan for how I might do side project work under that arrangement for profit.

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#6: Game Generation

I really like to work on “small games,” by which I mean the creation of smallish game systems that are for a few people to play.  I discovered this fully when I worked with Nate to make Evil Geniuses for Todd and Tory, and since then I have tried to take on a couple other projects like that (making a game for a small audience – it’s much harder without Nate’s serious skills!).  One of the reasons it’s so rewarding is obviously because it’s dedicated to a particular group, or at least to a particular kind of individual, and seeing that group or kind of person excited is a great feeling.  But another, equally important reason to me is the thrill of making something interesting and engaging that fits wholly inside my head.

I think I’d like to make a formal stab at exploring this skill and its output (more “small game systems”) over the course of many months, both because I have a lot of half-formed ideas floating around my head, and also because I have more friends I wish to surprise and delight with said games in the next year.  I also haven’t spend enough time trying to create digital versions of some of those games, which seems like a good focus for my current frame of mind and for keeping my technological skills at the ready!

#6. I resolve to spend time fleshing out a game system every other month and creating workable prototypes for said systems, for a few months in a row.

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Call for Advice

Tuesday, November 30, 2010
If you could call any living person for advice today, who would you call?

This is an interesting question, because it really comes down to evaluating the people I know (and know of, as in they are famous) by what I feel most unsure about – and whether those people could help on that subject.  I would say the subject about which I am most unsure is how to integrate my ambition and desire to do something that impacts with the world, with my day-to-day happiness in what I do (day-to-day).  Who might be a subject-matter expert on that subject?

My thoughts came to Bill Gates.  I don’t particularly know whether Gates has had success with day-to-day happiness in his life, but I do know he’s been wildly successful both in the arc of his career and in affecting the world with what he has done.  If the question is how to be impactful, I think he’s a great candidate for expert on that.  In addition, Gates has spent a while now being the head of a large charity organization, so in some sense he also is probably acquainted with how to maintain that impact over a long period and make sure it spreads to those who need it.  My thoughts naturally tended toward solving the impact problem because I am pretty happy right now with my day-to-day (at least, in terms of work – as for personal life, I have my friends to call for advice on that, so I don’t really need to call out “any living person”; they do an excellent job of it!)

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Famous Mentors

Monday, November 29, 2010
If you could have worked for anyone in history, in your field, who would you choose and why?

I guess my current chosen field is game design and I’m not sure exactly who I would want to work for in that respect. I would probably go with Jese Schell because his book on Art of Game Design is one of the best educational texts I have ever read, and his view on games as a medium for experience design is exactly in line with how I view the role of game designers with respect to the audience. He also has a literal ton of experience in the industry and I think I’d be able to learn a lot from him in a variety of areas.

In my previous “career” of Physics, I would definitely chose Richard Feynman. He ranks high on lists of geniuses, had an excellent method of teaching and teaching others how to learn. Not only that, but Feynman was such a wonderful lateral thinker – I strive to see the world the way he was able to, or at least in an approximation to his depth of understanding.

Also, thanks Iris for reminding me I needed to post, which I am doing next to you (while listening to Lee belt some Mraz) at karaoke!

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Snow Gear

Monday, November 22, 2010
Tell us about what you’re wearing today. Where’d you get your shoes? How long have you had that tie? Is that your grandmother’s watch?

Well, this morning I woke up to snow on the ground.  Quite a bit of it, actually – and it doesn’t often snow before Thanskgiving here in Seattle.  Luckily, I had prepared over the weekend, by acquiring the following items:

  • Scarf, black and kind of ridged, wool
  • Thinsular black gloves
  • Thermal undergarments – shirt and pants

I layered over an undershirt and my Red Level Nine collared blue striped long sleeve shirt, and wore my Target black wool overcoat and the awesome Northerner hat Mike and Rachel got for me.  I did not change my shoes from my standard Nike LUNAR ELITE running shoes, which I bought in San Fransciso this year.  But I probably should, my socks got soaked twice!

It was cold today, but tomorrow is bound to be worse, and to top it off, everything will be ice.  (Frozen, Can’t Move!)

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I have been working on translating an old project (Breeze) into a new form, and I am finding it an interesting exercise in unconscious tradeoffs.  The quality of reusability – that someone (possibly yourself) will later come and repurpose what you have done, thus you make it easy to reuse – has a peculiar property that it usually is at odds with project priority.  It’s most useful in an extremely long-term view that wants to make things better for everyone at the cost of some progress now – and classically, that’s exactly the view that gets ditched right away when a project is under pressure to be completed or presentable in a certain timeframe.

In the context of this present project, I know I was pushing myself to finish the old Breeze in a timely manner, not just because I had a wonderful picture in my head and wanted to see it realized, but because there’s only so many hours in the day and attention span to give, so completing the project faster was key.  Who has time to worry about the future when the present is so pressing?  But that’s the very conundrum posed by reusability – how much effort do you want to take now so that later problems won’t be multiplied?

I’ve found, time and time again, that when I revisit an old project of mine, I wish I would have spent more time making it reusable.  Is this a lesson only learned through experience?  Intelligent folk can see the issue down the line, knowing that later someone will pay the costs incurred by us today, but it takes quite a lot to choose an unknowable future of lessened hardship over the immediately realizable work of the now.  I admire and respect those who can perfectly balance the good of the future and their successors with their own efficiency now, but I find it very hard to do so on my own (especially when there are real pressures to get things done fast in the present).

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Random Ramblings

  • Had a thought today that my intense dislike of money is more than just a philosophical position on the tyranny of scarcity – I will often find myself interested in taking trips or doing activities that cost a lot of money, and I will essentially instantly commit to them in my mind, rather than weigh the monetary costs.  I suppose I could say I believe strongly in having experiences and trusting in the financial side to work itself out sooner or later, but I do find myself restricted from doing some things (buying a house, investing in my own company, etc.) where if I was a better financial planner, perhaps I could be more at ease about those sorts of things?
  • I’ve been enjoying making prototype games at work.  I kind of feel like I would do it more efficiently if I had a developed system for how to go about creating a game prototype’s “pieces” (whether analog or digital) but I also think I would have less fun doing it.
  • I got a massage at work yesterday, as part of Employee Appreciate Week.  I don’t think I’ve had one before.  I felt a little bit better in my neck and back afterward, but nothing super significant.  Today, however, I woke up with a sharp pain in my upper back that hasn’t really gone away – either I slept on it wrong, or I have been otherwise mistreating myself, or the massage is the culprit.  Regardless, I guess I expected a massage would not be a panacea for pain, but I was still hoping for miracles.  It’s not *that* bad, but it’s annoying.
  • Speaking of Employee Appreciation Week, it’s been pretty sweet so far.  Extra cupcakes for snacks, tons of free Magic loot at a special sealed tournament, and even a Mirrodin lunchbox.  Bam!
  • I need to spend some time late tomorrow and Saturday assembling my MC Frontalot costume to tag along with the Rock Stars gang (Brandon, Keridwyn, Barclay, etc.) >_>

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Review: Acme Bowl

Today we had a department party (thanks Aaron!) due to how awesome the year has been for Magic. We had it at Acme Bowl, a trendy/more upscale bowling place in Tukwila. I’ve been there before, at previous department parties and with local friends, but I noted a few interesting things to talk about – now that I’ve been there this year, with my blog fully operational!

The first thing that’s sweet about Acme Bowl is that there are music videos on the monitors down the lanes. This is both distracting and hilarious, because (possibly because there’s bar service at the lanes) folk sing along. I know I was singing along and it messed up my game a little bit, but it was all in good fun. I think it really elevates the bowling alley to an event location from the additional ambience.

The second thing I noted was the staff was super friendly. It’s possible that they were being kind due to our catering contract, but thinking back I believe this has usually been the case. The bartender and I also had a great chat about Magic, so there’s evidence they identify with gamers too.

The state-of-the-art bowling electronics were cool, although the random sports shots accompanying “Spare” and “Strike” notices could have been better selected?  Dunno, this one I could go either way on.  Kike most bowling places, there’s a significant amount of maintenance required when lanes malfunction, and that detracted from play experience and just time available.

Overall: B+
Songs Karaokied While Bowling: 2
Lane Reliability: 8/10

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