Acrylomas

Mas as a suffix, from the origin “maesse” meaning festival or feast.

#1reasonwhy

By the time you read this, it’ll probably be over. The hashtag #1reasonwhy was an outlet for female game devs to talk about their struggles. There’s a decent archive here that covers at least the solid beginning, before people like me devolved the voices.

Now, I am a white male – the demographic of antagonism in this case. But as a kid designer who forcibly broke into the field and ended up with relative success leading to a happy career, I wanted to write this encouragement: we are riding the wave of indie awesomeness. There has been no better time to do it yourself than right now.

A few notes: it seems like a lot of the complaints naturally leaned into sexism and I wanted to clarify that there are two types going on here. The first, sexism in the games themselves. We all know the Lara Croft types that are preposterously sexualized because the target market is nerdy white boys. Then, there’s the sexism in the market itself where the devs (being female) are outcasted by the older white nerdy boys. Neither of them cool, but they bannerhead my two points.

1. The market is literally begging for story based games. We’ve accomplished graphics to a level where, while they can always get better, it’s not really a limiting factor anymore. We’ve moved beyond the pixel-cum-story limitations of Space Invaders and find ourselves in deeply interactive, visually immersive and musically rich gameplay. A perfect canvas for stories. I tweeted a few, but off the top of my head: Portal, Portal 2, Half Life, Limbo, Gravity Bone, Thirty Flights of Loving, Mirror’s Edge, Bastion, Braid, Cave Story, World of Goo, Mark of the Ninja, The Stanley Parable, Every Day the Same Dream, and so forth. Games with stories and little to no sexuality. Then there’s games with mediocre to no story and fantastic gameplay: Jamestown, Greed Corp. Dustforce, Super Meat Boy, N+, Team Fortress 2, Faster Than Light and so on. After that there’s games that don’t feature humans at all: Geometry Wars, most racing games and simulators, etc. Ladies: you can make these games and entirely avoid all mention of sexuality. Tell good stories. We yearn for good stories and while this past year has actually been really good for them, it’s a rare thing from AAA titles. That’s why we’re loving all over the indie titles (how many AAA titles are above?). I mean, Gravity Bone and Thirty Flights were both made entirely by one guy. It could easily have been one lady, which brings me to my next point:

2. Don’t break in. Build up. I don’t want to accuse anyone of whining, but it seems like the hashtag series pointed to ladies wanting to be part of the club and being rejected. I’m not saying that’s fair or right, but I am saying that talents can be taken elsewhere. You don’t need their silly club anyway. You have Kickstarter. You have a better measure of success. You have stories and passion and you’re being handed this worldwide megaphone called the internet. Make your games with strong females leads. Honestly, had Bastion starred a female, it would have made no difference to the game, but it would have been a notable win for you. Same with Limbo. Same with most of the games there. World of Goo doesn’t even have human characters. Mirror’s Edge and Portal already feature non-sexualized female protagonists. GLADoS is a disembodied female voice and one of the best characters probably ever. Be the developer, be the studio. Make what you want to see and forget the boy’s club even exists.

2.5. Work together. No man – or woman, as it were – is an island. Find people with your aspirations and help each other. Not just in a direct way, not just in a “I’m dev, she’s art and she’s music” role division way, but help each other as members of your group. One thing I love Twitter for, and this is an observation of guys, is that we’re constantly back and forth on “is this good?” – asking strangers who follow you – and offering to buy each other drinks. We are an estranged family, held together by the common thread of being designers or being coders or being whatever. Find your community and love each other. Competition can hurt or help you; shape it.

I don’t see any reason why, in the day and age of successful self publishing, you matter. Tall, short, thin, fat, male, female, young, old. So what? You’re a name on the computer screen and a talent. If your talent is good, you will rise. The internet is a meritocracy assuming all news spread equally. My main advice to anyone is get over yourself. You’re not a martyr for a demographic. You are a singular human and you’re allowed to do whatever the heck you want to do.

Do it well.

Merry Minimalist: Coffee

I’ve been receiving lots of love for the first one, which is always cool to see. Here’s another! It seems the ratio of hardcore minimalists (without the text) to the wimps (that’s me!) is overwhelmingly on the text side, so this is released in just one style.

Merry Minimalist

It feels good to be making things again.

Two versions, depending on how hardcore you are on the de-clutter thing. Both 1920×1080 because ultimately I made them for my own use. As it turns out, there isn’t much else out there for minimalist, geometric Christmas / holiday / wintery themed background wallpapers.

Life on Mars

A new modernist / minimalist print in the shop.

Related: one of my favorite songs from one of my favorite soundtracks

Tired

I had a post all queued up for today relating the Polish army’s trained bear to modern day robots but honestly, it was pretty lame. I liked the trivia but it made for a terrible article.

This is the part where if this were a live presentation, I would sit on the edge of the stage with my legs dangling into the darkness and my tone of voice would change into something more like a coffee shop conversation.

I’m frustrated.

The immediate next adjective that comes to mind is “tired” but that’s not quite true – I’m simultaneously agitated and restless. I’m proverbially chomping at the bit to sink my teeth into some big project. They say a happy creative’s life is being able to move from one obsession to the next and I’ve been fortunate to have had that basically as long as I can remember. I’ve always had some obsession and some multitude of projects to work on. I’m slowing down, and it’s upsetting.

The second part of this is a logic loop of lies: IF I can truly learn nothing more (and this is never true) then I should be able to make the things I want with the skills I have. It’s problematic because I equate knowing enough to finish the project and having enough patience and stamina to finish a project, which isn’t fair. I can, with the skills I have, execute a large portion of the things in my head. I break down when I devote an evening to it and get roughly nowhere and then give up. I feel inadequate with my skills, but they aren’t the issue.

And, persistence is a skill like any other – I consciously know that – but I’m struggling to learn it. It’s the mental equivalent of doing five push ups and going “Well, that was a good workout”

There’s a layer of guilt as far as this blog goes. I genuinely love it, but I feel like it’s served it’s purpose for me already. Frankly, I can’t stand critiquing things anymore, I simply don’t believe the same things I used to believe. I’m not sure there is a such thing as right and wrong art or design. There’s certain styles and forms and things that I like more than others, but I can’t condemn people for trying. There is a lot of objectively terrible design out there, it’s true, but I don’t care enough for outcry. There will always be terrible things and some guy writing some column isn’t going to change them. You get what you pay for.

On the flip side, there’s good design that’s worth sharing but I’m growing past that too. Last year, when my posting average was more than one per day, I was really, really up to date in that world. I lived and breathed it. Now I’m spending that time reading fiction and studying mythology. I’d love to start a blog or podcast about other things, and I probably will, but they will be just that: other things.

So what does that leave a design blog? Design philosophy I don’t feel strongly about and a message for people to get out there and make things as I sit in hypocrisy?

It’s scary and confusing. Am I being lazy? Is this merely a relative thing because I maintained superhuman levels for so long before?

In effect, my obsession energy is shifting from good, productive obsessions into ones of self doubt and the wrong kind of introspection. The energy is going into perfectionism and not into producing better work, which is self defeating.

On the Value of Things

Another post on the more hypothetical side.

Things. Stuff. Gadgets and doodads. Old and new, handmade and made by sweatshop hands. We associate a value with all of the things around us based on the object itself – say, it’s market price – and a combination of our personal feelings towards it: a favorite photograph might be worth a lot even if it’s just ink and paper. A hard drive isn’t just a spinning disk after a few years of use.

A question: You’re in a restaurant with a friend and you bought them lunch at some previous date worth the same amount as the lunch he’s going to buy you today. Now, this whole thing is a non-issue depending on your level of friendship and I’ve been fortunate to have never run into it, but nonetheless. He pulls out a coupon for 50% off, say, and proceeds to pay less than it would have normally cost. So the value of the food in both cases is the same – you both had your hamburgers each time, or whatever – but the monetary worth changes; he paid less than you did. Does he still owe you?

Of course, as I stressed before, ‘owing’ is a concept nebulous at best between friends. Forget that for a second.

When we say “owe” as far as the value of things, is it about what you get or what it cost the other person? It cost you $20, say, and you both got your food. It cost him $10 and you both got the same food. If you call value the end results, you’re even; you both got equal amounts in the end. If you call value about cost, you’re still unbalanced; he owes you another $10 worth of cost against himself.

I’ve become fascinated lately by the values people attach to things. I bought an iPad Mini recently, as a lot of people did and it replaced my 1 generation iPad, which I bought on the day they came out two and a half years ago. For me, that original iPad has every bit of value left in it. Sure, it’s slowly dying and the hardware is incredibly clunky (now that I’m getting used to what seems mind-blowingly fast) but it’s ability to do what I want is still inherent. That is, the value I see in it boils down to: “Does it do what I like?” and as long as I keep answering yes, it’s valuable. If I were to sell it at a garage sale, with it’s spraypainted black back and it’s crushed corner and worn patina there probably wouldn’t be much interest, even from the very desperate. It’s simply not worth very much to other people. They compare it at a money level, because they have the potential to take that money and spend it elsewhere. Since I spent my money long ago, it’s continuing value is based on different principles.

And so everyday life comes back to a set of priorities remarkably similar to those found on the design room floor: what are we looking for in a product, and does our design meet it?

Value, then, could be described as how much a thing does what it’s supposed to do multiplied by how much you want / need a thing to do it.

A blender could either be very good or very poor at making smoothies, but if you don’t want / need smoothies in the first place it’s value (to you) remains low.

So when we value ebooks and digital content (which is unique in that it can be made once and sold infinitely) it’s not really about how much the paper and glue costs (or: doesn’t), it’s about how much we want the information or story contained. The old supply and demand doesn’t really work here, because supply never ends. Demand, then, approaches the opposite asymptote. Value needs another driver. A thing done well. A good story x how much you want a good story.


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