07 Dec

Forget Willpower – it is Worse than Useless!

Self-Discipline - Roy Baumeister quote

Self-Discipline - Roy Baumeister quoteI tried to change my life for a long time. I figured that if I’d just want it enough, if I’d just tried enough, if I’d have enough will to change, I’d make it.

Nopes. Turns out the world doesn’t work like that.

Trying to change on willpower alone is like trying to lift a car with your bare hands. It might work if you’re Superman but for a regular Joe like me, well, let’s just say it didn’t work an leave out all the embarrassing details.

The reason it didn’t work is to be found in a now classic study by Roy F. Baumeister, published in 1998. Baumeister took a bunch of volunteers and put them, one by one, in a room with a bowl of freshly baked chocolate-chop cookies. Read More

27 Nov

The 3 Ways to be Truly Happy

Well-Being Martin Seligman quote

Well-Being Martin Seligman quoteI’m not an expert on happiness. If anything I’m an expert on being miserable. If I look back on my adult life, the amount of time I’ve spent miserable has been magnitudes greater than the amount of time I’ve spent happy.

And yet here I am, happy.

So I’ll give credit where credit’s due: Prof. Martin Seligman, the inventor of positive psychology, on whose ideas I’m shamelessly piggybacking. According to Seligman there are only three ways to become happy:

  1. Living the pleasant life.
  2. Living the good life.
  3. Living the meaningful life.

Here’s his short (23 minute) TED presentation on the subject (there’s quite a lot more to his research but this is a good starting point). Read More

02 Nov

6 Ways to Recognize Your Fear

Courage and Fear quote - David Farland

Courage and Fear quote - David Farland I’ve started to realize when I’m afraid.

That’s a big step, really. It lets me deal with my creativity problems in a completely new light. See, there’s this moment when I’m thinking that I would like to sit down and write. And I feel this lethargy suffuse me, like I’m being slowly dipped in a pool of warm chocolate. It would be so much nicer to just read a bit. Check my email. And there’s this thingamajig I’ve been looking for all week.

But when I scratch below the surface I feel something else. I feel this suction in my gut, as if I’m about to crest the first ridge on a roller coaster. It’s faint, but it’s there and if I scratch at it I can pull it up for my conscious inspection. And I see fear. Read More

26 Oct

Are You in Danger of Comfort?

Comfort is the Enemy - Jeff Haden quote

Comfort is the Enemy - Jeff Haden quoteTell me, are you comfortable? Nice and cozy? Content with how life’s turning out?

Poor bastard.

Yeah, I do mean you. And me. Because a few years back that’s where I was. But let’s back up a bit, a very crucial bit:

What question didn’t I ask above?

There’s a key word missing from that first paragraph. I’ll give you a hint: it’s not a matter of direction but of intensity. Yeah, I hate cryptic hints too. Guessing games have never been my forte; so, have you figured it out yet?

I didn’t ask if you were happy. Read More

23 Oct

Why Large Decision Spaces are Boring

Genius removes complexity quote

Genius removes complexity quoteI played a friend’s prototype a couple of days ago. Interesting concept for a hint-giving semi-coop deduction game, sort of a cross between Dixit Amazon, Clue Amazon and Mastermind Amazon.

It didn’t work.

Now, don’t get me wrong. The idea was good, the mechanics were pretty solid, the graphics were gorgeous. The game should have worked, and yet it didn’t. It didn’t work because the graphics were gorgeous. Read More

19 Oct

How to Engage Players the Mario Kart way

Immersion quote

Immersion quoteEver seen a kid playing Mario Kart?

If they’re real small they’ll be mashing buttons at random. But if they’re old enough to get the game you’ll see them start to move with it. They’ll be sticking out their tongue in the direction where they’re driving. Sometimes they’ll move their entire body, trying to affect the game through full body motions.

I get the same effect when I’m a passenger in dad’s car except that I try to press the break pedal. The man’s a speed maniac.

But I digress.

Point is I’ve never seen someone move in tune with a 3D shooter, or an RTS. There are only a few types of games that affect players with enough sensory immersion to make them respond physically to the game. Except that I just lied to you. Read More

28 Sep

The Opposite of Fear is Curiosity

Fear is the seed of regret Bob Mayer quote

Fear is the seed of regret Bob Mayer quoteI’m a scaredy-cat.

I don’t like to be put in situations where people can yell at me, where I can be in the wrong, where I can be blamed for failure. I don’t like to lie, to cheat or to up-sell. I’m a lousy salesman.

Quite simply, I’m too scared.

Everyone understands fear. If only we weren’t so afraid we’d sky jump, get married or sell our sofa and go live in a tiny monastery in Tibet where bald monks would teach us how to kill a man with our pinky toes.

If only we had the courage. If only we’d be fearless then we’d go, do, learn, live.

Sorry to burst your bubble, kiddo. Being fearless does diddly squat. Read More

04 Sep

How Ignoring the News Made Me Happy

Undisturbed by violence quote

Undisturbed by violence quoteWhen I was 20 I went to Amsterdam. They had an exhibit in the Science Center Nemo where there was a machine that flashed images on a screen. There were calm images (a beautiful flower, a still lake, a pair of bunnies) and mixed in amongst them were disturbing images – a decapitated chicken, a pair of naked men, a hunter pointing his rifle at you. You’d put your fingers into a pair of electrosensitive cups and the machine told you how disturbed you were by the various images. My reactions were right on track for all images. All images except one.

I didn’t show any reaction to the man pointing a rifle at my head. No reaction at all. Read More

14 Aug

Love Your Limitations

Neil Stephenson quote

Neil Stephenson quoteUntil a man is twenty-five, he still thinks, every so often, that under the right circumstances he could be the baddest motherfucker in the world. If I moved to a martial-arts monastery in China and studied real hard for ten years. If my family was wiped out by Colombian drug dealers and I swore myself to revenge. If I got a fatal disease, had one year to live, devoted it to wiping out street crime. If I just dropped out and devoted my life to being bad.

– Neil Stephenson, Snow Crash Amazon

For a long, long time I wanted to make a grand scale WWII war game. I thought, I scribbled, I talked. I wrote up rules, made graphics, laid everything out. Everything was ready, except for one thing: the game.

Truth is I don’t have the time to playtest a grand scale war game. If an average scenario takes 8 hours, and an average campaign takes 50-100 hours, then work, family, friends and common sanity says STFU. There is not way that I can make a good grand scale WWII game. Not now. Read More

10 Aug

Using Fear in Your Game Design

Would the world end if I missed the bus Quote

Would the world end if I missed the bus QuoteImagine this: you’re going to work. You’re one of those ecological types who takes the train (or you’re too poor to drive, who knows). You’re walking down to the station when you realize that the train is already there – you’ve got seconds before it leaves! So you start running, coat flapping (hey, maybe you’re one of those cool guys who wear a coat), leather patches on your cardigan slapping your elbows (or not). And then the train leaves. Without you. What happens?

Nothing. Read More