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Reasons for Modest First Projects and Incremental Learning

As Coyle (again, from The Talent Code) explains about the famously talented and accomplished Brontë sisters in relation to their work as novelists:

“…the myth Barker upends most completely is the assertion that the Brontës were natural-born novelists. The first little books weren’t just amateurish — a given, since their authors were so young— they lacked any signs of incipient genius. Far from original creations, they were bald imitations of magazine articles and books of the day, in which the three sisters and their brother Branwell copied themes of exotic adventure and melodramatic romance, mimicking the voices of famous authors and cribbing characters wholesale.”

I hope everyone knows how stupid I started out.

I hope no one knows how stupid I still am.

Keywords: humor, learning

I suspect many people doubted Notch when he started work on Minecraft. Although by that time he had already been programming for 25 years. People were probably skeptical of the team that made Angry Birds. That may have just been extrapolating from the 51 games that Rovio made before that project became a new standard for mobile gaming. The success of Super Meat Boy was not guaranteed. However Tommy Refenes had been making games for 18 years before that, and Edmund McMillen, Tommy’s collaborator on the game, worked on 14 finished games before Super Meat Boy (including its free Flash precursor, Meat Boy).

BTW, this was humbling.

BTW BTW, the reason I’m reading an article like this now when I should know it already is because I want to see how well I really understand it and because I want to see how true it really is.

Personally I think “edge learning” is somewhat overrated. Where did I recently see “drill and kill”?

Herbert A. Simon

[The] criticism of practice (called ‘drill and kill,’ as if this phrase constituted empirical evaluation) is prominent in constructivist writings. Nothing flies more in the face of the last 20 years of research than the assertion that practice is bad. […]

— John R. Anderson, Lynne M. Reder, and Herbert A. Simon, ‘Applications and misapplications
of cognitive psychology to mathematics education’, Texas Educational Review 6 (2000)

Keywords: nothing scales, balance

Ideally, half of your students should give up due to difficulty, and half should give up due to boredom. If you’re lucky, one in the middle will succeed.

Of course, game programming probably falls far, far on the difficulty side for almost everyone. So the article’s advice is perfectly reasonable.

You Can’t Compose Without Playing First

Unfortunate analogy… “I already play lots of games!”


I wish to hell we had decided on something smaller in scope to make instead. We did learn a lot from that big ~3 year project, in my case most of it technical aspects of engineering projects of that scale, but one thing we certainly did not learn was how to make that game any good.


Mac Morrison

It’s taken me years to get round to making a mobile game, and basically i had to scale back things and make something really simple and ship it and learn from it.

It’s interesting to contrast all this advice with “everything sucks.”

Everything sucks… because it has to. Your standards are unreasonably high.


I’ve been asked by aspiring ARG designers how big they should scope, much like this conversation, and I always advise them to be realistic. That is, they should be more realistic than we were. What I was struggling with in my post is that my advice is to do the opposite of what I did, when what I did was great for my career. I don’t recommend this route because I had to put in two years of unpaid work around the clock, sometimes forgetting to eat, to make it happen. I don’t recommend the lifestyle it requires to build something from nothing… and even with everything we poured into it, we had no guarantee anyone would play.

The internet unlikely anecdote generator rears its head again… But this is certainly an interesting comment.

Maybe it’s because the ARG market (I don’t even remember what the A stands for, alternate?) was/is less developed.

Chris DeLeon

(there are some extraordinary exceptions, but for that matter there are extraordinary exceptions of people starting in all kinds of ways that don’t necessarily make those reliable points of entry for others)

I’m still unsure about something this basic.

Somehow it seems like, in the process of taking the “safe path” to their goals, people often scale down their goals as well. It makes sense if safety is your top priority.

I’ve always been able to go all in because I’ve never felt like I had anything to lose. And don’t insult my imagination by saying I never had anything at risk.

The sand in the depths of hell is a magical sand.

Somehow it seems like, in the process of taking the “safe path” to their goals, people often scale down their goals as well. It makes sense if safety is your top priority.

This is the same as compilers and programming languages, isn’t it?

Keywords: tradeoffs, compromise, superstructure