Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Progress Driven Life

The reason to do what you do could come from any one of many different sources. Some people do what they do because it's what their parents did. Some do it because they think it's right to do it. Some people do what they do because it's what they think they're good at. Some people do what they do because they think they're having the best of times doing it.

I'm in the last two camps, I think I'm good at what I do (and think that it is fun), and get upset when I am asked to do things I'm bad at. This can be frustrating sometimes.

In reference to an argument between myself and a colleague at Broadsword, I'd like to propose that everyone should strive to find out what they're best at and do it, rather than work towards being a lawyer, doctor, dentist, stock broker.

Some time ago I posted (might not even be here) that I felt a little bad sometimes that being a games programmer was a bit like being a drug dealer, in that we make things that actively try to addict people into playing them. Especially with the advent of the MMO, we're seeing people losing their lives to the drug that is games. I felt that what I was doing was somehow wrong.

In the argument, which was started over the question of "what science should we do more of to make the best progress for the human race?", I came to the conclusion that pharmaceutical cosmetic drug research, though not obviously useful in any way other than to beauticians, was still an active science, and therefore should still be on the list of things that humans should be proud of in the name of progress. Accidents happen in random labs and there's no saying that cosmetic chemists won't be the ones to find the next big thing.

Which leads me back to games. One the objections I have to large scale games publishers is their fear of the odd, of the new. This lack of innovation, though there is plenty of work done very efficiently, may stifle new emergent technologies or strategies for progress in games development. I fear that unless these companies engage in a 20% time of active innovation, they're going to remain large market share, but with little growth.

Games development is odd, it's smaller and larger than other software development at the same time. We have a much lower expectation of robustness of code than most of the other industries, as no-one's going to lose a life over badly written code, but our software has to take into account so many more variables than anything else. Where else do you find that the baby science of artificial intelligence is so commonly used and performance pushed to the limit of hardware?

From this furnace of rapid development we find many improvements to technology that otherwise just wouldn't exist. If it wasn't for games, there would be very little of the technology that runs the beautiful Pixar films, there wouldn't be the large TVs that now clutter our living rooms, there wouldn't be Blu-Ray or film download services, and there wouldn't be easy to drive military-tanks or our beautiful camera phones.

Every form of technology feeds into every other form of technology, and the sooner we realise this the sooner we can all feel proud that Mario helped you survive cancer.
Do what you do best, never assume that what you do will not help the human race. Just do what you must, because you can. For the good of us all. Except those who are dead.

1 comment:

wererogue said...

I don't really feel that at my current workplace - we develop new technology for every game, we give GDC keynotes, and release white papers (although not usually until a technology is already old-hat, for marketing reasons).

It's one of the things that I'm really pleased about here. There's other things I'm not so pleased about, but we'll see what happens with those.