Weekly Syllabus: Taking the Road Less Traveled

I’ve had this idea for a while where I’d put together a digest of the most interesting things I’ve read over the past week and share a little bit about what made them stand out to me. I read a lot of stuff — or at least I try to — and I find that it’s a lot easier to start a conversation when you’ve got some common knowledge to speak to.

The Weekly Syllabus is deliberately designed to be short — four or five articles, maybe — and to spark ideas and opportunities for conversation. Ideally you’ll walk away with about half an hour’s worth of reading on a related subject. Not everything will be about games, but everything put together ought to get you thinking about a topic or theme that’s directly related to the art, craft or business of games.

This week’s theme, Taking the Road Less Traveled, consists of a handful of articles about the moments where critical decisions are made. Whether it’s deciding to abandon security for the opportunity to live the life you want, answering call to shape the tone and direction of a culture for the better or proposing a radical alternative to the status quo, there’s a lot to be learned from studying those critical moments when pivotal decisions are made.

Required Reading:

Meet Me in Portland: The Fullbright Company’s Journey Home By Mike Mahardy for Polygon

A tale of two houses: Mahardy provides a lengthy, character-focused feature on the handful of people who left big-name game studios and a steady paycheck for the creative and personal freedoms of independent game development.

It’s a story that’s deeply resonant with me, but considering I’ve never actually met anyone at The Fullbright Company it feels a little weird acknowledging that. But ever since I was a kid I’d dreamed of making games, and my post-college years of soul-searching have consistently led me to the conclusion that there’s nothing I want more than to start a small game studio in an old house in Portland and bootstrap my way to a finished product. Seeing a success story like this where a few creative and dedicated people made it work – and in Portland, no less – is both profoundly heartening and the catalyst for even more reflection on my part. Maybe it's time to stop wondering and start doing.

Grunge, Grrrls and Video Games: Turning the dial for a more meaningful culture By Leigh Alexander for Gamasutra

If you’ve heard me talk recently, it probably won’t come as any surprise that I’m fed up with the pervasive culture of abuse and trolling that plagues video games. But I’m writing from a position of great privilege as a college-educated white male in the United States; clearly I’m not in the best position to speak out for any of the groups (women, LGBTQ folks, older and non-“hardcore” gamers, etc.) that are often the target of anonymous gamers’ wrath.

This endless loop of dog-eared geek references and getting mad on the internet isn’t culture. It’s exhausting … I struggle to be content with celebrating and evangelizing the games and ideas I love and believe in only to the relatively-small audience that already likes them.

Alexander shares a deep, personal narrative about her own upbringing, the concept of being “cool” and why we’re at a tipping point for charting the course of games toward an open and progressive exchange of ideas.

We’re standing at the precipice of a moment where we have the power to change everything: To reject complacency, to protest commercialism, to embrace diversity and to riot, screaming, toward our generation’s glorious inheritance. Everything is telling me it’s time.

Extracurricular:

I Have Single Handedly Taken On Drinking a Shit-Ton of Colorado Beer By Emily Hutto for Denver Off the Wagon

Emily’s on a mission to drink beer from every single brewer in the state of Colorado in preparation for her upcoming book, Colorado’s Top Brewers. Emily’s a fellow J-school Duck and really seems to get what makes beer so fascinating. I’m looking forward to picking up a copy.

Hyperloop By Elon Musk on the Tesla Motors blog

I don’t know if Musk is actually on to something here, but I wouldn’t bet against him. Either way, the way he talks about this project in this 57-page proposal is pretty engaging stuff. If you’re a hopeless idealist who wishes we’d start investing more money in audacious research, you’ll love this.