The Dark Side Of “Do What You Love” – Skills And Abilties

map world continents

(Steve takes a break from his usual positive approach to look at the dark side of “Do What You Love” as career advice and why it deceives, deludes, or just doesn’t cover difficulties. Ready for more cynicism peppered with advice, dive into the toxic swamp of careers again!)

OK, OK, so you heard “Do What You Love” as job advice. Well that condensed pice of career tripe doesn’t cover a lot of really hard things. We’ve looked at how it ignores your circumstances, the psychological issues it ignores or causes, and how it does nothing to help you know what the hell to do. Let’s flip the switch back to the larger world and look at locations.

Because location still is everything, and “Doing What You Love” becomes a lot harder when you realize what that means. Continue reading

Working At Bioware: Part 2

Quality Assurance Tester

After the first two weeks, I began to understand the key virtue required for any game tester: patience

In those first two weeks, I realized that QA game testing is not an end-to-end experience. What I mean is, you will repeat the same content over and over and document all the bad things you see each time. It’s not like you just get to play the game, explore, and write down bugs as you come across them. While that does happen from time to time, most often there is a specific process that you need to follow each time.

The first two weeks of game-playing time was designed to teach me where things were and how to interact with objects. I needed to know how the character mechanics worked and how their plots developed. This knowledge would later serve as the foundation for completing test case assignments quickly and efficiently.  

At various point throughout the day, our QA manager would come by and give assignments and check on our progress. Assignments ranged from Critical Path Runs (game content in the main story arc,) Secondary quest lines (extra quest content,) and Free Form Testing (go find something to break.) 

While some of the assignments involved group content, most involved exploring our specialty content over and over. 

Here is the basic idea of how it works: Game designers, developers, writers, sound technicians, etc., all work on their segment of content. As they rush to the deadline of the next “code complete,” they need to get these parts working together before it can be tested. 

 As the deadline approaches, all of these puzzle pieces need to be fit together into one testing environment (or build), and everyone hopes that everything works when it is finally assembled.

Why am I going into all of this? 

Because something almost ALWAYS goes wrong. This is where your role as the game tester comes into play.  As everything is blended down into a “stable” test environment, it is your job to make sure that none of the expected functionality breaks. 

And here is the thing: something always breaks. This is something that I had no idea about before working in software. Computer code is FRAGILE. I’m sure some software development models are safer than others, but I have never been in a place that didn’t have a strong need for QA.

So, as a game tester, you will likely be expected to master content in a narrowly defined area of the game and be expected to detect when unwanted variations (bugs) occur. Others will look to you to be able to  quickly identify problems in your area and report it back to the developers for correction.  Over the course of the testing cycle (the time it takes for QA to explore the new software build and determine if it’s good enough to go to a live environment,) you will be expected to quickly play through your content and make reports.

When I talk to most people about the joys and trials of game testing, this is the point where a lot of people begin nodding their heads in agreement and mutual understanding. Because, after those first two weeks of initiation, game testing can be REALLY BORING.

You do the same thing over and over and write reports about the same thing day in and day out. I don’t want to ruin anything for you, but I want you to know what to expect.  This is where most people fizzle out and lose sight of the objective- to make a great game for the FANS… not YOURSELF.

In addition to these times of frantic repetition, there can also times without anything to test. There are times when a software build goes particularly poorly and there isn’t a stable test environment in which to do your work. It’s frustrating when you can’t do your work and can further compound the problem of boredom. 

[End Part 2]

Support Nasa With The Centennial Challenge

Makers, here you go.

(And yes, I took a break from the Catalog, sorry.)

 

Steven Savage

Steven Savage is a Geek 2.0 writer, speaker, blogger, and job coach.  He blogs on careers at http://www.musehack.com/, publishes books on career and culture at http://www.informotron.com/, and does a site of creative tools at http://www.seventhsanctum.com/. He can be reached at http://www.stevensavage.com/.

The Dark Side Of “Do What You Love” – Skills And Abilties

Tools Hammer Pliers

(Steve continues his dream-destroying exploration of why “Do What You Love” doesn’t address the darker truths of careers. Dive in for more sarcasm, dark insights, and asking how we can overcome these challenges)

So you want to “Do What You Love”, and perhaps you can overcome the circumstances of birth and surroundings and your own shortcomings. That’s pretty impressive because a lot of people don’t, don’t realize they haven’t, and wonder what happened. So, hey, good job.

Of course now you get to the point where you have to become able to do your dream job and follow your hopes. Guess what? You’re probably not ready because “Do What You Love” doesn’t mean anything for getting you actually capable to do the job.

In short, that little phrase doesn’t teach you squat. Here’s what’s wrong: Continue reading

The Ottawa Geek Market – An Interview With Lee Farruga

Ottawa Geek Market Logo

Ottawa Geek Market.  The name of course sounds intriguing to anyone like, well, us.  Imagine an organization that sets up geek markets to promote artisans, camaraderie, and promote charity?  One of course that I had to interview ambassador and media coordinator, Lee Farruga, about, because maybe we should be copying this idea . . .

Let’s see what Lee has to share! Continue reading

Way With Worlds: Heroes and Villains – Self-Serving Self-Sacrifice

desert tree barren

Sacrifice is a part of literature and part of our lives. The act of giving something up for other reasons, perhaps making the ultimate sacrifice of ones life, is part of us really. We value the act of giving things up at time because it provides surety, clarity – and a view into someone’s character.

In fact, we know it from worlds and stories all too well. It’s a common part of our heroes – but also in villains who redeem themselves or at least have some integrity

You know the drill:

  • The heroic sacrifice of some starship captain or engineer that guides their ship into a deadly run on the enemy – and may not even be saved at the last moment.
  • The person who dies for a cause, getting nothing in return.
  • The hero or heroine that trows themselves on the grenade-equivalent or detonates the bomb-equivalent by hand to save his or her buddies/country/world (pick at least one).
  • The villain, who at the last moment, realizes what a giant moral vacuum they’ve been and dies to correct it.

You can easily name at least a half-dozen other examples. It’s woven throughout literature, through film, through comics, through legend.

However there’s time the sacrifice seems . . . off.  It sets your teeth on edge for some reason. It seemed false. It seem contrived. It didn’t work for some reason.

And because it didn’t work, it bugs the hell out of you as a reader or player of the game or whatever. Something is wrong in the world.

In worldbuilding, when self-sacrifice happens, like anything else, it should have a reason. If there’s no reason for it to exist, it’s just going to come off wrong. Yet at times, it seems we shoehorn it in there, or it seems to fit yet . . . it doesn’t.

Here’s some warning signs to look out for that tell you that the brilliant self-sacrifice of your hero, or the touching sacrifice of your reformed (but now exceedingly dead) villain, aren’t.

Tropeagedddon

Sacrifice and self-sacrifice are tropes in literature and  settings, and thus done a bit too easy. We throw in something into our plots and panels and game options that “fits” as it fits what we think should fit, but it just doesn’t work in our world.

It’s ay, way too easy to throw in a scene of self-sacrifice, just as sure as it is to put an all-too-familiar action scene in a movie, or a stereotype into a story. Sacrifice is a language people understand – but like selecting the wrong word in a conversation, it doesn’t work if it’s not appropriate.

Look out for putting in acts of self-sacrifice just because “the situation calls for it” or “it fits the story” because it should fit the characters and the world.

Selfish Motives Of The Character

Self-sacrifice is an act of transcending the self for something greater- it’s about giving up literally everything one has for a reason greater than one’s own life. Now those reasons may be questionable or crazy or ephemeral, or just plain stupid (at least to the survivors), but the act of self-sacrifice is literally giving up of self.

It’s not the same as sacrificing the self for something.

However the character motivations may really turn out to be selfish. Consider other motives for self-destructive behavior:

  • In order to make someone sorry.
  • In order to become famous or remembered.
  • In order to escape a problem by appearing to “go out” in a heroic manner.
  • To fulfill fantasies of martyrdom.
  • As an act of self-hatred, essentially as suicide that doesn’t look like it.

Now these motives may indeed fit whatever character you’re creating who’s about to detonate the McGuffin Orb or whatever. If that fits, then by all means it’s consistent with your setting for them to go out. But it’s not heroic, it’s not noble – and frankly other characters will probably suspect.

Now that could be fascinating (“he saved the world, but he was also an egomaniacal jerk, how do we react”) but be careful of dressing up self-serving sacrifice as something else. It will grate horribly.

Selfish Motives of the Author

Now in no way do I want to cast aspersions on you and your world. But sometimes let’s face it, we do stuff in our stories because we like it, and sometimes that includes how we write characters, and how they die.

We can be motivated to put in an act of self-sacrifice assorted ways:

  • To just get rid of an inconvenient character. That’s coping out, and believe me, people will notice.
  • Because the character is a Mary Sue/Gary Stu/Author’s pet and we want people to love them/feel sorry for them. Usually it’s transparent enough it annoys people.
  • Because we wrote ourselves into a corner or built or world i a way we didn’t expect. Usually a big boom solves some of that, but there’s only so often you can play Crisis On Infinite Earths before you kind of strain your credibility.

When it comes to really good worldbuildng, I think we have to take pride in our crafting a good world, and learn how to make it work. Inserting our own motivations in too far, violating our own continuity, damages our settings. In the case of something as deep as self-sacrifice, it can be outright annoying.

Giving Up The Wrong Sacrifice

So, when your heroes and villains make the ultimate sacrifice, make sure it fits them, that the reasons are good, and that t fits the setting. Sure they may be wrong, stupid, suicidal, but at least portray them properly. It brings a truly visceral feel to the story and avoids cheapening your scenes.

Best of all, when you deliver a tale or a game or a world where these moments of self-sacrifice truly ft, it keeps those involved int he world, the readers and gamers, engaged. It makes the world real and organic and alive – even when characters in it are dying.

That after all is what you’re trying to do.

Steven Savage

Steven Savage is a Geek 2.0 writer, speaker, blogger, and job coach.  He blogs on careers at http://www.musehack.com/, publishes books on career and culture at http://www.informotron.com/, and does a site of creative tools at http://www.seventhsanctum.com/. He can be reached at http://www.stevensavage.com/.