Best Bits

Best Bits: Reviewing 2015

Best Bits

Here is a list (who doesn’t love a list?) of the most interesting articles, books, media and content that I’ve enjoyed or learned from in 2015. No particular order. Topics range from business to lifestyle, through scifi and game dev.

Good luck. I hope you find something you like. Let me know if you do.

Best Bits: Creativity

The Helsinki Bus Station Theory poses a useful way to think about creative originality and your own creative progress.  Reading this helped me worry way less about my work, it’s originality and my “vision”, whatever that may be.

How to Critique. I’m not a huge fan of traditional art. I always felt I just didn’t get it. This helped.

The Manual by the KLF was a fantastic read on how to write a hit single in the late 80’s United Kingdom. 10/10. Remarkable (often funny) notes on the music biz, the band’s creative process along with some early insights into the falling cost of music production and the predicted impact on music publishing.  I’m going to follow up by reading this.

“When forced to work within a strict framework, the imagination is taxed to its utmost – and will produce its richest ideas. Given total freedom, the work is likely to sprawl.”

TS Eliot

I love this quote. Far too often I chat with game designers who assume having limited anything is bad.

The Power of Bad Ideas I’ve been lucky to be part of some horribly bad and horribly good brainstorms and I found this article helped me figure out what makes the difference. Bad ideas can be a stepping stone to great ideas.

Combinatorial Creativity This approach was news to me and I love the concept.

Best Bits: Game Dev (ish) & Design

Things somewhat related to making games.

Is it just me or is networking really hard? As a designer who dabbles in making online games and talking shop with network coders, yes, yes it is. For more online fun, this on networking in Q3 is good for geeking out.

How to Create Immersive Game Intros I’m a big fan of talking about experiences, taking a step back from the minute and looking at the bigger picture, and it was nice to see this approach proposed when thinking about a player’s initial experiences with your game. Hint: think about everything that comes before your first level.

The Inside Story Of “The Crystal Maze” Televised escape rooms before they were cool. Loved this as a kid and was great to hear the backstory. Turns out it is returning to London in 2016! 

This video on why there is no compass in Uncharted games. Bonus points if you made your way to this fantastic article for some background psychology on the topic.

How To Read a Client E-mail was a nice reminder on how to deal with those feedback packed emails every designer is going to get from time to time. Similarly, this piece from Mike has some great material on how a designer can better pitch ideas.

Best Bits: Storytelling

Am I living my own hero’s journey?? Sure. 

Man In The Hole. I like data and graphs and stories so any attempt to make stories from graphs and data is all good. Also watch this from Kurt Vonnegut if you agree.

Impressive Failure. Screenwriting is pretty cool and there’s a lot of learnings in this blog for game designers. The whole “Killing Superman” story and how to handle failure from a narrative point of view is particularly interesting. If you haven’t read the script for Alien, do so, it’s amazing what those guys did with so few words.

Best Bits: The Year Of Big Life Changes

In 2015 I bought an apartment with my Girlfriend. Then I quit my job. Now I’m writing a book. I spent a lot of time thinking about making big life changing decisions.

The Big Decisions poses some interesting thoughts on how to think about changing up your life. Rather than worrying if a transformative change (new job, kids, etc.) will get you closer to what you want, instead wonder if it will help make you the person you want to be.

Be the line, not the dot.

I’m not sure how I came across this quote, some Google fu leads me into some religious  parts of the internet I don’t normally frequent, but regardless of origin these few words kept me thinking about the importance of growing and learning. Don’t be static.  

You Should Stop Following Your Passion Looking back over the years I have always followed my curiosity and it turned out pretty well for the most part. Following your passions always seem’d a bit meaningless and this read helped me put that into perspective. I’m not sure following your skill is any better but still interesting to think about nonetheless.

The Pleasure of Practicing an amazing piece about the power of grit, of practice and perseverance.

Best Bits: Publishing & Making Money

While ignoring the indieapocalypse I found myself reading articles like these in the hopes to learn how other industries have handled the falling cost of media creation and difficulties in distribution. Looking outside game development at other creative industries is always informative.

100 True Fans talks about how creatives can make money with only a few dedicated followers. I found it incredibly insightful and it would be a great read for anyone who wants to sell something creative.

A Storm of Stories is a thought provoking piece about the current state of storytelling and media content creation in the years to come. Well worth a read, especially in light of all the apocalypse stuff that came and went in 2015.

Similarly, from the man who brought us Wool, an interesting take on the reluctance of publishers to fully embrace digital.

Best Bits: Project Management

Having spent a lot of time on projects that are managed I like to read about the management of projects.

100 Rules For NASA Project Managers. I’d love to see the game dev equivalent of this. Anyone?

The Chicken and the Pig Having spent much too much time in too many scrums, this hit home.

Best Bits: Business & Startups

Last year I got through plenty of business books, I’d recommend  E-Myth, The Hard Thing About Hard Things and The Lean Startup if you are interested in learning more about startups. Creativity Inc. also. This year was more of the same, some highlights would be….

The Personal MBA helped me piece together a few conflicting business ideas and strategies I’ve came across in my business research so far.

Traction is simply the best material I have read on how to get customers and think about marketing. 10/10.

Also, the best piece of marketing in 2015 by far.

The Mom Test, written by ex game dev good guy Rob Fitzpatrick, is packed with solid advice on figuring out if what you are selling is what people will pay for.

Rob & Mike at Startups For The Rest Of Us put out great podcast content for those of us not chasing Unicorns.

Sam Altman and his Startup Class was informative watching.

The Brand Gap was good reading if you are figuring out what your company is all about.

I like lists of advice, it’s like fast food of the information age, here’s one I found useful, and another.

This image from Walt Disney is pretty amazing from a creative business point of view.

Best Bits: Fiction Books

I read a lot of scifi. Highlights include…

Ubik by Philip K. Dick. I think I prefer this to ‘Do Androids Dream’, classic Dick with fairly plain characters but amazingly thought provoking settings and story.

Bad Metal by Robert Black. Silly fun about killing killer robots. Should be a TV show.

Armor by John Steakley. Military scifi with a wonderfully deep character driven plot. Has a bit of a Starship Troopers vibe (book, not the film).

The Three Body Problem by Cixin Liu. Translated from Chinese (movie coming this year) was an eye opening read originating around the time of the Chinese Cultural Revolution and ending hundreds of years in the future. Starts slow, gets better, second book is also recommended.  

The Star King by Jack Vance. Jason Bourne meets Sherlock Holmes in 1960’s era scifi. Lots of fun. All 5 books are good, short too at around 100 pages. Turns out this series was really popular in 80’s Netherlands, still trying to figure out why.

Look To Windward by Iain M. Banks. I’m a huge Banks fan and adore the Culture books so this was always going to be a highlight for me. If you’ve never read a Culture book before, I’d start with Player of Games. Right now. Enjoy.

Hyperion by Dan Simmons. Slightly cheating as I re-read this in 2015. Hands down my favorite book. I’d call it a masterpiece. Bradley Cooper wants to make it into a tv series. I’m not sure how I feel about that  

Altered Carbon by Richard Morgan. High tech, low life, cyberpunk hard boiled detective novel. Everyone I have recommended this too has loved it. 10/10.

Best Bits: TV & Movies

I don’t keep a list of movies or TV shows I enjoyed (no idea why not, will fix that), but I really liked Mr. Robot and Narcos on the small screen and Ex Machina on the large. I got to see Blade Runner in the cinema, finally, and it held up well. This might help explain why.

Best Bits: Games

Not just now, get something special planned for that.

How was that? Let me know if you found something you liked. Likewise, if you can think of something you think I’d like, please send it over.


:: Like this post? I'm also writing a book.

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