Seeing enough about this online that I feel I need to get my thoughts out somewhere. So please forgive me for dipping into politics for a hot second. I unfortunately cannot promise this wont happen again, but I will try to stay out of these fraught waters. So where to begin?
The start is usually a good place to start. Without diving into the minutia of the situation, Biden is authorizing debt forgiveness for a moderate portion of college debt. He is also implementing a few other relief elements for those struggling under the debts they incurred going to college. There are some limitations, such as income limitations meant to ensure those most in need of relief are those getting it. But with that base line established, why am I writing this?
Because so many people have so many stupid ideas about the situation. Plenty of people are/can have reasoned discourse on both sides of the issue. But so many loud, obnoxious, uninformed people are drowning out the reasoned discussion… and worst of all is that some of those people are in government. So second base line: where do I stand? I never had to go into debt for college, I was fortunate enough that my parents paid for my education, and I am unbelievably grateful to them for that. Even still I support debt relief for those suffering under the predatory loans so many got swindled into. Even with no direct benefit for me. I don’t think that one mistake, made between 18-20 years of age, should define the rest of a person’s life.
Now that we are all on the same page, for the reason I am writing this. I see two arguments against forgiving student debt touted around a lot. And both are just such vile garbage. The first is the idea of “I don’t want to pay for people to get ‘worthless’ degrees”. First off this is a straw man argument, because of these nebulous people we shouldn’t help anyone. Secondly, please tell me what a “worthless degree” is. I never see this phrase defined in the argument. Is it a degree that doesn’t pull in a lot of money? A degree that you think doesn’t add value? A degree that isn’t being used? To all of those I say: there is no such thing as a worthless degree, just as there is no such thing as worthless knowledge.
On to the second “argument” I see. “It would be unfair to those that already paid off their student debt.” What utter garbage. You might as well say you don’t want diseases cured because it would be “unfair” to all those who already suffered from them. Or that no one should ever get a raise above minimum wage because that would be “unfair” to those that only make minimum wage. Or even that we shouldn’t have cell phones because it is unfair to people like me that didn’t grow up with them. Utterly ridiculous right? Well, some people are so afraid of progress and change I am surprised they are even able to use computers.
Things change, and it isn’t always fair. I missed out on several things before my time and wish I was still a child for several things that came latter. On the other hand, because of when I was born I got several advantages that those born even 5 years latter might not have gotten. Life isn’t fair. But we can, and should, try to make it better for everyone. Even if that means we don’t see any direct benefit ourselves.
For a long time now I have been afraid of learning new things. That might sound silly, but hear me out, I only recently really figured out the source of the fear. For a long time I blamed my reluctance to learn new things on my ADHD. Just a lack of ability to focus making it hard. And while that is partly true I recently figured out another part of the problem. As the title suggests what I am afraid of is being overwhelmed by complexity.
When learning a new thing I am afraid it is going to be too complex or involve things I just don’t understand. Just a nice fun mixture of “the fear of the unknown” and a large dose of “fear of failure”. So, what do I do? Delay, distract, and do anything else. I know this isn’t what I should do, and am trying to get better about it. But recently I have started to realize just how unfounded these fears are.
I think what really planted the seed of these fears is two fold. First is a longstanding fear of failure. Not too unusual, and something I have been at least somewhat aware of all my life. Gaming is both were I became aware of this fear, and a space I can fail safely to try and get over it. The second seed is a bit more unusual. That is when I tried looking up how to do various technical things in my programming education, it would seem that the articles I found would assume I new various things that I simply did not know. My most common response to these types of “help articles” was “If I knew that part I wouldn’t be here asking for help!”. And so I slowly associated looking for help with being made to feel stupid and incompetent.
But, throughout my time learning things I would occasionally run into a weird thing. I would be doing something and someone would take notice and praise my ability to do/understand that thing. But I would be confused. Because to me that thing wasn’t praiseworthy… it was easy. And it has taken me years to realize those praises weren’t empty platitudes, that I actually do have some talents. And nothing has underlined this more than when I pushed through to learn some new things recently. Rather than being overwhelmed or confused as I expected it was all so simple and easy to understand.
I am not completely over my fears yet. I still have a ways to go. But I can see the path forward. And who knows? Just as these new things may be simpler than I fear, the path forward may be shorter than I think.
What should a game designer study?
But what experiences are beneficially to my game design?
All of them.
This was one of the more memorable conversations that took place in my game design class. Student was asking what supplemental courses to take (art, programming, animation, history, etc.). The teacher’s response could be boiled down to this: There are no experiences that can’t be useful to a game designer. So, what does that mean?
There are two main aspects to this, experiences and skills. I will start with experiences. Any experience can be used to influence game design. Perhaps a scene from a movie you watched gave you an idea for that nagging mechanic you are trying to figure out. Maybe your experience extending your running range influences how you design level up mechanics. Or you could even design an entire game to get across the sense of peace you experienced when sitting on a hill on a sunny day and got a whiff of some flowers. A designer, of almost any kind, draws on their life experiences to inform their design. So the more experiences you have, the more paints you have in your design paint kit. But where do you get the brushes to apply that paint?
That is where the skills you pick up come in. The broader your skill set the more of a game you can influence. For a very simple example a programmer with some basic art skills can make temp assets without going to an artist every time. Similarly a UI designer with some programming experience can figure out what the programming flow might look like while they are making the design. In short if you can expect what the next step in design is the better you can prepare for it and possibly save everyone’s time. Or even (as I am doing) create something completely by yourself.
What I have heard this skill distribution referred to is a T skill distribution. Meaning you have a basic understanding of everything in the pipeline, maybe even enough skill to help out on occasion. BUT that you have one or two specialties. The broad “base” of the T vs its tall central pillar. In this way, no skill you learn is wasted in the design space. Even seemingly unrelated skills can surprise you when they come up and are invaluable.
Early this week My long used laptop charger developed a fault. It still functioned, but part of the wire was frayed revealing the layer under the rubber coating. Not like it was sparking, but not something I wanted to take risks with either. So until I could get a new charger my work laptop couldn’t really be used as normal. So what to do with the day? Clean my keyboard.
I have a pair of mechanical keyboards for my two computers, and I had never cleaned them. I new the idea of how to clean them: remove keys, clean underneath, clean individual keys, replace keys. Fairly simple. But… I had no idea how to remove the keys safely. Then I got a special tool specifically for the job and it was off to the races.
Spent most of the morning cleaning my “work keyboard”. First removing the keys (carefully keeping them in order), then scrubbing under where they were. So much dirt, oil, and other detritus had accumulated that it took some work to get most of it out. Next up was blasting it all with a can of compressed air. As a side note, I’m not sure if I will ever get used to how cold compressed air cans get when in use. With the board itself (mostly) clean I moved onto the keys themselves. Nothing fancy for these, wipe them down with a wet cloth, then dry them with a dry cloth. Got the dirt rings off them and made them shiny again. Only took a few seconds per key, but that adds up for a full keyboard. Just put on a podcast and let the Zen of repetitive action take over.
While I was dealing with the keyboards a thought kept popping up in the back of my head. Near the end of dealing with the second keyboard I decided to check on that thought. And sure enough I was right. Turns out I had a spare charger that had been sitting in a box for several years. So now I have two clean keyboards and a charger in good condition. What happened to the old charger you may ask? Toothpick as a splint to keep that part from bending and some electric tape to keep it secure and safe. Not a pretty solution, but it works as a “new” backup charger.
With everything done, I replaced the keys and had a clean keyboard for the first time in… too long. The difference is like night and day.