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A Producer’s Reading List

A list of books, resources, and tools for the beginner looking to get into game production. Cross posted from http://maxvstheinternet.com/ This is the supplemental reading list for a lecture given to a class (CTIN 463) at USC's IMGD 16 Sep. 2013

I wrote this as a supplemental reading list to a guest lecture I gave about producing The Unfinished Swan, so there may be a few USC-specific bits and references that depend on that. I'd offer it as a starting point for anyone who has an interest in game production/has some idea of what a producer does, but wants to expand their knowledge a little bit. The original, and other bric-a-brac are on my website @ www.maxvstheinternet.com

Introduction

If you're a stranger from the Internet, here's some context for this list: I gave a talk about video game production to William Huber's CTIN 463 Anatomy of a Game Class at USC this past Monday, 16 September. This is a supplemental list of resources for that talk that, uh, I got carried away with.

So! Anatomy of a Game students: thanks for letting me rant about a wide variety of production related topics, and bloviate as only someone with truly limited expertise can.

You will find over the course of your careers and lives that the moment someone claims they "know enough to be dangerous" they are right about the dangerous part, even if they are lying about what they know. It's easy, once you get over the TOTAL NOVICE section of a given domain's learning curve to feel yourself full of all the answers or that all the answers are at least in reach. Experts, or people who have invested their lives into what they do are much more likely to know all the things they still have yet to learn, and all the specializations or other sub-domains they have yet to thoroughly investigate. This isn't to say you should NEVER attempt to shake things up with a rookie's zeal (WHY don't we just try X?), but perhaps try to understand the unstated reasons or externalities for what you're trying to change before charging in.*

There, see, I've begun to bloviate again.

Put another way, a light bulb went off in my head the first time I heard that earning a Black Belt in a martial art doesn't mean that you're now a certified Ultimate Badass with total mastery: it means you're ready to learn. You're fluent enough in the basics that you can enter the community of serious practioners and begin to cultivate a real understanding within yourself. And life is way harder, because there isn't a belt system for your entire life, and the teachers worth learning from are much harder to find, and often times they disagree with one another for very good reasons. Don't make your goal to become like your heroes. Find out what your heroes' goals were, and strive towards those. Better yet, make your own. This is all by way of saying that this list does not form a complete and balanced mental diet, but I hope it's a good start. I don't claim to be an expert, but I do claim to have done some stuff.

With that florid caveat tenuously in place, allow me to append the traditional litany of cop-outs on the internet: "I am not a lawyer. Your mileage may vary. This is just the stuff that has worked for me. If you try this and it doesn't work, please don't sue me. You may find some of these resources are not for you." Remember the lesson of the Gold Bond Medicated Powder. It's important to stay on point, but rarely will someone drift off the point in a way so obvious and easily corrected. Far more common and insidious are the distractions of seemingly pertinent things**, and in a stream of information, it's much harder to pan for the golden flake you need unless you scoop up plenty of dirt, too.

Anyways, it's time for me to shake what my momma gave me*** and give you what you came here for: a list of useful books and resources. I'll break them into a few different broad categories for you:

  • Foundations: Books about Life Skills
  • Business-ish: Books about Business or Production Methodologies
  • Skills: Books that address specific skills and interests
  • Fun: Bonus Material you may enjoy

FOUNDATIONS

These books are about general life skills/attitudes that will help you in your work or life no matter what, but because they are self-help books it can be a little hard to take them seriously. I jokingly call them "airport bookstore books".  The largest sub-genre of self-help books is probably "unread self help books" followed by "self help books that were half read and their advice followed for like a week before it got inconvenient." I also tend to be very wary of self-help-ish books because what they're often really about is the author's brand, and selling enough copies so that the author can go on the lecturing or consulting circuit. The hallmark of good advice is that it's often free and you've known it all along, but you don't want to follow it because it seems hard or you doubt yourself.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

by Stephen R. Covey

OK, this is the book that gave popular culture the phrase "Paradigm Shift." Yeah, it can sound hokey at times. But the lessons in here are about taking charge of your perspective, clarifying what's important, and how to work with other people to make great things happen through understanding. If you've never given any thought to introspection and how you work, this is a good place to start. There are dozens upon dozens of different angles from which to approach game development or production and getting a handle on your priorities and how to make time for what's important will help you do what you want to do in the limited time you have left as a living being before you permanently convert to Skeleton-mode. "SKELLEMODE: Memento Mori and all that"

Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In

by Roger Fisher, et al.

Fisher was a master negotiator, and there's a lot of wisdom in this book. Many, many, many of the conversations and decisions you'll have to make in your career will actually be negotiations, with or without your awareness of that fact. I'm not saying you need to treat EVERYTHING as a negotiation, but you do need to be prepared. It's also important to understand what good negotiation isn't, and this book gets into that too.  

Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity  

by David Allen

This book sparked a bit of a fad back in the mid-aughties, but if you're having a hard time getting your own work done, it can give you some processes to help you resolve your time management issues (procrastination, prioritizing, etc). It's a sort of a mini-production methodology for yourself.  I know some people who have also used The Pomodoro technique, which may be more your style. Worst case scenario, you can buy this book, fail to read it, and join the millions-strong club of people who joke about how they never got done reading this book.

So Good They Can't Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love

by Cal Newport

CAVEAT: I have not actually read this book yet, but have had it highly recommended to me by a producer friend. If I had to summarize his summary and put a unique twist on it (e.g. completely bullshit what I think this book is about) I'd say it's about learning how to cultivate the skills you need to be valued by other people. In the business world (or any realm that is ostensibly a meritocracy) your ability to go places and get things done will be limited by how much value people think you will generate for them. Even da Vinci had to write a dang cover letter where he bragged about his skills. As a sidenote: it's important to learn how to sell yourself without being sleazy/overbearing/desperate/feeling like you're selling out. Start practicing now, because the moments when you have to make your case come sooner than you think, more frequently, and from places you aren't expecting.  

How to Win Friends & Influence People

by Dale Carnegie

CAVEAT: I have also not read this book, but this is where the notion of cultivating a genuine interest in other people as a way to get along comes from. If you're not fascinated by being a human and the fact that everyone around you is a human being with their own story that they are the hero of, why are you so interested in making something for other humans to experience? Also, Ben is coming to talk to you guys, and he made a game where one of the actions is 'say something Dale Carnegie-ish.'  

 

BUSINESS-ISH

You should take a real business class while you have the opportunity, particularly if you plan on starting or have already started your own small business. You can learn a lot by attending the school of hard knocks, but there's a reason why regular school, where the tests are preceded by the lessons, remains an enduring and popular choice. They have slightly less direct utility, but the Economics courses I've had in my life (ok, just AP Macro and Micro in high school and Academic Decathlon) gave me valuable concepts I rely upon to this day. If you don't know what "opportunity cost" and "diminishing marginal returns" or had the pleasure of talking about guns vs. butter, it's worth your time and effort to learn about those things.  

The Ten-Day MBA 4th Ed.

by Steven Silbiger

This one I would also put on the "airport bookstore" shelf of my library. Don't believe the title (it won't make you a master, and you should naturally be skeptical of anyone who promises mastery of a subject in one book), but it is a very good introduction to a diverse set of concepts, and will give you some insight into what business people (e.g., publishers) are likely to be concerned about. This isn't just a way to improve your understanding of business, but a way to gain insight into what people who care about business may be thinking about.  

Agile Software Development with Scrum (Series in Agile Software Development)

by Ken Schwaber and Mike Beedle

BOOM! This is the foundational Scrum book. It's short. You can read it in a day. Some of the concepts in it are awesome, some are a bit dated. Start here, think critically, and try to place it in the context of when it was written. Plus, saying "Schwaber and Beedle" is a ton of fun. Schwayyyyburrrr. 

Agile Estimating and Planning

by Mike Cohn

This book is all about those things near and dear to a Producer or Project Manager's heart, estimating and planning. Put it in your brain bank as soon as you are able and start collecting interest.  

User Stories Applied: For Agile Software Development

by Mike Cohn

Discussing features can lead to surprisingly vague tasks (how robust does this have to be? what should the edge case functionality be? how will we know when it's done?)-- oftentimes the tasks created to implement a feature are just the 12% of the iceberg floating above water. "User Stories" are a useful tool for not getting too bogged down in this process.

The Art of Project Management

by Scott Berkun

It's been a while since I've read Berkun's book, but what's stayed with me is his emphasis on the importance of defining and communicating vision. This was one of the first books I started with, and it offers a good overview of what Project Management actually is, especially if you're putting on that hat for the first time as a producer.

Team Leadership in the Game Industry

by Seth Spaulding

Awwww shit, a book with "Leadership" in the title. I used to think that "Leadership" was a bullshit concept because I was educated in a public school district where "everyone was a leader" which is one of the most disingenuous and harmful ideas to be indoctrinated with at a young age. Some people are not leaders. It's important to recognize this and work around it, particularly if they are not leaders because they are not ready, can't be right now, or won't ever be. How you diagnose and address all those different situations is very important. It's also valuable to recognize that you may not be a leader yourself, and that if you are going to put that burden on your shoulders, you need to work at it. My initial skepticism in the value of leadership has been somewhat reversed by this book, and it does a good job of talking about what good leadership looks like in the games industry. Extra bonus, this book was recommended to me by Robin Hunicke, who is a hero of modern game development.  

Agile Game Development with Scrum

by Clinton Keith

I've never met Clinton Keith, but I feel as though I know his face well from how frequently he comments on Gamasutra. Ordinarily I would caution you to be skeptical of any book that presents itself as a game-development specific treatment of a particular subject, but Keith's book ties up those Agile and Scrum concepts into a nice, big bow around the lumpy, weird package of game development. Games are a strange beast compared to many different kinds of software development, and are getting stranger still as the Cambrian Age of Game Platforms continues its innovation explosion, and this book can help you navigate some of the game-specific strangeness.  

 

Kanban and Scrum-- making the most of both

by Henrik Kniberg and Mattias Skarin

CAVEAT: I have yet to actually sit down and read through this book. I am new to the Kanban production methodology, but this book was recommended to me by a development manager as a good introduction. Bonus, it is free!  

The Principles of Scientific Management

by Frederick Winslow Taylor

Say whaaaaaat, son? Who's this Wilson era fogey with his spectacles and funky bowtie? BROTHER, That's FREDERICK WINSLOW TAYLOR, who ignited the world's PASSION for SCIENTIFIC MANAGEMENT ("Taylorism") sparking the MANAGEMENT REVOLUTION of the 20th century! We're all like, pffft whatever, we are all so over professional management as a dedicated skillset and one of the great innovations of capitalism, and maybe this FWT guy is just a waste of our time, but Taylor was the first guy to make a business out of counting all the steps it took to do things on a factory floor, and timing out all those steps. This book is important in that it's one of the first big ideas in modern management theory, and there are also a ton of things that Taylor says that are right for industrial production that are wrong for software development.

I may be Gold Bonding you again here (not intentional, this time), but if you start at the source of a family ideas, you can begin to trace a through-line among them, and that's useful critical thinking skill. Before you start to reach for the hard stuff (Drucker, Brooks, etc.) start at the source, and look up some of the arguments around his work and how we're still re-hashing them today. Also it is like 76 pages. They are a dense 76 pages, but they are incredibly short for one of the foundational management texts of the 20th Century.

 

SKILLS

The Employer's Legal Handbook: Manage Your Employees & Workplace Effectively

by Fred S. Steingold, Attorney

This book is the placeholder for a general recommendation for the books published by a firm called NOLO. NOLO's books cost about $30 a pop, and can give you some easy insights into what are some of the legal processes and norms are around the various activities you are engaged in. I've chosen this book here because it's the one I used as an HR reference, despite my lack of formal HR training. There are NOLO books about starting your own LLC, working as a contractor, the laws of the state, etc. etc. & c. & c. Basically, for as many different flavors of lawyer there are, there are multiple NOLO books you can consult about their areas of expertise.

The only downside to their offerings is that they often offer multiple books that treat the same subject, without overlapping features-- e.g. one book might be a very brief summary of the area of law you are interested in but include some contract templates you can use, while another might do a better job of explaining the law but not give you those blank documents. NOLO books are a good way to study up on the legal domain at hand, so that when the time comes to have a conversation with your lawyer, you can avoid wasting the lawyer's time, which will save you money in the long run, and make the lawyer appreciate you.  

The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint: Pitching Out Corrupts Within, Second Edition

by Edward Tufte

Whooo boy. CTIN 463, once you read this book you will understand how badly I done fucked up in my presentation to you. If you weren't there (hi, Internet! Be gracious: remember that you will always win!) or haven't heard of this book, know this: at some point in your career you will have to give a presentation that makes use of some sort of slide-show software, a la PowerPoint or Keynote or Google Docs' thing. This book will help you do a better job of that, and as a bonus, will turn you into a snob about the presentations you are forced to sit through. It's great, it's short, it's cheap, please read it.  

The Visual Display of Quantitative Information

by Edward Tufte

You're going to need to read and make many charts, graphs, "infographics", flowcharts, and other ways of displaying data that aren't sentences over the course of your career. Edward Tufte, besides being snippy about PowerPoint, is a master of this. Did you know that maps with, like, axes and scales and keys weren't even a thing until a few hundred years ago? It blew my mind. This book is a great way to bring your A-game to the task of crafting a chart, even if your A-game is just "which colors and patterns can I pick that will make this Excel chart more legible to my boss/team?"  

Valve's Handbook for New Employees

by Valve

As of this Wednesday, 18 October 2013, Valve are some of the top players operating in games. They've managed to grow their business from a single-game developer to a multi-platform publisher/developer that dominates PC gaming, and they've done it in a quiet, humble, player-centric fashion that everyone respects. This is the Handbook they wrote as a company about what it's like to work at Valve, what things like operating as a flat hierarchy mean to them,  and how to get work done as peer. There's a lot of speculation that Valve allowed this document to be leaked as a hiring ploy because they were having a hard time sourcing talent. Many developers hailed it as guidebook to Shangri-La ("If only I worked for a company like that!" "We should start doing all this stuff at our company!") and it presents a very seductive picture. It's a short read, but important to load into your brain because many companies will claim they are working off of Valve's model when they aren't (either because they are lying, deluded, or confused) and many people will/have tried to implement this model only to fail, given their own circumstances (perhaps the team composition was wrong, or they couldn't keep control of the company out of the hands of external parties). Valve's employee handbook (and their blogs!) present a rare opportunity to take a peak at how a company claims to do things, and also how a company presents itself in a document that is purportedly supposed to be for internal use. What will your business' handbook look like? Also of note is Valve's emphasis on T-shaped people, and how even if you don't make your living writing code or pushing bits, if you depend on people who do, it's important to pick up a few skills in that area in order to better understand the process of making software.  

Microsoft Excel

by the Microsoft Excel Team

Excel is perhaps the last essential piece of Office Software that Microsoft publishes, in the face of the cloud-based and free/open source alternatives for word processing like Open/Libre Office or Google Docs. Google's Spreadsheet app is not quite there yet, and Google knows it. For 20+ years, Excel has been the gold standard in number crunching, and by golly, whatever version you're using is probably fine so long as you can get your hands on a copy. Becoming deeply familiar with Excel, and grokking its more advanced features (Formulas, VBA scripts, Macros) will allow you to become an order of magnitude better at playing with and deriving insights from the important data you're dealing with in your day to day. Excel is also a powerful generalist tool that you can use to write tools for yourself, like timecards, expense trackers/reports, budgets, so on and so forth. You could generate a pretty good P&L sheet from Google docs too, and you don't need to go full Wizard Mode in Excel to get great value out of it (I consider myself a mere hedge-wizard, but every new trick I've learned has paid off in some way). There are a handful of good, free Excel resources out there on the web, and Excel's conventions and tools are the lingua franca of number crunching for the majority of the business world, which makes problems very easy to search and it very easy to teach yourself. Some of those tools:

 

Effective Networking in the Game Industry

by Darius Kazemi

Should you ever find yourself at a game conference and where a bearded man wearing an orange shirt crosses your line of sight, roll for initiative and check yourself before you wreck yourself because you may just be about to meet Darius Kazemi, Bot-Auteur, HTML5 evangelist, and all around mensch. I was lucky enough to meet Darius at GDC Austin in 2007, and I saw him give a talk about effective networking at that same conference. Much to my delight, he had authored of a wonderful series of articles about how to network with other game developers. I think Darius has pretty much stopped giving talks on this subject because he's done a million of them at every GDC, ever, but these are really useful/reassuring, especially when you're an agonized undergrad desperately trying to break into the industry.  

Joel on Software

by Joel Spolsky

Spolsky is a smart dude and he's been in the software game for a long time. Read this to better understand people who write code and perhaps be inspired enough to become one yourself if you already aren't.  

 

Smart and Gets Things Done

by Joel Spolsky

Someday you may wake up and go "oh shit, I've got to hire somebody." Maybe you're having that "oh shit" moment well in advance of when you need this person, maybe their assistance has been longed for by the rest of the team for many months, but either way, when you hire, you want to hire the best. This book is a short primer on what to look for.  

Starting Strength, 3rd edition

by Mark Rippetoe

Why is there a book about Barbell training/coaching with an emphasis on lifting heavy, squatting low, and not enough cardio? Because it's one avenue towards fitness. If you're an undergraduate in college right now, you're probably 20±2 years old, and if you're like most people that age, you're likely in the best shape of your life. Add 5 years of being a desk jockey/stress monkey, and crunching hard on games while surviving off of Dew and Dorritos, and you're setting yourself up for a bad case of Computer Body. I'm trying to claw my way out the fitness debt I've accrued over my entire adult life right now, and it's not fun. Widespread Computer Body problems I have seen can be RSIs, postural deficiencies, obesity, low body weight, lack of cardiovascular health, inflexibility, joint pain, and on and on and it only gets worse. If you're not careful, you can easily become trapped in a vicious cycle where your various decrepitudes start to domino into one another, and overcompensating by pushing yourself really hard to get fit in a short period of time will only lead to injury, worsening the cycle.

I've picked Starting Strength for this list because there's a strong community behind it, and I agree with Rippetoe's thesis that muscular strength is the cornerstone to building and safeguarding the rest of your health and fitness. It's well reviewed by other people, although it does have its flaws (not enough emphasis on cardio in many people's opinon). It's not about body building, so you won't get all huge and gross if that's your fear.

Anyways, the important thing at the end of the day is not that you buy a copy of this book, but that you regularly partake in some activity that keeps you healthy, whether that's Crossfit, yoga, running, spinning, swimming, hiking, a sport, or whatever.  /r/fitness's FAQ is not a bad place to start either, and I would argue the best thing you can do for cultivating your physical health is to make it an unconscious habit, where you don't have to force yourself to do it, or a social activity, where you feel invested in a community and look forward to participating in it. Hopefully both. Also, learning to cook and eating healthy are massive subjects in their own right, but this bit is already too long.  

 

FUN

These are some useful/fun/interesting resources that I would encourage you to seek out.

Fuck Videogames

by Darius Kazemi

Dang it if we don't start this section with a bang and also with another of Darius' Hits but FUCK VIDEOGAMES should be required reading for every game developer in the entire world, and it will take you all of 10 minutes. Let me pretend I totally had this seemingly obvious idea first that not all creative ideas are best envisioned as videogames. I felt that way for a long time, and considering that you are an enlightened, media literate person with plenty of understanding about how various media and multi-media work, it should be obvious to you too. Now let's shoot that pretense into the sun, and let DK take it to a whole 'nother level with FUCK VIDEOGAMES. Read his presentation, then try to get on his level by understanding that videogames are not always they right way to express an idea that excites you. Also: assuming you're one of the students in the IMGD at USC, understand that there are many kinds of wonderful interactive media you can learn about (the IM part), and that it's possible to "play" or make "playful" work without the baggage of making a game. Many of the lessons of game development translate across to other media, it's ok to branch out.

Beautiful Evidence

by Edward Tufte

I think I've been on Tufte's jock enough through out this book list, but this book is also great. Just... just buy all his books, and build a throne of knowledge and graphic design out of them, but then be sure to read that throne. 

The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

by Benjamin Franklin

Awwww yissss, mutha truckin' Benny FRANKS. Benjamin Franklin was one of the designers for a game you might have heard of called THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, and it's been running pretty well except the GM's have introduced some house rules that are way cheesy and now we have all these NSA 'sploits built into the game, and Drone Surveillance is way OP in our current patch. Also the Bill of Rights has been getting nerfed pretty hard, but these are all issues for a separate discussion. Benjamin Franklin, after his fame for being a statesman and scientist, is perhaps best known for being a successful publisher and entrepreneur.

One of Stephen R. Covey's (7 Habits, above) interests was the 20th century shift in American self-help books away from (auto)biography and Bildungsroman towards books that were just about how to do stuff ('how to make a ton of money', "How to Win Friends and Influence People")... the idea being that there was less emphasis on books that were about how to develop your character and more about how to get what you want. Benjamin Franklin's autobiography is perhaps the seminal treatment of how an American man made his life great. This book isn't just him telling you how he did what he did, but what he thought was important to his success. It's great, it's brief, and Franklin is money. Literally. "Literally-literally"-not-"figuratively-literally".   

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass

by Frederick Douglass

This is the only book I ever stole from a library.

Ok, that was trying to hard to sound cool, it's really more like I loved it and forgot to return it, and no one called me on it so I kept it. THUG LIFE. Frederick Douglass writes from the other side of the coin that Benjamin Franklin minted. There's a lot in here that's perhaps less directly applicable to "making video games" but remember: you are human, and you're making things for humans. This is one of the most powerful true stories ever lived, much less told, and it drives home the value of educating yourself and working hard against the odds. This description doesn't even begin to do it justice.  

Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art

Reinventing Comics: How Imagination and Technology Are Revolutionizing an Art Form

Making Comics: Storytelling Secrets of Comics, Manga and Graphic Novels

by Scott McCloud

These are books about being media literate in the world of comics/graphic novels/sequential art. Not only are they a nice supplement to your presentation skill by helping you understand how to convey a message in words and pictures, but they're a blast to read. Read them and understand what Hollywood is getting wrong/what's being lost as comic books make their way to the big screen. Read them and think about how games can avoid being consigned to the cultural ghetto that American comics were (are?) for the majority of the 20th century.  

How to Make Webcomics

by Scott Kurtz, Kris Straub, Dave Kellett, Brad Guigar

"But I don't want to make webcomics!" perhaps you are thinking to yourself. That's fine. Maybe webcomics are not your cup of tea. But you know what will be your cup of tea if you decide to start your own small business that relies primarily on the internet for the distribution of your product and/or service? Knowing how to market that product. How to get it out and leverage the web. What to get out of conventions. Insights into self-publishing vs. working with a publisher. There are a lot of small business tips in here from a quartet of hilarious gentlemen who made their passions their businesses, and this book is a good way to absorb their lessons if you intend to follow a similar path.  

 

Pixel Prospector's Indie Resources

by Pixel Prospector

Don't know how to talk go about a particular aspect of Indie Business (cough, business, marketing, pr, community management/web development, cough)? Here's a list of lists for how to do all those things and some handy tutorials. some of the articles are in a beta state, but that just means you have the chance to be a good reader and contribute suggestions or changes to them.  

 

Presskit() 

by Rami Ismail of Vlambeer

Presskit() is just a tool to help you make a press kit on a webpage, which you will need if you are promoting your own game.  

 

Promoter

by Andreas Zecher Promoter is tool for managing your press mentions and promotional efforts for your game. It's supposed to integrate with Presskit(), and from what I've heard is much nicer than running around and trying to track everything in a spreadsheet yourself.  

 

HULK’S ESSENTIAL READING LIST - 136 GREAT BOOKS FOR YOUR EYEBALLS

by Film Crit Hulk

For my money, Film Crit Hulk easily outclasses Drew Casper as a film critic and commentator (but he'll probably never top that outrageous lecture style). Here's ANOTHER LIST of books to put in your brain should you be so inclined to make art. You can always play more games, watch more movies, and read more books, and you can always think harder and deeper about any of those, but in your life it will be hard to weigh the value of each bit of media against the other, especially vs. your inclination to produce media rather than consume it, as making a thing is almost always more rewarding in the end, even if it is harder. That said, in our conversation about "don't be that guy" it's important to draw on a diversity of influences and experiences. Hulk's list is certainly diverse, and there's something for everyone in here. I would suggest you find something in it that you think isn't for you, and challenge yourself to get the most you can out of it.

 

 

Gold Bond Medicated Powder

by Gold Bond

Sorry guys, I just had to. Someday you will understand that there comes a point in every project when you just need to "bond up." But today is not that day. Not yet.  

THAT'S IT FOR NOW

I hope this list proves useful to you, and you can always hit me up on twitter with feedback. I've tried not to blow out the scope of this list by including too many things. For instance, if you're interested in design, you've probably already got your copies of Game Design Workshop, Game Design: A book of lenses, and Game Feel, and these are great books you should read, and you should learn about design as a producer, but they're not core production skills. Neither is Gold Bond, so I'm a jerk, sorry. If you're pursing your own independent development, you should be reading things like Hobby GameDev, and no matter your goal in the industry, you should be reading Gamasutra already.

 

If you're a USC student, avail yourself of interesting classes outside your department (you already know that the IMGD is home to incredible teachers!). One of the best classes I ever had was Mark Marino's WRIT 340 class (non-USC people, WRIT is a mandatory writing class tailored to different degrees with many many different teachers), but Mark thinks and teaches about the intersection of tech and writing in a way that will absolutely delight you and blow your mind if you are a technically inclined person. One of the other great classes I recall taking was Pain and Suffering in Literature and Philosophy taught by Natania Meeker of the French/Italian and Comparative Literature departments, which sounded like a huge downer but was an eye opening experience I still draw upon.

 

There are also tons of case studies and relevant bits of information popping up all the time, even for companies outside of games. Take Tim O'Reilly's recent post about his six failures in running his media company. Now, O'Reilly (both the company and the man) certainly isn't a failure. He's been in business for 35 years and these are just things he's self identified.

 

Make games. Finish the games you start. Read, read, read, read, read, read. Travel if you can. Be mindful of what you are doing in the world. Strive for excellence. Be kind. Be honest. Choose the path you fear because you fear it. Learn to cook. Read a goddamn poem before you start talking about emotion in games. Be nice, but don't be a pushover. I'm sorry for the swears, but they're just too much fun. Games are for humans, and teamwork is an incredibly human endeavor. If you want to make the world a better place through your games, with your team, you must grow yourself.

And show this video to any asshole who tries to show you Alec Baldwin's monologue from Glengarry Glen Ross:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-PkOc-B64dY

 

Footnotes****

* There's so much to unpack here beyond the scope of this list. In short, invention, innovation, change and creative destruction are good, but it's easy to run around like a Jobs-ian***** narcissist fucking things up for everyone when don't know enough to see the bigger picture. I've certainly done it enough times myself. That said, being too afraid of doing this means things stagnate all to easily, and you can fall into a risk-averse cover-your-ass mode too easily too. I worry that I've done this too much, too.

** Caveat about aggressively staying on point: digressions can also be meaningful and helpful. You don't want to become the Thought Police, but learning when to digress and when to be terse is one of those skills people chase for their entire lives, and the needs really depend on the situation.

*** My momma gave me my link makin' and page takin' abilities.

****Damn, sorry, this really didn't require footnotes.

******#WOZ4lyfe #yolo #swag #tetris

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