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Mulling: Potential

Yesterday’s post cites far more practitioners than theorists, which was maybe why it sounded wildly more obvious and applicable. My current unfinished post is on “Games/Art”, bouncing off of the next book on my list, Imaginary Games. Soon I’ll break from the games studies (to restock) and publish some notes I’ve been scribbling on some organizational/politics stuff.

I scribbled this interlude up on New Year’s Eve, but I thought it was not a good opener for the year.



Jay Electronica is a rapper. He was once a homeless drifter. He goes on eastern-style spiritual retreats. His lyrics have an odd messianic/religious tinge to them. In many circles he’s considered a top-tier rapper, widely compared to other much more recognizable names. He has produced zero albums.

When (or if) he ever produces an album, as his few singles have suggested, it will probably be lyrically brilliant and ineffably weird. It could well be an Album-of-the-Year contender. People will be disappointed with it anyway. The level of hype he has kept up for years is impossibly high.

If he doesn’t produce an album, in some circles he will continue on anyway as a myth in the way that a whole pantheon of died-too-young or made-too-little artists do.



The Smart Slacker is a pervasive trope. If he would only apply himself he could be President (for example.) Of course, having not been seen applying himself, this Smart Slacker is an untested product. There is no verifiable bound on what the results of “applying himself” could create. And as long as he doesn’t try too hard, this upper bound will be forever subject to speculation. His brilliance is seen in bursts- he has a wide range of possible performances, and maybe even an above-average lower bound on some topics that he’s mildly more interested in. Every high performance brings the promise of consistent excellence and every regression back to the middle of his range is a disappointment.

If he would only pour himself into something, he would find that instead of being in the middle of the pack, he might genuinely be on the threshold of the top percentile of eligible applicants to be President (to continue with this inane example). Which puts him in the company of 3 million Presidential contenders, the top dozen or so likely being astronomically better positioned than anyone else. Our slacker’s position is still not perfectly legible (especially in this example) but the range of possibilities has become a little more concrete, and a lot smaller. For many, the first percentile placement might be enough to validate that our Slacker was in fact harboring some kind of greatness. For the Slacker, discovering this limit and encountering these peers may instead be a slap in the face. The bubble bursts. His valuation of his own potential collapses. It’s probably healthier for him but that doesn’t mean that it feels good.


III. Expectations Games

My strategy in game design competitions is to provide a high-fidelity example of some concept, in a small and contained way. Usually I keep a sharp focus on who the judges are, or what the company would look like they’d want to support for ideological reasons. I strongly suggest the direction that the demo could take without having to create a full game (tons of effort more than making a demo, especially the mythical last 10% of development). There’s significantly more thought than action involved. It’s an encouraging sign if judges start sliding away from from the demo’s current properties are and instead shift into speaking about what playing the full game would be like.



I can’t remember who/where I saw these; I wish I could give credit. Irrelevant to the themes above:

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