In a previous life a work colleague worked in the games industry for a successful publisher. Brits will remember the early C64 budget games of the 80s, but this particular publisher was one of the first ones to capitalise on making budget games for CD ROM PC and consoles 10 years later. Up until this point CD ROM games had been expensive and console manufactures had desperately tried to keep quality high on their consoles (see Nintendo seal of quality). He tells me many stories, mostly around how it was such a cut throat place to work in the early 90s and how they spotted a shifting marketplace and capitalised on it. One of the snippets from these stories that stuck with me is the following.:
The publisher noticed that 9 out of 10 games in the industry failed at some point and there were lots of reasons for it doing so, it might collapse during development or flop at sales. The key to success was based on two points around 9 out of 10 failures:
- Never put all of eggs in one basket, know that 9 will fail and you will make money back on the other 2. There is no way of knowing which 2 will succeed.
- Do as many deals as possible and try to get those two games.
My colleague regularly points out that the publisher won the rights to make the official game for lots of famous football managers and rugby leagues but the game that made the most money was a deal my boss made in a pub on a whim for cheap. The game licensed the name of a horse rider that just so happened to go and win some events shortly after the deal. The game was just playable and cheap enough to be a hit with young girl teens, a market that hadn’t been tapped in to much at the time. This particular horse-riding is still going strong 15 years later on the DS.
So, this is what my friend has told me and to be honest the only proof I have are the anecdotes from my friend. But something rings true about 9 out of 10 things creative things failing. About a year ago I found myself in a limbo where I was sick of writing blog posts that weren’t as good as they sounded in my head. I wasn’t really sure what the problem was, in my head I would have some vague but interesting idea, then 9 out of 10 timed when I would wrote it down on my blog it didn’t sound so interesting.
In the end I solved my problem by creating a blog and not putting my name on it. The blog, which belonged to my pet rabbit was a place intended as a place to put all my posts whatever state they were in. It wasn’t log before I realised something, 9 out of 10 posts might be unfinished, rough, not spell checked and all round gibberish but 10 out of 10 posts were worth something to me. Eventually I become more relaxed about putting stuff online, changed the blog title to ‘David Sherlock’ and imported all my old posts from previously hidden sites. I think that was an important stage in open work practices; it’s also a stage where I saw growth in the number of people coming to read my stuff and revisited stuff I had done before.
I think the key was the change in attitude to the content I put online. The word failure is a pretty nasty one, in the cutthroat gaming industry I suspect anything that didn’t make a return on money was a failure, but in an environment where you are trying to lean then there are lessons in everything you do or perhaps practices for you to build upon.
More recently I’ve been blogging less and trying to express myself through other ways. This hasn’t been a conscious decision and I think those times when you do something without actually sitting down and planning it are the crucial times. I’ve noticed the number of posts on paddy has gone down as I’ve been outputting things other than text. I think I’ve been influenced by the kids on tumblr who are making videos, gifs, music or code and are sharing it with their friends but I find myself in the ‘don’t post 9 out of 10 limbo’ again; the majority of these new creations stay on my hard drive or are hidden on other sites that I have no intention sharing. There is something scary about sharing them with people I know.
A friend who is always 10 steps ahead of me when it comes to open work practices has recently started doing ‘visual note taking’ as well as some interesting visual techniques on her Youtube account, I think this shares some similarity to the things I am currently getting stuck in to. Perhaps framing it as note taking may help me get over my 9 out of 10 limbo! Perhaps I like the idea of creative note taking because nobody expects notes to be finished. In a comment on Sheilas site she says that positive comments help and I think there is lots of truth in that. In the age of instant feedback and Twitter egos it’s very hard to put the 9 out of 10 up. Sheila’s recent posts around mapping your online environment have made me think about this as the era of ‘beyond the blog’ or perhaps more correctly ‘beyond the text wall’. As we capture our work practices in things other than text the old issues of insecurity when sharing these captures arise again.
In the spirit of trying to break my creative note taking ‘don’t post 9 out of 10 limbo’ I uploaded the last thing I tried to make. It was a short story about the loneliness of technology. It was supposed to star paddytherabbit as a MOOC user who takes part in an extremely active MOOC only to find himself at the end having done no work on MOOC that nobody no longer cares about. There are lots of scenes missing and some that were supposed to be replaced. The whole paddy looking at the screen didn’t work very well. In fact the video isn’t very good at all, its terrible. But as always the process I went through and things I thought about during the process make it more than a failure to me.