Game Development Reference
out of love. They took risks for him because they didn't have to be afraid.
They gave him their all because they didn't have to spend energy avoiding
pain. Their self-identified commitment clicked, and Jim's team stayed at
the top of their field for decades.
Jim didn't focus on immediate rewards. He didn't succumb to some
personal need for power over others. He understood that his job is to set
up others to succeed, not to use them as tools—that his team was much
more important than he was.
Reaping the bounty of love requires patience. Fear is easy, quick, and
obvious, but in the end it is a feeble fuel for creativity. Love is slow, indirect,
and quiet, but once grown and nurtured, it is extraordinarily powerful.
Only love can unlock the self-identified commitment that allows every
developer to draw creative power from the core of his being.
That's why in the front room of his studio, Henson placed a giant sign
with an old G.K. Chesterton quotation: “Artistic temperament is a disease
that affects amateurs.”
We've seen how extrinsic rewards tend to harm game development moti-
vation, and how it's the only internal drive to do meaningful work that can
make us do our best work. However, there are sometimes still places for
specific, targeted motivational pushes to encourage specific actions. The
key here is not to use economic rewards or punishment, but instead to use
subtler social signals. Let's look at some social motivations that drive game
developers in specific ways.
Playtests motivate well by creating natural, unlimited, trustworthy
consequences to our development decisions.
We naturally want to see playtesters like our work. We love it when they
ask to play again. On the other hand, it feels awful to watch a playtester
slog through long periods of boredom, get shredded by difficulty spikes,
or hit game-breaking bugs. The pleasure of playtest success and the pain
of playtest failure are powerful motivators.
This may sound like a sort of carrot-and-stick arrangement. But there
are differences between this and incentives handed out by a boss.
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