Game Development Reference
In-Depth Information
The chicken motivator works like this: if you break the build, you
have to fix your mistake, and you get a rubber chicken on your desk as a
symbol of your (minor) shame. The chicken remains until someone else
breaks the build. There is no discussion and no direct confrontation. You
just return to your desk to find a chicken resting quietly on the keyboard,
mocking you with its beady rubber eyes.
The person who has the chicken (as I have, many times) becomes
the butt of friendly jokes, but isn't seriously despised. Everyone wants to
avoid the chicken, but nobody gets angry or depressed if he receives it. It
doesn't make people paranoid about breaking the build, but they're not
thoughtless about it either. The chicken is ridiculous—but also a perfectly
balanced, nonconfrontational motivational tool.
Napoleon once noted, “A soldier will fight long and hard for a bit of col-
ored ribbon.” The chicken is one variation on symbolic social motivational
tools. Different ones can be used for other purposes. Bet someone a drink
that he can't think of a way to solve a design problem (either way, you end
up having drinks together). Comb the game files for cool new stuff and put
it on monitors in the office for everyone to see. There are a hundred little
actions we can take and systems we can set up to create and send social
signals in nonobvious, nonofficious ways that still have powerful positive
The Progress Principle
After Teresa Amabile did her study of 12,000 journal entries written by
hundreds of creative workers, she combed through the data looking for
patterns in what motivated their creative capacity. You can already guess
it wasn't money or fear. But she found something surprising: it wasn't for
social approval or making a good product either. Instead, Amabile found
that motivation mostly comes from making daily progress in the work. She
called this the progress principle .
The PROGRESS PRINCIPLE is the observation that the strongest
contributor of good inner work life is regular, visible day-to-day progress.
Amabile found that the size of the progress isn't as important as its
frequency. Motivation is best sustained by small wins—solving an algo-
rithm, finishing an animation, or watching a playtester understand some
detail he didn't the day before. Even if the game as a whole is still awful
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