Game Development Reference
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do only what's necessary to achieve a goal. If that goal is approval or defeat-
ing a competitor or a monetary reward, there's no reason to continue once
you're the best. This is how normal people act.
But there is another type of person. This type doesn't care about stan-
dards or competitors. They're not in it for external rewards or approval.
They're in it for the work. They want that irreplaceable pleasure of doing
something better than they did before. They're hungry.
Hunger is the belief that no matter what we've done, we can do better.
It is the desire to always improve at maximum rate, regardless of outside
expectations. Hunger isn't talent—a hungry designer may be no more
able than his more satiable peers. But he is not chained to the standards
of the world around him. No matter how good the work is, he will try to
improve it.
This is difficult. It's hard to push beyond what's been done before.
Often it's not even clear that it's possible to exceed past standards—but it
always is. In Geoff Colvin's topic Talent Is Overrated , he writes:
The Olympic records of a hundred years ago—representing the best
performance of any human being on the planet—today in many cases
equal ho-hum performance by high schoolers. The winner of the men's
200-meter race in the 1908 Olympics ran it in 22.6 seconds; today's high
school record is faster by more than 2 seconds, a huge margin. Today's
best high school time in the marathon beats the 1908 Olympic gold
medalist by more than twenty minutes.
In gymnastics, music, chess, and many other fields, what was extraor-
dinary decades ago is now mediocre. This means that in 1908, any fit
high schooler could have beaten an Olympian with enough effort. But they
didn't because they were chained to expectation.
Hunger means never being satisfied not only with the work, but also
with ourselves. There is a world of ideas out there to be learned, and a uni-
verse of knowledge to be generated. A hungry designer always has a vision
of himself in the future with more skills, more knowledge, more emo-
tional range, and more work discipline. He pushes toward that every day,
always improving. In the short term, these efforts seem to lead nowhere.
But over years or decades, they add up—because we're all capable of more
than anyone would ever expect of us, if we can only find that insatiable
hunger to improve, expectations be damned.
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