Tanya X Short, Kitfox Games
Tanya X. Short is the creative director at Kitfox Games. Her talk was about how to survive and meet deadlines.
“Everybody thinks their priority is to make a great game. That’s not true. Your No. 1 priority is to not die,” she said. “Your No. 1 priority is to not burn out.”
Crunch mode has become too much of a standard at game studios, as developers tell themselves that they are the unique people who can get by without sleep and still be productive, Short said. It is hard to stop working all of the time, she said. She said her game Moon Hunters was made with just a couple of weeks of overtime, and she said many other games have been made without crunch.
If you have a deadline you can’t meet, you have to either cut something or push back the deadline.
“This is science,” she said. “You think you are exceptional. You are a unicorn. But of 100 people, scientists found, 95 people were incorrect in assuming they could work more than others. So please, take care of yourself.”
She said studies have shown that you are more productive when you do three weeks of 40-hour weeks compared to three weeks of 60-hour weeks. Burnout is exhausting and it saps your creativity.
“Everyone here will die,” Short said. “Even if you create a masterpiece beloved for a thousand years. Therefore, it is up to you to protect whatever time and joy is left in you. Don’t use it making yourself feel more productive. Be disciplined warriors of light and courage. Fight on, take care of yourself, and survive to make more games.”
“It is true there are no easy answers because every answer drains you and every answer takes energy,” he said. “You make choices every moment in life and at work. Info overload. Choice overload. Media overload. Each choice expends the limited mental energy you have for making choices. Cognitive scientists call this decision fatigue.”
He said he wanted to advocate for your players. Your places make choices all day long, and they have to spend their mental energy in the game.
“I’m here to tell you to let them off the hook,” he said.
Sometimes, you need to let them have easy moments, where they can simply soak things in and not make decisions. Part of the appeal of Hyper Light Drifter was giving players moments to enjoy what hey were experiencing. Dief’s talk was another one that was better viewed on video, as he had cool animations and music to go with it.
“So please, give your players fewer choices sometimes,” he said. “Give them stillness. Give them reflection. Time to think about what you’ve been telling them. Give them calm. Give them rest. Tell them to put down the controller, and trust they will come back.”
Disclosure: The organizers of MIGS 17 paid my way to Montreal. Our coverage remains objective.