In the dim and distant past, I picked up the 5±2 thing rule. I’m sure it has a fancy, academified name… but Tribal Video Game Knowledge™ has edged it into the recycler in my brain. My oldest son is trying to convince me to buy enough copies of Sins of a Solar Empire that the "whole family can play." (Which really means that he knows he can beat his sister and his mother, and for some reason he thinks he can beat me.)
Anyway, I think the tendency toward deeper and deeper specialization of technical professionals (which came up during the MVP dinner last night) is rooted in our human limitations to retain focused knowledge much like people tend to "specialize" in one particular kind of game, whether that’s as narrowly focused as "chess, only chess and nothing but chess" or more broadly as "action/shooters." Hrm.
SQL Server as a product has grown so enormous at this point that even people who work here are blissfully unaware of all its features. Myself included! It’s always fun to get asked when we’re going to add X Feature™ that’s been around since 7.0 or 2000… or find a new feature that I was ignorant of – or forgot about. Try remembering some time whether It™ always used to do that or not.
To the outside world, we might all smell like SQL Server geeks, but inside the circle there are database engine geeks, spatial data geeks, XML geeks, and on and on! There are even Service Broker geeks and MDX geeks, I’m told. Heh.
That this 5±2 fact of life bleeds over into gamer preferences, game play and game design shouldn’t come as a surprise, but it does to some people… I read an internal paper recently proposing a New Game Idea™ that was a fun read, but, well, the following article would be good advice to the author!
Games are always just systems waiting to be understood. Fun is in the learning, and the payoff is in our influence over these systems. But a player wields influence only through game mechanics. Anyone would agree that by adding mechanics we inevitably complicate the player’s influence over their world. But while game mechanics always add complexity to player input, they rarely alter game output. Gamasutra – Fewer Mechanics, Better Game
The Kitchen Sink Game™ as a special case of Second System Syndrome™ comes up a lot during lunches with Rob. He’s a wealth of interesting information nuggets, since he spent years in the game industry before he came to SQL Server for new and interesting fun… He hasn’t convinced me (yet) that I don’t want to try my hand at game dev when I grow up (defined as "when the kids move out"), but we’ll see. I’m still having more fun than the law allows inside SQL Server!
Although it will probably never happen in my career, there’s a lot to be said for splitting highly complex products into separate units… <wink_wink/>
Regardless of what you do (technologically-speaking) for a living, it’s good to be reminded to focus on what you’re good at most of the time and worry less about bringing your shortcomings up to code. Which reminds me, I need to pick Jenifer Fox’s book back up and finish it. Right after I crush my oldest son’s empire. Heh!