In some cases constraints can feel limiting. When I look at my career and see how I’ve been limited by my gender, I get frustrated. At the same time I’ve been trying to work around it. I’ve battled outside limitations others have placed on me. The things I’ve learned while combatting those restraints include recognizing manipulative rhetoric, gaslighting and scapegoating. The way some companies use learned helplessness and affected cluelessness has given me a strong sense of bullshit detection.
Maybe that’s not the kind of creativity you would want to learn, but truthfully, it’s given me a way to cut to the chase.
Constraints can do other things apart from forcing you to be better than your peers in order to maybe be taken seriously. It can improve your creativity enormously and open up avenues and ways of thinking that you might not have otherwise explored.
A blue sky scenario where anything is allowed isn’t very challenging. Contrary to beliefs, it may also be too open and too limitless. If we can go to the moon without effort, the moon loses its charms.
A strong framework also helps establish purpose and intent.
When I started working in games, we worked with mobile games that were severely limited in what we would do with the backend and the interface. We had screen images that were 90×40 pixels, links and text messages. Despite these limitations we made several games that were all different from one another. They were unique. Some were cute like Cute n’ Clever. Some were violent, like Regents of Ismay. Some were strategic like space traders.
What all of them had in common was severe restrictions. Build a spaceship with commands that are 60 characters long, no more. Not even in Finnish. Make it into a fun and cute game I dare you. No images, just text. Make people pay for it.
Create a dating sim with images no larger than 90×40 pixels. Use links to communicate commands You have 20 characters. I dare you. Make people pay for it and love it.
Create a text based fighting game. I dare you. We did all of this and we did it well. I’m not sure I would even be in game development but for what I learned at Picofun.
Constraints, frameworks, style guides and processes are all created with the same intent. To create a consistent, dependable, professional environment for us to be consistently creative in. You may dream of blue skies. I dream of small spaces with infinite possibilities.
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