Monday, August 31, 2009

Book Review: The 4-Hour Workweek

I recently finished reading The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich and I have to say I have very mixed feelings about it.

I had the book recommended to me by a couple friends, and by the end of the first chapter it had me questioning whether those friends really had their heads on straight. Nevertheless, I pounded through it and found a few redeeming benefits in later chapters.

At it's worst, the book is all the snake oil slick of a late night get-rich-quick infomercial. The author rambles on about how he's taken the time out from motorcycle racing down the Andes and Scuba diving under the polar ice cap to bestow upon you the wisdom that let you get rich working only an hour a week, just like Bob, Sue, and other anonymous success stories.

If you can get past this, and I almost didn't, the book then has the added flaw of trying to do too much. It's a personal productivity self-improvement book, a guide to starting your own low-maintenance business, a lifestyle guide, and a travel book to boot.

I'd dismiss it entirely, but there are some redeeming gems hidden within the pages here. The personal productivity part is basic 80/20 rule and goal setting, but has some gems about outsourcing and on different ways in looking at work-life balance and measuring 'wealth'. The business how-to is basic "you too can make riches on the internet" fare, but with a very useful set of links to contract manufacturers, 3rd party support companies, etc. Similarly, there are a few gems in the last section.

Also the question of the author's ethics comes into play. For example, some parts of the business section of the book speak to developing real product, gauging market demand for it, etc. Then in other parts he outlines how to pass yourself off as an expert on anything by reading the top few books on the subject and sprinkling in a pinch of bravado. Short leap from there to fraud, in my book. (Then again, I'm a blogger, so I guess I'm a little guilty of the 'unqualified expert' sin by definition).

Do I recommend the book? No. I will say that if you looking to start your own business or if any of the other topics he covers sound interesting to you, you may find a few nuggets of wealth in here, but it's not optimal time use to scan through this book to get it. At the very least, scan quickly and read only the parts you think matter. The rest of the filler you can get of network TV at 2 AM next time you have insomnia.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Hecker gets let go, goes Indie

Kotaku and Gamasutra picked up on the news Chris broke that EA laid him off. He's now going to work on an indie game called 'SpyParty', a prototype of which was shown at the 2009 GDC EGW. I'm pretty sure this version was born out of an even earlier prototype done as part of the 2005 Indie Game Jam 3 and shown at the 2005 GDC EGW, in a barrage of 'people interacting' jam prototypes.

Anyhow, SpyParty's got a fantastic core idea, and Chris is f***ing smart and driven, so I'm excited to see the game when it eventually ships.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Good rant on the 'games as art' thing

From Damion Schubert's (Bioware designer) wonderful Zen of Design blog.

All this being said, narrative is a red herring in the discussion of games as art. Let’s put it this way: can oil paintings succeed without great cinematography? Can classical music be great without a killer screenplay? Can a Ming vase be great without compelling characters?These are very silly questions.

Each artistic medium has its own rules for what makes that particular craft capture the viewers eye and imagination. For video games, narrative is an exceptionally powerful tool – one used exceptionally well in Knights of the Old Republic and Starcraft, for example. But I posit that many games without story, games like Civilization and Minesweeper, are elegant, artful games with barely a lick of developer-provided narrative. The art found in these games is less about what you find in a movie theater, and more about what you find in an ancient Chinese puzzle box.