7: Adapt, Evolve
This is the final chapter of the Seven Standards. This is the one where we give ourselves a convenient out by telling you not to listen to us. At least, don’t listen too closely. While it’s all well and good for us to try and sharpen our understanding of how to be creative we must also acknowledge the constant evolution of the creative process.
Rather than adopting the dogma of others as your own, I urge you to gather perspectives from many places. Hopefully this series has been one such place but there are an overwhelming number of takes on creativity out there. Our goal here was to capture our understanding at this moment in time in an attempt to be more transparent about our own work.
When it comes down to it our list of standards is nothing more than a set of standards to aim for. Any implementation of these must be and will inevitably be personalised. For you or your company this might mean putting pen to paper to produce an an ethics guide or mission statement. These ideas can sound boring, pointless and overly formal but they give a clear foundation to build upon. They become doubly useful when you can use them to remind yourself in times of difficulty, or direct others to them to learn more about you.
Keep it Personal
There’s no one way to approach creativity. In fact your own unique approaches are what make your work interesting to others. There is incredible value in the advice and experience of others but at the end of the day, they are not you. Your relationship with creativity is a deeply personal endeavour and can only be discovered through a deeply introspective life-long journey.
As you continue to create you develop not only a relationship with your current work but with your body of works. How does this piece fit in? How are you evolving as a person? Sometimes the path forward was only obvious in retrospect. We focused on this in the fifth standard: Aim Higher. The point of this standard is to take a step beyond that again, whichever standards are your primary focus at a point in time should continually change.
Do you need to shift focus to yourself? To your audience? To your processes? Have you become too hung up on the opinions of others, or have your become self-righteous? Constant reflection is the only way to keep yourself on track.
I have described creativity & process as collection, curation and combination of ideas and, surprise surprise, it applies here too. To actually grow as creators and as people we need to expose ourselves to a wide range of influences. I aim to collect philosophies from far and wide both across the creative industries and beyond. The unique and evolving blend of these philosophies will let you refine your creative voice indefinitely. Honestly, all that this series has been is a presentation of how far I’ve gotten on this journey so far.
Whether in creativity or life as a whole the only true constant is that everything will change. This applies to every facet of creativity: your motivations and passionate will fluctuate and change direction, your audience will mature, people will leave, people will join and the economic climate around you could transform overnight. Even your own sense of identity is constantly changing, I would even argue that it’s hardly the same between any given days.
It’s important to accept and adapt to this fact as soon as you can. You can try but few people have ever successfully fought progress. Instead I prefer to try and find principles that apply in all circumstances. This can be something profoundly simple, such as trust discipline over motivation. Our seventh and final standard reads:
Keep an eye on the works being created around you and the growth of the industry you are in, without being submissive to its whims. Grow as your community grows and learn from this.
For us, this is what the Seven Standards really are:
Have an internal code
Create value in the world
Gain personal benefit
Do so sustainably
Aim to do better
Share your insight with others
Never stop learning
A Personal Note
My background, as you may know, is in the independent game development industry. Ricky and I founded TwoPM Studios in 2016 but we’ve been making games together since I was 11, I’m now 26. We haven’t “hit it big” by any means, but we’ve enjoyed some success and are deeply grateful for it. We’ve seen the industry transform multiple times in front of our eyes.
2008: Indie games are starting to make money. They’re made by one or two people often working in their spare time at home. We start seeing real success on Commercial PC games and Xbox Live Arcade.
2012: Mobile games are the new promised land, it’s easy to reach consumers and there are millions more of them. Small teams form of 5+ people given the increased revenue available.
2019: Steam is overflowing with games, the mobile app stores are crowded and dominated by large businesses. Indie games now rely on streamers and youtubers and must release on PC, Switch, Playstation 4 and/or Xbox One to maximise viability. Up to 30+ people work on projects with external publishers and international business relationships.
If you were inspired by 2008 and want to make a single smash hit, you’ll never succeed in the modern industry. If you tried to apply the techniques that worked in 2012 on mobile you’ll be dwarfed by massive companies now. This is a tough pill to swallow and for a time it felt to us like the ship had sailed on our dreams.
But, as always, there are upsides and there are reality checks. If we had managed a massive hit, would our problems really be solved? We’d still be chasing the same creative goals as today, with the added performance pressure. 5 years ago it might have been an essential career move to attend a large and expensive conference, today many people argue that it’s not worth the time, let alone the money. And in the wake of the last decade a path of building relationships and networks over a number of years and projects has emerged in indie games.
We’ve changed everything about our approach through the years. The constant that remains over all these years is we still love making things and reaching people through that medium. We’ve gone from making games for our closest friends, to posting freeware PC games on forums, creating arcade inspired mobile games and now on to commercial PC games on storefronts. We’re committed to creating authentic experiences that mean something to us and balancing business, ethics and personal enjoyment in our pursuit.
Beyond that, what else matters?
If you’ve made it through all seven articles, thank you for coming on this journey with us. We’re proud of the ideas we’ve captured here but we’d love to hear feedback from any and all of you out there.