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  • Women In Games Boston- Celia Pierce's Confessions of a Serial Instigator

    This week, I went to the Women In Games Boston December Party. This month, WIG hosted their meetup at Northeastern University, led by guest speaker and Northeastern faculty member, Celia Pierce. Celia Pearce, co-founder of IndieCade, is an associate professor of game design at Northeastern University. For the past thirty plus years, she has suffered from compulsive instigation syndrome, an uncontrollable desire to start new things. She also shared some of her successes and failures and presented some of her insights on what is required to start something new. 

    Celia shared with us her rules of thumb for starting something new:

    1. When opportunity knocks, pick up the phone. 

    2. We can have lots of ideas, but are scared to actually do them. In ideas, begin to-do lists.

    3. If someone implements an idea you had, think of it as something to check off your to-do list. 

    4. If your primary concern is making money, it's likely that you will fail. Most of the people interested in money do not want to take risks. 

    5. Run the opposite direction of the lemmings. Celia told us a story as an example: She was walking in a very crowded subway area, and was presented with the choice of going up the escalator, which was jam packed with people, or going up the elevator, which was empty. Instead of the taking the path most followed (the escalator), she chose to take the elevator, and almost immediately people started following her. Take the path less followed. 

    6. Learn from the pros. Find a mentor and learn from them. 

    7. Be willing to make colossal failures and redefine success. For example, many people find that having lots of money is what makes you successful. Celia finds that doing something meaningful that resonates with people is the definition of success. 

    8. Fail better! If you do fail, it's really good to understand why you failed so you can avoid it next time. Be willing to let this failure go and move on to the next thing. 

    9. Don't take "no" for an answer, but be willing to wait for a yes. 

    10. If you're ahead of your time, wait for the world to catch up. 

    11. If you have things to do, give it to a busy person. 

    12. No virtuous action will go unpunished.

    13. Play well with others. New things require support. 

    14. Listen. Get buy-in. Take feedback. 

    15. The best idea is the one that has a life of its own after you walk away. For example, if Celia was no longer a part of Indiecade, it would run on its own anyway because of how strong it is. 

    16. People who are good at starting things aren't always good at running them. Find people who can implement your ideas. 

    Celia then went on to discuss some of the initiatives she has been involved with creating, including IndieCade, XYZ, an exhibition about women game designers, the USC School of Cinematic Arts Interactive Media program, the new BFA in Games at Northeastern, and other projects. She had many stories to share, and I'll share some of them with you. Firstly, Celia helped to start the Master's program at the USC School of Cinematic Arts Interactive Media and Games Division, with no idea that the best game designers in the world would eventually come from there. I've personally worked with students from this program, and they indeed have always been phenomenal and eager to try new things!

    She also helped to start the Arts Computation and Engineer program at UC Irvine. This was meant to be an interdisciplinary program between the arts and engineering, but failed due to lack of resources. Celia also credits this failure as an example of people who are good at starting things, but not good at running them. 

    Celia also helped found the Digital Games Research Association. There was nothing of its kind at the time, and there were tons of information about games out there, but no central location for people to access it. Someone identified this gap, and did something about it- a great quality and reason for starting something new. 

    Celia then went on to co-found Indiecade, and has also served as its chair. She described how Indiecade redefined what independent actually meant by diversifying its submission pool to include minorities and other genres of games. Again, someone identified a gap, and solved it. 

    The meet-up came with lots of awesome questions for Celia as well. 

    Q: When you have so many ideas, how do you know which one is worth pursuing? 

    A: Traction. Find someone who is also on board with your idea and wants to engage with it. This helps to make the idea move. 

    Q: When you find something interesting, how do you gage the value of that idea? How do you materialize that idea?

    A: If you're an artist and there's a story you want to tell, figure out how to do it without need anyone's approval. Talking about your ideas early and often helps protect you. Do your homework, and you'll know if what you've done is actually original. A lot people come up with up with ideas they're not capable of implementing. If you can do it on your own, screw everyone else and just do it. The important thing is to know your limitations. 

    Q: How do you evaulate who should be on your team?

    A: Go to events where other game developers are found. You'll meet someone that will resonate with you, either because of their personality, work, or both. Ask for recommendations and participate in informal networking. Concept boards are ways to show what you can do really helps too. You can also barter to work on each other's games. Keep realistic expectations. 

    Q: What's the best way to share ideas?

    A: Don't hide your ideas. Design blogs help you work through your process and have other people watch. Submit your prototypes and ideas to expos and other groups for feedback. Show your work in progress as early as possible.

    Also, never underestimate the power of a niche. Take the risk on an audience that's been underserved. Unanticipated audience are pretty great. For example, when Angry Birds was made, the demographic was most likely for children ages 3-12. Who would've thought that the Baby Boomer generation would have picked up on it? Think about the demographics who don't have much content. 

    This was a very informative and helpful presentation, and I encourage all of you to go to Women In Games monthly meetup!

    Have a great week, everyone! 

    Natalia Perez