Feb 032016
 

How many times do I have to tell you to close the gate to the abyss behind you?!

How many times do I have to tell you to close the gate to the abyss behind you?!

Once upon a time I built quantitative models. And building models is creative work. In general you have a vaguely defined problem and there are hundreds of ways of solving it. Freedom abounds!

When you develop models at a bank however there are a lot of rules, policies and regulations that you have to adhere to. There are managers that have opinions and a validation department that is going to check your work. Then if you’re (un)lucky the central bank will take an interest and do a final triple-check. Unless the audit department got to you first of course…

So even though in essence building models for a bank is creative work, in practice there are many many constraints. There is a narrow space in which you can try to shape your ideas. And though I wasn’t happy with this, I always took it as a fact of life, something you learn to live with.

Now I’m going through a different creative process, that of launching a startup.

All the policies that I have to adhere to I have to write myself. My manager is me. There is no validation unit, no audit. And I most sincerely expect that the Dutch National Bank isn’t going to be taking an interest in the startup any time soon.

Which means that there are no limitations, no boundaries. Freedom!

Except… When everything is possible, when there are no limits, where do you go? What do you do? I can’t try every possible option, I can’t even think of every possible option!

There is this gargantuan void staring me in the face, mocking me to make something out of it, to choose the best option. Out of thousands. Millions. An infinity!

Any choice is freedom reducing. The thing about freedom then perhaps is not its perpetuation, but having the possibility of making satisfying choices.
So to I started creating my own boundaries, limiting my freedom. I will do something with board games (and not computer games, formula one racing or space exploration). I will do something with smart devices (so not just a board game consisting of a board and cards). It has to make money eventually (not entirely sure what would make money, but I do know a lot of things that won’t make money).

And so bit by bit I make choices, cut away huge swath of the possibility-space. Shrinking the gargantuan void to something that my mind can encompass.

In part it feels like a loss; of choice, of freedom. But you can’t stare in the abyss for too long and expect to keep your sanity…


Bastiaan ReininkI’m Bastiaan. This blog is meant to give you some insight into the things I run into and perhaps to inspire you to go in search of your own life extraordinaire.

If you enjoyed this (or another) post, if you have something to add or to ask, I would really appreciate it if you would leave a comment!

Jan 252016
 

I couldn't find any appropriate pictures so I completely randomly took this one because of its pretty colors

I couldn’t find any appropriate pictures for this post so I completely randomly took this one because of its pretty colors

Playing games is great! For some time you immerse yourself in a different universe, building cities or empires, defeating armies or dragons, being a hero!

And where my personal preference goes to board games, I fully understand the appeal of computer games as well (I’ve played more than my fair share of them; just a few more turns in Civilization… (And before you know it it’s 3 o’clock at night!))

The best of games you don’t ever want to stop. Let’s play once more! Just let me finish this level? More than once I’ve described a game as being addictive.

And in a very real sense, they are addictive: Action X givers response Y, which brings you closer to goal Z. Your brain is learning and it’s loving it! Reward centers are light up and so it’ll keep on doing the same thing to keep getting that buzz (until the other players really need to go home or your mom tells you that you have to go to bed now…).

This is what you paid for. You put down a fair amount of money and then you could enjoy your game for as long as it stayed interesting. Because at some point you’ll have figured it out; you know the best strategies, you beat the end boss. The learning stops, the buzz stops. And thus you stop playing.

Unless it doesn’t. Unless you get new content. New levels, new things to try, new lessons to learn, new ways of activating the pleasure centers, new morsels to feed the addiction. Still, you might say you’re just getting really good value for money.

Unless you don’t. Because maybe you got the game for free. And it really is free, you don’t need to pay a dime to play. As long as you’re willing to accept a few minor minor nuisances. Like having to wait for a few minutes to retry a level. Or like having to try a level over and over again until finally (after many times waiting for a few minutes) you bash your way through it.

Or you could remove some of those nuisances. And really, it’s very cheap. A few cents and you get an extra life, or you don’t have to wait, or you can skip a level altogether. And you can go back to playing, back to lighting up those pleasure centers like they’re a Christmas tree.

Many people don’t, seeing it for the trap it is. But many people do. Because really, what’s a few cents? And so you pay once.

Which is the beginning of a new habit. Before it was: Play => Pleasure. Then it became: Play => Get stuck => Persist => Pleasure. But now it’s: Play => Get stuck => Pay => Pleasure.

So after doing it once, you’ll do it twice. And if you do it twice, you do it a hundred or a thousand times over. A thousand times a few cents… It starts to add up.

Of course, for the other side, the company that made the game, this is a pure gold-mine! They discovered the same business model as crack-dealers: Get someone to “try” your stuff for free until they are addicted, then milk them for everything they’ve got.

“But people make their own choice in playing these games!” Just like a heroine addict makes their own choice…
Literally millions are made by pushing addictive substances on the unsuspecting public. That in my book is evil! Worse, there is absolutely nothing illegal about this!

Now, I am launching a startup around games. And there is a very strong possibility that there will be a digital / online component. For any game to be fun it has to push the right buttons, it has to provide pleasure. So the beginnings of an addiction machine, of an evil empire are there…

For now I’d like to believe I wouldn’t be able to look myself in the eye if I went down that path. But what if things are going bad, debts are due, wages need to be paid…? Taking the moral high ground is easy when things are going well, but if you’re struggling just to survive?

Maybe I should make a game in which you have to defeat the evil games corporation empire? :-)


Bastiaan ReininkI’m Bastiaan. This blog is meant to give you some insight into the things I run into and perhaps to inspire you to go in search of your own life extraordinaire.

If you enjoyed this (or another) post, if you have something to add or to ask, I would really appreciate it if you would leave a comment!

Jan 122016
 

Do you have to be crazy to make pretty pictures (or create anything else interesting?)

Do you have to be crazy to make pretty pictures (or create anything else interesting?)

Do you know the feeling you get when you have a muscle age and you stretch? It hurts but at the same time it feels really good!

I’m having the mental equivalent of that right now.

I’m on my way to London and for the first time I’m doing that by train. For last few hours I’ve been going back and forth between reading about game design, furiously jotting down ideas, inspiration, quotes and thoughts on my phone, and writing longer pieces about game design on my laptop.

They all feed into each other. And whatever I’m working on, at the same time I want to be working on the other parts. It aches to limit myself to only one part of it!

Time is linear, which makes life linear. You can only do one thing at a time and trying to multi-task makes things worse, not better. Minds on the other hand are massively parallel experience machines, capable of doing many things concurrently, thinking many thoughts at the same time. Or at least, the subconscious part of the mind is. And perhaps that explains the need for a consciousness, to translate between the linear of the outside world and the parallel of the inside world?

Taking the train to London has been a very good experiment. It takes a bit longer but it’s way more relaxed! I’ll try one more time (on the way back) but I’m considering doing this more often.
Ideas are bubbling up from my subconscious faster than the conscious part of the mind can do something useful with them. Because the subconscious does need the conscious, to transform electric impulses into something that exists in the real world (even if it is only in the form of words captured in different electrical impulses in my laptop). There is a drive to create, to capture the chaos inside and push it into order outside.

Is this how an artist feels? Is this what drives writers, painters, singers? Is this what drives them crazy at times?

I’ll try to let you know before I cut my ear off…


Bastiaan ReininkI’m Bastiaan. This blog is meant to give you some insight into the things I run into and perhaps to inspire you to go in search of your own life extraordinaire.

If you enjoyed this (or another) post, if you have something to add or to ask, I would really appreciate it if you would leave a comment!

Jan 072016
 

I always knew it: Life is a game!

I always knew it: Life is a game!

The reason I want to get into the board-game business is that I thoroughly enjoy playing them.

To understand the business better, I’ve been reading a book about game design. There I found a quote that really struck me: ”Work and play… Become equivalent to servitude and freedom.”

Especially in my current circumstances, this seems incredibly true.

Work is (was?) something I have (had?) to do. Sure, it could be interesting, sometimes even fun. But there was always a feeling that I had to do it. In first instance because I needed money for food, mortgage and beer (to drown the memories of the workplace). And in second instance because I promised that I would do what we agreed upon. And not just what we agreed upon, but also when it would be done.

Right now there is nothing that I have to do. Through my previous years of servitude I saved enough money to last me for a decent while. Sure, I have some thoughts in the back of my head that at some point I’m going to need fresh cash, but at this point that is low on my list of motivators. Instead, I get to do what I want.

A second quote from the book: ”A game is a problem solving exercise, approached with a playful attitude.”

”Life is like being involved in an obscure and complex variant of poker in a pitch-dark room, with blank cards, for infinite stakes, with a Dealer who won’t tell you the rules, and who smiles all the time.” – Free after Terry Pratchet
I’m trying to solve a problem. A ridiculously difficult problem (or so it seems where I am right now). The problem of turning all of these ideas I have in my head into a viable business.

Combining the first quote with the freedom I have, I can say that I’m playing.

And with some sloppy inductive logic that from the second quote I can conclude: I’m playing a game!


Bastiaan ReininkI’m Bastiaan. This blog is meant to give you some insight into the things I run into and perhaps to inspire you to go in search of your own life extraordinaire.

If you enjoyed this (or another) post, if you have something to add or to ask, I would really appreciate it if you would leave a comment!

Jan 042016
 

I'm sure I'll figure it all out eventually...

I’m sure I’ll figure it all out eventually…

Today is my first “real” day at my new “job” (I don’t usually manage two sets of quotation marks in the same sentence…).

Today is the first day in which I’m fully focused on my new company.

And boy, that takes some getting used to!

Most importantly, it means getting rid of a lot of ideas that were baked into my brain in 10 years of working as a body-and-brains-for-hire.

Yesterday I didn’t set an alarm, so I woke up after a gorgeous 9.5 hours of sleep. A bit later than I would normally do for a work day (ok, quite a bit later…). But who is going to tell me off? Me?!?

Then my entire travel time consisted of walking down my stairs (saving approximately 40 minutes compared to what I was used to in London).

Sitting down I actually was looking forward to getting a whole lot of stuff done (whereas at an assignment I didn’t really care about the work itself that much, it was more about people being happy with what I did).

Then, really doing the work is hard! I’m very much in the process of figuring out what I have to figure out, which means thinking a lot. And it’s quite different from the thinking that I used to do at an assignment. There sometimes a lot of brainpower was needed to figure out the difficult bits of mathematics that I had to deal with, but it was clear that there was an answer. Now it’s not about finding an answer, it’s deciding what to do. In what order. With whom. Where. And perhaps most importantly of all, why?!

I usually spent my first day on the job reading a lot of documents to figure out what it is the company / department actually does. This time round I find myself writing those documents…
Not having a boss (well, me) means I can do whatever I want. The freedom of which is awesome! And hard! I have to motivate myself (even if, as sketched above, things are difficult). Am writing this personal blog post, even though I’m still in “working hours” (says who?). Though the post is about work. And taking a brake from deep thinking actually helps my subconscious to process things (or at least that is what I tell myself). So am I being “useful” for the company or not? Do I need to even worry about that?!

More importantly, is it about “making hours”? When I was a contractor I sold myself by the day, got paid by the hour. And an important reason for wanting to get out of that was so that I could build something which would then produce the things that would be sold. In essence creating a multiplier for the effectiveness of my time.

And once that was more-or-less in place, I would want to use that multiplier to reduce the amount of time I worked (as opposed to increase the amount of money I earned). It feels as though I should be working 8 hours per day. But again, according to whom?

I’m sure that soon enough this will become the “new normal”. But until then I’ve got some figuring out to do.

Any tips, tricks or suggestions?


Bastiaan ReininkI’m Bastiaan. This blog is meant to give you some insight into the things I run into and perhaps to inspire you to go in search of your own life extraordinaire.