Valve, the company famous for the Half Life, Portal and Left for Dead game series, is a rare gem indeed. From top to bottom, Valve prides itself on not having managers. Financed personally, the founders never had anyone else to answer to (except, of course, their customers). Within the organization, employees live and breathe a “flat” mantra – everyone is equal and autonomous. Teams form organically without assignments, no one serves anyone else, peers measure performance and everyone ranks each other for salary bumps. While somewhat anarchistic and inefficient, this chaotic and creative environment continues to birth instant classics. Valve releases nothing until it’s perfect. While this may sound idyllic and utopian, it’s actually working for them. I encourage you to read Valve’s Handbook for New Employees to learn more. Can this model apply to other organizations and industries?
There is a general cynicism lately about human progress in the cultural, commercial, physical, and spiritual realm. This week’s South Park had a brilliant (albeit gruesome and disgusting) commentary on contracting the disease, “cynicism,” where everything starts looking and sounding like “shit.” Many individuals (not just me) watch in angst as large companies roll out recycled shlock and menial improvements. A lot of the criticism directed at all companies showcasing video games at the E3 gaming conference this week sang to the beat of “It seemed more like a catch-up game than something completely different.” Nintendo and Playstation announced entirely new gaming consoles, and yet they came off as incremental and uninspired updates in struggle to catch up to the aggressively expanding mobile games market. Only sequels gained traction at the conference, no original game-changing titles. I hold the same criticism of Apple’s latest products: iPad 2, iCloud, OS X Lion, and iOS 5 boast only minor improvements to the user experience that update on and catch up to some superior features of competitors in the computing space. We live in a world farming updates, too distracted by the noise around us to make meaningful, poignant change.
Our world is evolving quickly, but do not mistake evolution for revolution. Evolution is a slow, gradual, step-by-step process that takes time and energy. Revolution is a leap, a blindside, a change that catches us all by surprise. Evolution is differentiation. Revolution is different. Evolution is a hybrid transition between new and old. Revolution does not look back. Evolution is missing the letter ‘R’ at the front, and that letter ‘R’ means business. I have not seen a revolution in the cultural, commercial, physical, and spiritual realm for some time.
Revolution is a modern virtue. How can you build something revolutionary? Use the Reference Test: can you or anyone else compare your creation directly to another creation already existing?
Hollywood pitch culture is a perfect example. Somewhere in the early nineties, producers made the habit of pitching movies as “this” meets “that.” “Terminator” meets “Home Alone.” “Cool Runnings” meets “Blade Runner.” “Veggie Tales” meets “Godzilla.” The problem? Mixing old shit together does not make it new. It simply makes it old shit mixed together. Can anyone compare your movie idea directly to other films already in existence?
If your work comes off as a hybrid between this and that, or an update to something already in existence, then you have not pushed the button hard enough. Push harder. Twist your perspective. See the light. Open your mind. Forget the world around you. Look deep inside. Be true to yourself. Be human. Be real. You are capable of inventing something the world has never seen.
Stop at nothing to change the world. Start a revolution.
All I can say today is “Tower Defense: Lost Earth.” A friend from USC, Joe Spradley, and a team of guys in Korea authored this amazing, addicting, and challenging iOS mobile game. I’ve been playing it all day and cannot stop.
For all you iPhoners, download this baby, support these guys, and play it to your heart’s content. You won’t regret it.
Have you ever wanted to tag public monuments with graffiti? Cockfight pet velociraptors? Bomb your neighbor’s house? Debate philosophy with a British rabbit? Experience hallucinations without psychotropic drugs? Or perhaps adventure with the Mario Brothers in your own backyard? Well, my friend, I bring great news: that future is near.
Recently, there have been exciting developments in the augmented reality space. Unlike virtual reality, which replaces the real world with a simulated one, augmented reality enhances your real-world environment by embellishing it with computer-generated graphics and sound through the lens of a mobile device (tablet computer, smartphone, etc.). As the processing and sensory input hardware of these devices improve, engineers and designers are able to render more and more compelling images to your live feed. Perhaps the most sophisticated demonstration I have seen to date was engineered by Sony:
The future of augmented reality knows no bounds.
There is room for AR in health – imagine researching the nutritional value of your meal by scanning it with your phone or charting physical therapy improvement automatically through mobile video recordings.
There is room for AR in games – imagine interacting with characters or battling friends in real space.
There is room for AR in education – imagine pulling encyclopedia articles on an object by scanning it or embarking on digital scavenger hunts in real environments.
There is room for AR in art – imagine tagging your surroundings with artwork or navigating a collage of photos captured in your present space.
And there is room for AR in social – imagine leaving messages for friends on physical walls or seeing through walls altogether to locate your friend on the other side.
Imagine several worlds layered on top of the real world, brand new reality spectra to explore and conquer. The opportunities to create and discover await. I encourage you to watch this sector carefully.