On being ‘strategically creative’

When is the last time you really thought about why you have the creative hobbies you have? No, this isn’t about monetizing your every waking moment – it’s the opposite, quite honestly.

I’ve been thinking about goals lately, and what they have to do with creativity outside of our day jobs. Why did I set a goal of creating 12 Unity prototypes this year? Well, in a general sense, it’s because I like games, and I’m curious about how they’re made. And frankly, I think one of the most interesting areas for design is interaction with space – even simulated spaces. Combined with Unity’s relative approachability and the amount of learning resources, it seemed a natural fit given that I can code (poorly) and 3D model (also poorly).

But why “12 prototypes?” Why not “learn Unity” or “make a game”? Put shortly, “12 prototypes gives me a lot of room for failure. Unity is a huge ecosystem, and if my goal is to simply “learn Unity” does that mean I just want to do basic game logic in C#, or should I get into shader programming? What if my goal is to make a game? Well, then I need to do a whole bunch of learning anyway to make something that will, mostly likely, be crap – leading to a year that’s filled with disappointment. So I limit myself to prototypes (quick, imperfect, and educational), and I want to make a bunch of them to avoid over-investing in any area. That way, if I finish the year and I only get 8 done, I’ve still gotten over halfway to my goal and I still have something to show for it (as opposed to the abandoned game and tutorials I’d probably be staring at in GitHub if my goal was something else). But, because prototypes still imply that they do something, I still need to be intentional about my exploration to actually do something – not just daydream.

That’s it. No productivity hacks, no push to monetize my life – just a way to try to keep myself motivated to be curious so that when the next thing comes along, I’m energized to try it.