I played baseball for over 10 years in the past and there are some lessons that are applicable also to game production and leadership.
#1 – Sometimes there are not so good days
I remember when I was about 15 years old and on one summer I was learning to hit the ball to pretty long distances. Our coach was pleased with this and we trained this “new trick” over and over before the upcoming match.
When the match started, I remember getting instructions from the coach to try hitting those long shots I took earlier when training. I didn’t manage to hit the ball long even once. The coach was patient and we both knew what I should do and kept trying. In the end I had several opportunities to try hitting the ball as long as possible, but couldn’t succeed no matter how hard I tried. It just wasn’t my day that day – and coach also understood that.
Some days just are like that – you cannot expect every day to be all glory.
#2 – Sometimes there are good days
Then on the other hand I remember playing one of the best matches sometime before I quit playing baseball. I was maybe 18 or 19 and remember that no matter what I tried to do – I succeeded. I remember I hit short distances and long distances, and everything I did happened the way I wanted. I even remember when I hit one poor ball and accidentally the ball flew in a good spot. Even when I “failed”, for some reason I was lucky and got it right.
I’ve noticed that this happens also in game production (and life in general): sometimes there are good days, and sometimes not so good days. Sometimes things just don’t go well, but you have to keep doing what you want and eventually at some day everything will go the right way.
#3 – Concentrate on your own game
This is something I learned from the matches: I don’t think we ever had the problem that we would had need to watch for the mistakes made by the opponent. Most of the time the problem was our own game: we had to concentrate on our own game and keep it simple.
I think checking out competition in games and in business is okay, but I also think focusing too much on the competition is not going to help you. Basically I think you gotta do a darn good job by yourself. Balance is needed in this.
#4 – Don’t shout at the judges
I think I’ve heard our team members shouting at judges and complaining about their decisions hundreds of times. What I don’t recall is that it would have helped even once: the judges who were shouted at turned even more stubborn – and it probably did more harm than good to complain.
I don’t see there’s much reason to shout or whine (in baseball, life, work – or anywhere). If you have something to tell, you can tell what you think about and that’s it. Getting somebody on your side is not going to happen by shouting at him – this will probably just reinforce the opposite view.
The way to get people to see your point-of-view, is to first look at the situation from their point-of-view. Agreeing on something, and then presenting your alternative ideas gently.
#5 – Too heavy baseball batt should be changed
When I was a kid, I remember I was hitting the ball with a too heavy baseball batt – and it sure didn’t go well. There was a simple solution to this problem: a lighter batt!
Similarly in game production you really have to ponder what kind of tools you really need. You don’t need to have the most complex, the most expensive production software. Sometimes switching to a lighter alternatives might make things easier.
Just because “everybody else is using complex tools” doesn’t mean you should too.
#6 – Roles are important
I usually was player number 2, which meant I usually needed to get the first player from base one to base two. I sort of “specialized” in this job, and it suited well for me. There were other guys who were doing something else.
When you think about game production, it’s no different: you have people doing different things. Some people might do art, some music, some code – some manage the project. Indies might be exception to this rule since they often are lone wolfs, but even indies might consider using specialized services (such as outsourced art).
In baseball it worked fine – and it also works in game production.
#7 – Hamburgers and chips – rewards – are good
Then the juiciest lesson: after matches we went to eat hamburgers and chips. Boy it was a pleasure to get some junk food after matches.
Don’t forget rewards: they play important role in game production. Rewards can be anything from hamburgers to trips to different countries. Reward yourself. Reward your team.
And for the record, it was Finnish baseball I played.