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Choosing Roman philosopher Lucio Anneo Seneca’s writings as the starting point for this talk, I’ll offer you my perspective on creativity and fabricating ideas, deeply conscious of how sometimes “less is more”. In the same vein as Ancient Roman thinkers and artists, I want to expose a serendipitous, sustainable approach to creative process in game design and development.
De Otio: How an Ancient Roman philosopher
can improve your craft as a Game Designer
Digital Dragons - 2020 Lecture
Guglielmo De Gregori, Lead Designer (Studio V)
Who I am and what I do
● Game Designer
● Versed in all-around game creation (writing, code, art)
● Currently working on historical visual novel Dark Renaissance
● History and Fine arts lover
● Fascinated by psychology, creativity and cognitive processes
● Game Jams enthusiasm
● Pretty much Italian
Otium vs. Negotium
John William Waterhouse - Dolce Far Niente (1880)
De otio: what Seneca thought about productive laziness
"Nature has assigned us a place and has placed
us in its center, giving us the ability to see what
surrounds us... above the upright position it has
placed the head up and a jointed neck, so that
it can be observed more easily..."
"Thought breaks down the barriers of the sky, it
is not satisﬁed with knowing what is shown to
the eye ”.
What the lockdown has taught me about time management
Lockdown and smart working: even more diﬃcult to determine diﬀerence
between work and free time! My takeaways:
● You will always coexist with yourself and your creativity
● Creating may imply struggle and obsession: so, it’s OK being struggling and
● Productive time for me needs to coexist with contemplative time (otium) or
the “productive laziness”
● And sometimes doing absolutely nothing is good, though
● Feeling of guilt are a capitalist burden
● Self-regulation is key. The only approach that works is the one that works for
John Carmack’s take: obsession is fulﬁlling
“Whatever the grand strategy for success is, it gets broken down into lots of smaller tasks.
When you hit a wall on one task, you could say “that’s it, I’m done for the day” and head
home, or you could switch over to something else that has a diﬀerent rhythm and get
more accomplished. Even when you are clearly not at your peak, there is always plenty to
do that doesn’t require your best, and it would actually be a waste to spend your best
time on it. You can also “go to the gym” for your work by studying, exploring, and
experimenting, spending more hours in service to the goal.”
“Given two equally talented people, the one that pursues a goal obsessively, for well over
40 hours a week, is going to achieve more. They might be less happy and healthy, but I’m
not even sure about that. Obsession can be rather fulﬁlling, although probably not across
an entire lifetime.”
Immanuel Kant and his famous walks
"Without my regular walks at eight in the evening,
neither the "Critique of Pure Reason nor the Critique
of Practical Reason would have seen the light”
Gaming Industry: Art vs. Productive Processes
● Video Games are a creative industry with artistic ambitions.
● It is based on underlying creative processes managed by human minds.
● We all have our commissioners: just like Leonardo.
● Work-life balance and self regulation includes slacking oﬀ: no need to be
● When it comes to games we still see a lot of abuse on long shift, burning
out, unpaid hours of work.
Art as a personal struggle
● Video games are art and art is made by people.
● Art is personal struggle, sometimes suﬀering,
sometimes joy. Yet, is based on (relative) freedom.
● If people suﬀer, games will be evidently plagued by
the suﬀering of people.
● Even if you not notice the suﬀering, it is no ethical
Consider this: Animal crossing was delayed and that was
such an hit and became a benchmark for wholesome
games making people cope with the lockdown.
Human mind is the most valuable game engine
● No magic at all: your mind is a machine able to
produce data and adopt behaviours with impact on
the apparently physical world.
● Creating implies using your mind just as you would
use your favorite game engine.
● You need to be aware of what this computer needs.
● Remember: no boundaries between you and your
Would you throw your computer out of the window and
expect it to work? You need to take care of yourself just
like you would care of your computer
● You're not giving leisure to yourself or to your employees because they will fare
better. This is not an equation, not impersonal: you’re not an hamster on a wheel.
● You’re always entitled to being momentarily unproductive because, as an an artist,
you rely on a cognitive process that is fueled by otium.
● Your apparent non-productivity is part of the process: there’s not turning oﬀ
button for creative mind.
● You're not giving the stick and the carrot to yourself: you're creating a safe
ecosystem where you’re able to live your artistic self all the time, truly achieving
the quest for being yourself.
Group Report: Coziness in Games: An Exploration of Safety, Softness, and Satisﬁed
Vittorio Sgarbi’s discourses on Leonardo (Italian only)
John Carmack’s thread on productivity