"Catch-23."

Quandaries, Conundrums, Contradictions, and Oxymora of the Game Biz.

January 2003

NOTE: these lessons are primarily aimed at aspiring game designers, but many of the concepts described herein also apply to those who aspire to other types of jobs in the game industry. This lesson is subject to changes and improvements; reader comments are welcome.




What is Catch-23?

Depending on your education, how well-read you are, and/or the amount you've listened to your elders (old fogies like me who are products of the sixties), you may or may not have heard of (much less actually read) the Joseph Heller novel Catch-22. The novel takes place during World War II, in Italy, on an Army Air Force base. The main character, Captain Yossarian, a bombardier, wants to get out of the war. He keeps asking the psychiatrist, Doc Daneeka, for a Section 8 discharge (discharge based on mental instability). But there's a catch. Catch-22. You can't be let out of the army unless you ask. But if you ask to be let out of the army, you're not insane, so the psychiatrist can't recommend discharge for Section 8.

But I digress.

I read that book several times during my college days, during the Vietnam war. (Okay, so I'm old. Get over it.) If you'd told me back then that I would eventually become a designer of video games, I would have told you you were crazy (there was no such thing as a "video game" back then, for one thing). But anyway, here I am. Catch-22 still has a lot of meaning to me. And I think there are applicable principles in the business of making games. The name Catch-22 is already taken, so I'm calling this "Catch-23."


This Is All So Confusing! What Am I Supposed To Do?

Remember what I said in Lesson 3 about winners and whiners. Don't spend any energy complaining about the nonsense that goes on in the biz. You're a creative person, or you wouldn't be going into this business. Use that creativity to figure out a way to deal with it. Think of it as a game.

Send me your suggestions and observations of more contradictions you've encountered or observed in the game biz. The good ones will be added to this article, and you'll be credited. Post them on the bulletin board.


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© 2003-2004 Tom Sloper. All rights reserved. May not be re-published without written permission of the author.