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none of us is as dumb as all of us

Ants

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I’m really just starting to get my feet wet in terms of writing for video games.  There are a lot of basic elements that cross over from writing plays to writing adventure games (character, story, world, etc.), but there are also some pretty big differences, particularly the experience of writing as a group.  Playwrights usually toil away in isolation, THEN get on the collaborative train.  However, in our writers’ room, we hash out the story and characters together, then take away small pieces to write.  Soon we’ll be going back in as a group to weave these pieces into a coherent and consistent whole.

We joke in the writer’s room that at least “none of us is as dumb as all of us,” a phrase featured on demotivational poster from despair.com.  I really believe that the opposite is true and the science of emergence (WNYC’s Radiolab) backs me up.  A group of ants is virtually brainless, but together as a colony they accomplish great things — they farm, keep animals, build turrets to keep flood rains from getting into their nest.  In Matt Ridley’s TED Talk “When Ideas Have Sex,” he argues that the things that make human beings thrive is their ability to collaborate—no individual knows how to do everything that goes into making a computer mouse, but collectively we can accomplish such a feat.  In 1906, Sir Francis Galton found that a diverse crowd  at a livestock fair who took individual guesses at the weight of an ox were individually very wrong, but the mean of the collective guesses was closer, almost exact in fact, than any individual guess.  Not that we are ants or a bunch of 20th century fair-goers, by any means, but all of us, with our various strengths, are writing a damn compelling game, and we’re doing it faster than expected.

So.  Isolated genius?  I don’t buy it.  Toiling away in isolation only paves the way for mediocre ideas to sprout into more mediocre ideas, unchecked and unchallenged.  Well, anyway, that’s this individual’s opinion…

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