The Soul of a New Machine

Pope Kim Jan 17, 2009

Engineers are aesthetes - Tracy Kidder

So are game developers… well… at least some of them are…. well… almost… - Me

I've finally finished a book called, The Soul Of A New Machine. It took me about 4 years because this book is about 1 million pages…. okay I am kidding. I started to read this book while I was at BCIT, and I got really busy, so I couldn't continue. And I totally forgot about this book until recently when I finally picked it up again and started to read.

This book is about a group of Data General engineers who devoted their life to make a new computer back in late 70s. Who wouldn't call it a devotion when they worked like over 80 hours a week without weekends and holidays for about 1.5 years, and for sure no overtime pay.

Why did they do that? Are they stupid?

That's exactly the same question I often ask to myself. Why do I do that? What's really driving me like this? I know it's not money for sure. I don't mind making tons of money, but that's not what drives me. Even DG engineers were not rewarded after the machine's huge success. The best answer I can think of for this "syndrome" is challenge. There is a rare breed of people who is always looking for new challenges. After conquering an almost-impossible-to-solve challenge, they move to a-little-more-impossible-to-solve challenge. Why? Because everyone needs excitement to be happy in their life, and conquering challenges is the only way to excite this rare breed. Harder challenges bring more excitement, that is. And without it, their life is hollow, making them feel empty. Fortunately, and unfortunately, I believe I belong to this species. I've been throwing myself hard problems and trilled whenever they were overcome, but I still want more without knowing why I am doing this. It's just a big cycle that happens again and again for years. The only difference is that I'm now trying to solve harder problems than a couple of years ago: all the other things, including the anxiety, are still the same.

There is only one problem with these people: they don't know what to do after retirement. I think I will have this problem, too.

It would be very interesting if someone writes a book about game developers (not a dumb fiction like J-Pod, though) because our life seems to be as harsh as those engineers quite often. But do I complain? Nope. I enjoy hell a lot of it.