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Critique on data driven development

by James Mearman on 10/02/18 09:15:00 am

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.


Image of DeepThought thinking statistics

A-B tests, analytics and other forms of data mining have grown rapidly over the past decades. For many companies and individuals it is almost impossible to imagine creating anything without the aid of these statistics and the algorithms they built based off the data they could gather. But how is this data actually shaping it's own reality and fooling us to step away from creating what we actually wanted to create?

I have worked in a handful of companies with countless creative and brilliant colleagues and witnessed the rise of data driven development fashions and for me it reached a point where I felt alienated from my own creations. That was not what I've set out to do when I first dreamed of making games. So I left to find life on my own.

What happened to this medium that has such great potential? Games (or Playfulness in general) are at the heart of how we create our entire world and all realities within. Video games combine the great arts of mind and expression to form an experience that we can share with others. Like a story or a song, this sharing of expression is how we communicate hope, pain, desires and other things that we feel are relevant.

Today I see plenty of creations that have been constructed to please a specific audience by following specific schemes. Tailored presentations that have been diluted within the creation process to align with data structures that aim to satisfy the largest possible numbers. What is left from the original idea is often only a thin layer of shiny plastic illusions.

Is it still us that make these games or have these nifty, clever algorithms and data structures begun to invoke their own reality and force us to create their games? 

In my opinion no algorithm will ever be able to become a finer tool than the brains that created them. So for me that data is just wasted time that holds us back from developing our own inner skills that allow us to create beyond contemporary fashions and trends. Skills that allow us to shape our own reality and share that with others. This approach does certainly hold much greater risks and surely will not be a popular path for most 'modern' tec companies for that same reason. But I know that at the initial root of every creation, there once was a beautiful idea. 

I want you to remember this initial feeling and let that be your guide, not numbers or machines.

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