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Category: Personal

Freedom, security and work-life balance

In our career, like in other areas of our life, we play with two main things: security and freedom. The general rule is that the more security less freedom. The more freedom less security.

  • When you go alone as a freelancer, you have more freedom but less security, in theory.
  • When you work for a company, you have more security but less freedom. Also, in theory.

The reality is that often is safer to go as a freelancer. In fact, if you lose one client you have another couple backing you up. And regarding freedom… well, you have the worst possible boss: yourself.

When you work for a company it’s true that you have less freedom of choice, but the security thing… You can see the latest news, companies are firing the people who contributed to making millions. Is that security? I feel more safe as independent, honestly.

It’s about work-life balance

How to deal with security and freedom? Think about your work-life balance. And with that term, I don’t mean the same that everyone means. I don’t mean the time you spend at work versus the time you spend with the rest of your life. That is not the way I see it.

To me, work is part of life and not a separate thing to balance against life.

  1. Where do I want to live?
  2. Why am I doing this?
  3. Who are the people I am dealing with every day?
  4. What are the challenges I am facing right now?
  5. How will I solve the problems I have?

In this order, in my case. Work-life balance to me is about working on the balance of work-related things in my life.

Right now I am a freelancer with great clients. Tomorrow I will be leading a team in a big company. Or tomorrow I will run my own agency. It doesn’t really matter.

The important thing is to focus on the present because that influences this very moment. It’s a matter of security and freedom, looking at them with the lens of discernment. Work-life balance it’s not about what it could be. It’s about what it is.

The mission of Sentendo

My mission.

This is day two since the big decision. Yesterday I published a banner. Today I have another claim better suited to online communication.

I want to tell you a little about my vision. When analyzing the target audience of a game, first of all we have to find the right fantasy to meet. Fantasy is the aspirational aspect of the game. Being a juggler, traveling the whole world, traveling through space. Some fantasy can be abstract. Think of Candy Crush Saga, which offers the fantasy of ordering an open box of sweets. Or Clash Royale where the fantasy is to dominate the opponent.

It’s about understanding people’s dreams and desires to resonate with them on a deep level. And it’s not something abstract. I have developed a very practical method to do it. My secret sauce that makes me have happy customers all over the world.

A compelling fantasy helps create more engaging experiences. And this translates into concrete numbers. Two KPIs that measure the result of a good strategy of this type:

  1. Average session time: you know those games that make you forget what time it is?
  2. Average number of sessions per day: you have a free moment, you decide to open the game again to be able to disconnect. The number of times you open the game is a clear sign of interest.

It is a question of carrying out a qualitative research of the gaming market aimed at:

  • analysis of existing games in this light
  • engagement with their communities
  • competitors playtest to structure the whole design of the game or feature (in case of live operations)

The process takes the form of deliverables that vary from a simple power-point to playable prototypes. Passing through spreadsheets, which are the most used tool by game designers. I design concrete levels in Unity and craft narratives using the most common tools.

I truly believe in this vision and I am pleased to share it with you readers. Wish me luck!

We as space of possibilities

The very fact of choosing to work in a specific sector exposes us to many possibilities.

The video game is one of the businesses where those who work are also customers of this type of product. This exposes you to so many things, some can hurt very much.

So how did I get past the 7-year lifespan average in this industry, then? Thinking about it, there is a mix of a few merits and many things that have been given to me. Things a person can’t control.

An important step is to think in the space of possibilities.

Something so dear to us designers is also present in our lives.
– if I’m developing a game there is a possibility of making a big hit. But there is also the possibility of failing to finish the game, or not getting enough profits.
– if I’m sending resumes around, there is a possibility of getting a job. But there is also the possibility of receiving a lot of rejections and not being able to get any fits for a while.

When anything happens it is because there was a possibility that it would happen.

Knowing this, instead of thinking of ourselves as characters in a story, we can look at ourselves as a field where stories happen.

What if we look at ourselves as a space of possibilities?

I am not a pawn, a knight, or a rook. I’m not even the queen.
Maybe I can start thinking I’m the game board, where various movements can happen in sequence.

Accept things as they are and, when a match ends (as it always does), just let another start. Always.

(Photo from 2007, my first GameCon fair in Naples. We were presenting a series of arcade games. I was scripting those games in Lua, on a Linux system. The one in the photo combined puzzle match with soccer)

Thank you, bad managers

This weekend I was sorting out some old notes and papers. I’m one of those game designers who print documents and read them aloud. I don’t know the science behind it, but it’s a method that works for me to find redaction issues in design documents.

Like many, I have participated in countless projects that have failed. There is one common problem in my case: bad leaders. However, I feel like I’ve learned a lot. Working on a game that is later canceled or unreleased is an experience that contains a little death. Especially for creative people, those who would have done it another way. People who are constantly learning about best practices. Who would actually like to put those practices into action. People who have to adapt to a direction that too often has nothing creative about it.

You enter a vicious circle, where you get stressed. Putting the documents in order, I realize that the journey counts for a lot anyway. I hope to get better final results in the next 10 years, but I believe that even working on a hopeless project is a great opportunity. I feel I have to thank all those who have granted it to me and believed in me.

Thankful for being here

Yesterday I read a very interesting publication with advice on how to find work in the video game industry.

I’ve noticed that in other technology sectors lately, it’s more companies that are looking to hire people, than the other way around. The reality is that the video game industry is a lot of people’s dream job.

It amazes me when I think back on everything I had to do to stay there. And we are always in the balance, our career can always end for physical, and psychological reasons and in general related to our path.

So I can only thank you for still being here.

Second love letter to the juniors

Dear junior,

One of those moments of radical change has arrived in our sector. I think you too have seen a beautiful image or a surprisingly well-written text. You will certainly have noticed that artificial intelligence algorithms have learned to generate content that is indistinguishable from human content.

I think we are ahead of a revolution, like the one that happened years ago with the arrival of 3D technologies. The revolution will inevitably involve the world of game development.

Not only do these tools allow for quick content generation, but they also learn from all the people who are entering their prompts. It is likely that in a short time the AI will optimize also the creative part of writing prompts.

There have been abuses in my opinion. Developers trained these systems with content taken from the web, without the consent of the people who generated them. Think of everything you’ve written on the Internet, think of all the articles, think of all the images posted on the most famous sites. Someone took all these images, codes, and texts and fed the algorithm which is now able to accurately imitate even the style of concrete people. I don’t know if this thing will be punished sooner or later. However, “the omelet is done”, as we say in Italy, and now these tools are there.

What does this mean to you?

The goal is human replacement

First of all, this technology has the main goal of replacing humans in certain activities. Those tools are capable to be faster of any artistic process. However, nothing can replace a human being. Our learning capacity is far superior to any existing mainframe. We are already quite capable, almost instinctively, of recognizing most AI-generated art. Did you noticed that? In the case of video games, one of the things that drive people all over the world to play games is the chance to see something created by other people.

This admiration surprises us, we like to talk about it with friends and online. “Have you seen the new God of War? They did an incredible job!”. It’s not God of War itself that surprises us as a game, it’s the thought that there are people who have been able to do this that creates a market. Games entirely made by AI will never have a big market, don’t worry. There will probably appear some pantomime of a game. And maybe someone will get rich thanks to that. But it will never be a big market, that’s my bold prediction.

Less bullshit jobs available

The second point is that surely someone will think about hiring fewer inexperienced people. In fact, many junior professionals are hired to support seniors in smaller tasks. Think of an RPG, maybe there are secondary characters in a city that the Players will visit. These characters will have barks to say, and these barks are usually left to junior writers. It will probably be possible to automate this process using AI. So that, it will so no longer be necessary to have a junior person who writes these contents. It will be enough to have only one person who will edit things already written by a machine.

However, studios will always need senior staff. And senior people inevitably have to go through the junior stage. It is convenient for the studios to also hire juniors so that one day they will become seniors. There will be less work, that’s for sure. If a company thinks of just automating, it means that that company doesn’t appreciate the value of human imagination. It means you won’t get that job, but that job was probably a bullshit job. You saved yourself a problem, believe me. My advice? Learn the techniques of your profession while also taking into account these new technologies. Be confident in your creative personality, but show that you also dominate these technologies.

We are afraid of The Terminator

The last point is that we don’t really know what will happen with all this. We can assume that the professional world will never be the same again. But we don’t know, maybe next week we discover a big scandal involving these new technologies. Maybe we will have proofs that someone stole intellectual property content from the web. As a result, regulators will shut down all these technologies. The world sometimes changes in a matter of a few hours. And this happens to us too! Therefore, when something really surprises us, the first reaction is defense. We think we’re going in the wrong direction, and maybe we’re even dramatic at times. Our defense mechanisms are also unpredictable. My final advice, therefore, is to accept the beauty of our nature as it is. Let all innovation amaze us, don’t be afraid of anything. ‘Cause none of them can stop the time, as someone said.

They said me “no” again

I got in touch with a manager of an important company for a position that was definitely too big for me. Anyway, trying never hurts. I had the opportunity to take part in a selection process. The process included a technical test that I had to deliver in a time frame set by myself. I accepted, even though I had promised myself not to. I carried out the test and also asked for help from people more experienced than me, for feedback. These people helped me, thank you, Susan and Katie.

After two weeks I got the answer. I didn’t pass the test. The answer came accompanied by comprehensive feedback on the reasons. I read the reasons, I would have liked to defend my assessment in a videocall. Yet, re-reading my proof and reading that feedback I find myself agreeing on many points.


A constant in my life is that they tell me I don’t get straight to the point and I arrive as confused. I seem too academic and introduce concepts that aren’t always very clear.

Then there are comments about typos, but I’m not a native speaker.

Some questions have been interpreted by me from a different point of view. So my answer came as wrong.


Technical tests serve to prove how a designer structures a problem to derive systems. There are two basic types of thinking in this regard.

  1. There are holistic system thinkers, who look at the big picture to find patterns.
  2. There are those reductionists who start from the details and then get to the big problem.

I am a professional of the first type. In a short time frame, it’s hard for me to get straight to the point. And this is a big problem for technical tests. I have never passed a single technical test in my life. I believe that is because of this. But I’ve always worked, and I must say that my colleagues are always quite satisfied with my work.

I shouldn’t agree to take assessments during the selection process. For me, they are a big commitment. Following, an unnerving wait. And the answer is always no.

My path for the next future

In recent months I’ve been deciding about my professional path. On the one hand, I like working as an advisor for companies. In fact, you learn a lot more this way.

When you work for an important corporation you learn to work in that context. When you work like a warrior-mage level 20, instead, you learn the hard way.

But, it’s a very stressful lifestyle. Sometimes hard times add up with 2-3 clients and it’s not always easy to manage.

So when I get a tempting offer I choose to try to enter the selection process. These are long and tedious, made up of expectations and many uncertainties. Doubts and insecurities come out and block part of the rest too.

This is my rant for today.

15 years in the Games Industry!

I realized that I am turning 15 in the video game industry this year. Not bad, considering that the average time is 7 years. I have doubled the average, and I am satisfied.

There have been times when I haven’t found a job in my industry and I’ve dedicated myself to something else. I have been a QA tester in a cybersecurity company. I was a data scientist at a robotic automation startup. All these experiences have enriched me.

I am very happy that I was able to stay in the industry. Despite the various blows received, I always got up. Thank God I wasn’t too impressed, although I bear the consequences.

Nowadays my job is part of my identity as a person, and I’m not sure that’s always a good thing. Many people work as game designers, I AM a game designer. People appreciate my designs, they always reveal a passion for the projects I am involved in. I have serious difficulties relating to the lack of professionalism, though.

Personal challenges

When I see a roadmap based on “best practices” without reflecting on “whys” and with no connection with the Players of the game, my blood boils.

I can’t accept the use of KPIs as targets, a huge mistake that is very common in the industry. Direct efforts to improve indicators and your game become a means of justifying investments. Not a means to deliver a great playful experience to people. I understand that we talk about KPIs with investors, it is a way of selling. But transferring these discussions to those who have their hands in development is deleterious.

I always think of all references and edge cases and it is an activity that engages my mind a lot even when I am in front of a book in the evening. And if I see the solution being replaced for no reason, I already know that I will spend a sleepless night out of anger.

My love for game design

I love to define everything in detail. In a self-respecting team, some more visionary people manage everything and make decisions. I like to help these people land ideas down. I like to support them in their decisions.

Someone has to do the dirty work! Prepare documents, wireframes, and flows. Square all the numbers in a spreadsheet. They are long and difficult activities. For some, they are also boring. I love doing them! I’m a game designer, it’s not that they pay me to do it. I do it for love!

My goal for the next 5 years is to improve my relationship with the profession. And my next full-time gig should start me in the World of leadership. I have seen a lot of things, now it’s time to take part in the strategy too!

In the meantime, happy anniversary to me!

The value in silence and resilience

Every so often I ask myself: what am I doing and why? It’s something that comes in handy, makes me put things into perspective and sometimes leads me to swerve on the path of my life.

I went to an event last week where I met a lot of friends and also alumni. It is amazing the amount of talented people that exists in the video game industry. Every time I go to these events I am surprised. Since the fashion of the home office began, unfortunately I am less in contact with so many people. There are very few people who, like me, decide to share the little they know online.

On the other hand, there are many people with exceptional talent who do their work in silence. They will not be known, they work for big companies very often diluting themselves in the mass but making millions to the corporations that are so lucky to have them in their ranks. Or they’ve been working on their own independent game, maybe for years. I really admire this resilience, even though I can’t help but notice the enormous risk of doing so.

However, life is one, and therefore I always ask myself: what am I doing? Probably the answer is: the right things to find my way.