I went to graduate school at Georgia Tech, and read some Chris Crawford. I learned that he had the same problem. But he didn’t think of it as failure. For him, this was an organic part of the development process. The failures filling his hard drive were actually “prototypes” that helped him decide which ideas were worth pursuing. For each good idea, there were a large number of stupid ones that didn’t work out. Failing, for this successful designer, was a way to find the good ideas. The revelation hit me like a ton of bricks. Maybe I had a chance after all.

Ken Perlin came to Georgia Tech, and gave a talk on his work with emotional software actors. His work blew my mind. He had an infinite series of cool little toys, which he considered sketches or studies. Master artists like Escher or Van Gogh don’t just sit down and crank out a finished piece. Artists create numerous sketches and studies before they undertake finished paintings, let alone masterpieces. Ken’s larger demos clearly built on top of what he had learned in previous ones. It all formed one long line of inquiry and research. In Ken’s world, my failures, which I was now calling prototypes, are like an artist’s studies, a necessary part of any major undertaking.