It’s Not Just About The Tools
Sometimes I worry that my work won’t be taken seriously because of the tools I’ve used to produce it. There are a few reasons for why I may not be able to use the latest or best tools, such as not being able to afford it or not having the skills to use it yet. There are times that I prefer to keep quiet about what tools or process I’ve used to develop a piece of work because I don’t feel like it makes a difference to the final piece. If I love a game or a piece of art, will knowing how it came to be change that? While I’d find it interesting, I don’t think it’d change my opinion about it.
One example is my photography. I’ve never been able to afford a top-of-the-range camera, but I do enjoy taking pictures. If I’m being honest, I lack in technical skills and knowledge, but as I come from an art background I do feel I benefit from having an eye for colour and composition. There were certain websites that I wanted to attempt to submit my photos to, but found that they would only accept them from certain makes of camera. It’s probably just to ensure they only get images of a high quality which is fair enough, but it left me questioning whether I could ever try to use my photos for anything more than my own enjoyment. My friends have told me that they think my photos look just as professional as some of the ones they’ve seen for sale, yet I still feel like the fake in the room trying to stand tall amongst the professionals with their enormous cameras.
Another area where this tends to be of concern to me is game development. There is a lot of choice available when deciding what to use to put a game together. This decision should ultimately go down to what’s best for the game being built, but as I work on my own and only have so many abilities I also choose what will make the process quicker and easier for me. Of course, I’m naturally curious to know how a game was built and what tools were used, but I’m also wary of revealing that information myself. I have previously been told that a game I’m working on isn’t very good just on revealing what I was using to build it and nothing else (they hadn’t played it firsthand.)
Limiting ourselves can actually improve our creativity as we have to think more carefully about how to achieve the results we want. I actually really enjoy working with limitations on the software I use because it means I have to be smart about how I choose to implement certain effects. It’s a bit like solving a puzzle. When I first took an interest in digital photography I had to make do with a cheap camera (the image at the top is one of the earliest ones I took.) Yet I made the most out of that camera and got to know the feel of it really well. My older photos are certainly not usable anymore, but they were incredibly creative (I would use glass and shine light through objects.) When I upgraded I found that – even though it was meant to be of a higher quality – I couldn’t achieve the same results on the new camera and didn’t take to it as well. I’ve heard that many photographers like to carry smaller cameras around with them anyway, because then it’s easier to take snapshots on the move. The larger cameras can be a bit imposing, plus I’ve noticed that people react to me differently when they see what they consider to be a professional-looking camera in my hands.
I also picked up on this idea from archery, which may or may not be applicable elsewhere, that what we start with can affect our skills in the long run. We were told that it’d benefit us to begin with a traditional bow as opposed to a newer compound bow (with the aid of cables and pulleys.) You could move from a traditional bow to a newer one, but not so easily the other way around. In programming I have heard that if you start on certain languages you may then develop some bad habits that’ll stick with you when you try to move onto something else. In the area of competitive gaming I also read this interesting post ‘You’d Be a Good Player if You Had Some Gear‘ about player skill over how you equip your characters.
Needing to have the latest and best equipment to compete creates a higher barrier to entry, which is a shame because this could prevent many people from pursuing an interest that they’d otherwise be good at. Obviously, choosing to use certain tools will give you an edge and may improve your work, but it doesn’t make you more creative or necessarily better skilled. This is a matter of whether you think it’s the equipment or the person using it that matters. I also find it awe-inspiring when I see something amazing to realize that it was done using tools that we could all easily pick up and use.