Monday, July 9, 2012

So What?

The storyteller spreads his lies. Or truths. Or both.
Most stories lie to us. They tell us what we want to believe, not what's really so. They teach us false ideas about reality, about success, and then we go into business and expect it to work that way. No wonder 90% of new businesses fail; their founders and staff think they're living in a fantasy world.

For example, running a game company is not at all like playing a game, yet most who dream of founding one think it will be. Even if we manage to overcome that most common delusion, it's still nothing like we imagine. Truth is stranger than fiction; it must be experienced before it can be understood.

What if people who had gone through the experience of having their fantasies about starting a game company shattered and replaced by reality, people who had survived the experience, who went on to succeed beyond their wildest dreams, what if they could be the ones to tell you a story about what it's like? Would the people who heard that story be more likely to beat those odds and succeed?

That's what this blog and the book that will follow are exploring. We're going to try to tell a story about a game business, a story that lies less than most. Maybe what the founders of Wizards learned the hard way, you can learn the easy way, from a story. Probably not, but it'll be fun to try, don't you think?

And even if the experiment fails and all your businesses fail, it's still a fun story about a bunch of wacky people defying the odds and winning. And win or lose, you can still have fun. There are worse ways to pass the time until you die.*

So that's what.


* "Helping you pass the time until you die" was proposed as a possible mission statement for Wizards of the Coast, at the meeting** held one night in Peter and Cathy's living room. We sat in a circle and tried to figure out what Wizards was about. Jesper, force of chaos that he always was, suggested it.*** Everyone in the room laughed appreciatively but dismissively, then kind of got quiet and thought about it, then laughed uncomfortably and moved on. At that moment, Jesper's darkly humorous phrase became the never-before-officially-admitted unofficial mission statement of Wizards of the Coast, at least in the minds of all those present that night.

** That's one of three or four meetings that I will eventually be describing in detail, because of how much it revealed about Wizards of the Coast and its founders. Along with the one where we realized we didn't know how to make decisions involving more than one person. It's surprising the things you think you know when you go into business that it turns out you really don't know. Embarrassing things, things the founders of most companies would never tell you later, even though those things sometimes have the most to teach us about what it's like.

*** Actually, he had suggested it before with equal almost-success. Remind me later to do a post about Lisa Stevens's clip-art and advertising taglines, so we can discuss why "Helping you pass the time until you die" barely did not get published as ad copy, but "Well, it's better than broccoli" did.


  1. This will end up in the "stories that lie less than most" section of the library.

  2. So is this book a thing? Because I want to buy it.

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