by Jack

The Work-Weak

Corporate communique issued June 21, 2012:

Dark Acre official hours of operation have changed as follows:

  • Active production days: Monday through Thursday
  • Active production hours: 0700 – 1400, 1600 – 2100 PST (minimum 7, maximum 12)
  • No observance of national holidays.
  • Observance of employee and family birthdays as holidays.
  • Observance of corporate anniversary holiday (24/9)
  • Up to 3 consecutive weeks of holiday once per year.
  • 7 days of medical leave per year.

This is a change from the previous Monday through Friday schedule, which was a change from the initial Thursday through Tuesday schedule, with the addition of holiday policies.

As before, all outside contributors are free to set their own production hours and are in no way expected to follow the corporate time schedule.

Effective Thursday, June 21.

This schedule subject to change without notice.

Thank you for your attention.

The wording is definitely not casual, but I’ve been slack in the policy-setting department, which is something every corporation that wants to be taken seriously needs to take seriously.

At any rate past three weeks have been 4-day work-weeks, with stellar results! Where progress had nearly stalled on Project Prevengeance, a ton of production tasks have been completed and as many bugs squashed. While the 3-day rest periods have had a lot to do with it, two additional changes have provided some surprise benefits.

Unsocial Networking

It’s no secret that I’ve been heavily involved in social networking, and my opinion on and about them (much like the missives that travel those particular vents in the Internet) have swung wildly polar.

After much discussion and analysis I’ve made the decision to switch into broadcast-only mode.

It seemed that no matter how careful I was with the filters, no matter how well I curated the various lists of supposedly influential people, and no matter how selective I was with the RSS feeds, a surprising volume of warped dreck still leaked through.

Excerpt from personal journal, April 7 2000:

I’ve been in Japan for less than a year but already it’s becoming clear how influential a hold the media has on the minds of the people. As a fortunate side-effect of being isolated in a country where the only readily-available news comes from the Internet, and having no time to read it, I’ve been nearly news-free for the entirety of time here so far.

I’ve honestly never felt better.

What I’ve observed is this: I work in downtown Tokyo, a stone’s throw from some of the biggest players in the local financial game. Every day I meet a dozen new people, sitting down for 40 to 80 minutes at a time to discuss their lives, dreams, and perceptions of the world.

What I’m greeted with most often when discussing their fears is the belief that their economy is on the verge of collapse. The country is at the end of what economists call a “bubble”, or artificially-inflated growth period. Everything’s supposedly crashing down with the adjustment to “normal” levels. The streets are no longer paved with gold, and companies now have to tighten their belts by shedding tons of excess weight gained over the years of fake prosperity.

The brokers, traders, bankers, and other money-movers I meet tell me the newspaper headlines are nothing but doom and gloom. As part of their jobs they’re more or less forced to consume this content on a daily basis so as to keep their nervously-twitching fingers on the dying pulse of their nation.

I get an earful of this every morning, five days a week. Here’s the ironic part: every noonhour I take a stroll not five blocks down the street to the Ginza shopping district and can barely make any headway on a sidewalk thronging with consumers. Ginza is a high-street locale, all the major brands are there, and there are countless people buying the stuff up. I sit down to a curry or a sushi roll and typically pay no less than ¥2000 (more than $20) for a meal in a restaurant I’ve had to wait 20 to 30 minutes to get into, it’s so packed.

The economy is collapsing, eh?

The point of the above is that we’re heavily influenced by the media we consume, often to the point of distorting our perception of reality. Every piece of information we let in informs us, forms in our minds opinions that, if we’re not careful, become beliefs that we then evangelize to others. And it’s becoming ever-easier to fall into this cycle as the Internet becomes a greater part of our daily lives.

I’m certain they mean well, but even the nicest-seeming, well-meaning, and most innocuous people I follow in my social networks have, at times, posted the most horrible, cynical, shitty mis-information to ever come down the pipes.

It’s just no longer for me.
In regards to the question of “aren’t you turning your back on the grassroots indie marketing channels?”: It’s extremely important to remember that people have been selling shit into the market for far longer than social networking has been around. It’s fair to say that social networking still has a lot of unproven worth, and as someone who’s been actively searching for value from places like Twitter and Facebook for well over two years I can honestly say that the practical benefit from using the systems is nil.

As entertainment, though? If you can stomach it, knock yourself out! And that’s how seriously it should be taken too.

I can offer one more observation: in the 21 days since I stopped interacting with the soc-nets I’ve read three books (first time in years!), redesigned this website, produced a new Darkade entry, and run more than 30 kilometers (again, first time since going independent!). Coincidence? Perhaps. But more importantly, I’ve felt psychically ennobled. I’m pretty certain the constant direct and indirect vitriol and rhetoric I was absorbing was hobbling me spiritually.

And whatever, if I’ve got to come back to it I always can. I’m sure the numbers people will still be there.

“Learn to write one singular, coherent, informative, insightful, spectacular sentence to replace your illiterate, off-the-cuff twittering!”

– George Lois, from Damn Good Advice (For People with Talent!)


When I arrived in Japan in the summer of ’99 I weighed roughly 95 kilograms (210 lbs). I’d been half-heartedly lifting weights for a few years prior, and was strong, but I was obese. You could see it my face, and I couldn’t run a block without gassing myself.

Over the next 10 years I would spend a lot of my free time studying physiology, physical training programs, and the work of men like Bruce Lee.

I learned how to run, and was eventually doing 6-kilometer (3.7-mile) runs 3 times a week.

I built my own gym in the basement of our home and worked out there almost every day.

I learned capoeira.

I studied nutrition and built a staple diet that balanced my caloric intake and kept me energized through 14-16 hour work days, often 7 days a week (including the physical training).

I started practicing ashtanga yoga.

By the time I left Japan I was a lean, mean 80 kilograms (176 pounds). I could easily run a half-marathon, dance the capoeira jogo, or do an hour’s worth of stretching without really breaking much of a sweat.

I’d even chronicled it in a blog called “The Healthy Gamer”.


Rendering of the Healthy Gamer logo, based on an original design by Steve Parker

I came back to Canada and spent two years in school. The first year wasn’t bad, the foundation design program had a lot of physicality to it and the homework was manageable. I couldn’t really go to the gym but I could keep up with the ashtanga practice. I remained healthy, though I could feel the decline.

Then game development schooling started. I suddenly found myself sitting on my ass in front of computer terminals for hours on end, eating shitty food and gathering unwanted stress just to meet the deadlines of an academic situation that was supposedly “simulating the conditions in an actual AAA game studio”.

The yoga and running all but stopped.

When I graduated and started Dark Acre, I made time for the running and yoga, at least at first. For the first few months I was able to run, stretch, write, and make games.

Then something happened. I’m not exactly certain what, but some psychological trigger flipped and I stopped running, stretching, and eating well. I just focused on making the games. I got swept up in imaginary self-imposed pressure to produce and any concern for my health fell by the wayside.

It wasn’t until I was diagnosed with mild depression and started really looking at myself in the mirror that I realized how far I’d slipped.

8 weeks ago I stepped onto a scale and found out I was 100 kilograms (220 pounds), the heaviest I’d ever been in my life. Fortunately I’m a reasonably tall dude, at 185 centimeters (6 foot 1 inch), but I could no longer pretend that I was the svelte creature that had returned from the East. My jeans didn’t close, and my belly was (and still mostly is) pretty disgusting.

So along with the medication, the counseling, and restructuring of the workload I looked back at my old notes on how I got healthy. I resurrected the #GAMEPLAN.

The #GAMEPLAN is a very simple diet and exercise regimen that requires very little investment and offers substantial return for the diligent participant. I’d always planned to publish it in some form, but it was never a priority as I’d always wondered if it really worked or not. There were a lot of factors contributing to my health levels in Japan, not least among them my youthful vigor and constant commute, plus the horrible work hours.

But the principles were solid. I restarted the program. I calculated my diet out again, taking into consideration my now-advanced age (it had been 14 years since I first started the program). I got a membership at the local community center gym, and a new pair of running shoes.

I happy to report that the program is working. It’s a long-term kind of commitment, one that doesn’t yield amazing overnight results. But there’s no doubt that in the time that I’ve been back on it I’ve lost 5 kilograms (11 pounds) and my strength is returning. I’m back up to running 6 kilometers in about 40 minutes without feeling like I want to die. And I’m enjoying a staple diet that costs almost nothing and is far more nutritious and tasty than the random crap I was buying from the supermarket.

It’s still early days, though. A full test of the strength program takes 12 weeks, an entire season. I won’t know for sure if the running program is completely working for another 3 weeks, though I’m confident it is.

I’ll be publishing the system here, and then looking at options for creating an app that helps out with the various calculations and tracking.

So that’s the #GAMEPLAN, just in case you were wondering.

Thanks for reading.