Reasons to be creative - Tom Platten Higgins

September 5, 2013 by Keith Peters

Tom Platten Higgins

talked about the importance of freeing your brain once in a while! view it here

All work and no play makes jack a dull boy.
All work and no play makes jack a dull boy.
All work and no play makes jack a dull boy.
All work and no play makes jack a dull boy.

At least that's what Tom Platten-Higgins, of Mutant Labs, believes.

“Escape the coop and free range that sh*t” is more what he was saying at this years Reasons To Be Creative in Brighton.

At mutant labs they have what they refer to as 'Free Range Fridays': Every fortnight, Mutant Labs push a big red button that shuts down the production line for 24 hours - giving their team a welcomed opportunity to release the brain of all that pent up creativity into a massive bolt of screaming lightning...

The theory goes, that not all client work is as rewarding as it should be. Work starts with enthusiasm and hope. However after misunderstandings, miscommunication and design-by-committee heads can drop as the finish line draws near. And as the cycle is repeated ad infinitum; enthusiasm and moral join the downward spiral. (I must acknowledge not all projects are like this of course, but sometimes projects just don't go as planned)

Bimonthly Free range fridays aim to counteract this trend. On the given friday, team members downs tools and works on a 1 day project of their own devising. And that means the WHOLE company, not just a few who don't have anything to do. EVERYONE joins in.

This gives the team a sense of achievement, trust and freedom. It's a really rewarding experience to come in and do something new and original.

There are rules though.

1) Come prepared. Arrive to work on that day with a project already in mind. Don't sit there in the morning wondering what you could do.
2) The project must be completed that day, no carry overs to the next Free Range Friday – this relates to point 3
3) Nothing gets thrown away, everything goes to the graveyard. Half finished ideas are stored and documented. You never know, reviving a stupid idea can create something brilliant and unexpected.
4) Work as a team or on your own. As long as you're learning and getting something out of it.
5) Everyone takes part. There's no point in doing it if a few of the team are struggling to hit a milestone while a few of the guys are trying to make a solar powered toaster in the corner.
6) If not everyone can do it, it gets postponed. But it DOES happen, just within reason according to deadlines.

Mutant Labs have had some rather fortuitous successes through Free Range Fridays. Some whacky game ideas, hastily put together and tweeted about have drawn interest from wider circles and more importantly potential clients.

Crazy game mechanics that may not have been fully thought through were given a platform to reach a wider audience. And some folks saw it and said, “That's what I want my game to be!” and picked up the phone. That's how Half Inch Heist got off the ground. click here to see more

A small idea, given space to simply be and grow on a rainy Friday. That small idea becoming a big success. That small idea bearing a big reward.

Who knows what your staff may have in their heads unless you let them free every now and then...

Keith Peters - Senior Designer

Keith's background in design is varied. He started out as a print designer, but soon found a way to combine his love of games and art by moving on to graphics for games. Since his first junior role he's never looked back. Working on AAA titles, and smaller projects alike with the same level of...
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