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How can I remove myself emotionally in order to do a job?
February 2, 2010 4:27 PM   Subscribe

I am involved in a project that I personally find offensive. How can I remove myself emotionally in order to do the job?

As a part of my degree, I am enrolled in a semester-long "capstone" class where teams (in this case, a class of 5 including myself) are tasked with building a computer game from the ground up. I need this class to graduate.

We had voted on ideas via email for most of the week, and had settled on what kind of genre game it would be. Due to a mix-up (on my part) I was 40 minutes late to todays class, where they had chosen the theme to this game.

You fly a ship down a toilet, with the aim of destroying whatever is clogging it. There are a lot of poop jokes in the early description of the gameplay elements.

I will probably be doing a lot of the art for this project. I informed one member of the group I have serious reservations about doing this, despite this I have pledged my support for working with the team.

I really want to say "This is a stupid fucking idea. I won't be able to show this project to anyone. I am embarrassed by the existence of this project. I don't want to be associated with this project if we make a 'Shit Themed' game."

One thought I had was requesting my name be removed from the credits, but I'm not prepared to make that decision until I'm further down the development process.

I do not think we can change this, being 2 weeks into the project. They are expecting me to produce some early concept art soon. Be that as it may, how can I / should I communicate with the team on my views on the project? How can I drop my reservations on the game's theme so that I may do the best job I can?
posted by hellojed to Human Relations (47 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
"Oh hey guys, I started drawing poop but I found these purple space monsters looked way cooler."
posted by furtive at 4:31 PM on February 2, 2010 [3 favorites]


If it was me, I'd draw my concept art of actual food rather than what you would really find in the toilet....an entire cob of corn, a pizza, a can of beer, etc...and just see what they say.

I don't envy your situation, but are you sure it's too late to change the theme if it was just decided on today?
posted by DMan at 4:31 PM on February 2, 2010 [3 favorites]


I won't be able to show this project to anyone. I am embarrassed by the existence of this project.

You're doing the art? Make two sets of graphic assets, one now to make the team happy with their poop images, and another (when you're able) to plug in and actually use in your personal demo/portfolio. Recompile the game with the second resources to make the "non-embarrassing" version whenever you want.

For example: space crystals are plugging up the spice mines! Or maybe spam and viruses are rampant on the Intertubes.
posted by rokusan at 4:32 PM on February 2, 2010 [3 favorites]


What if instead of poo, there are clothing items, toys, or dead goldfish that been flushed?
posted by phunniemee at 4:32 PM on February 2, 2010 [5 favorites]


Do you just "need this class to graduate" or do you need this to be part of your portfolio for potential employers to see?

Assuming that you cannot convince your team to change it up this late in the project: I'm not sure what technology you're using for the game, but if it's Flash for example, you could always just build it with this crappy (sorry) theme and then replace the art after the fact for your portfolio with something else that uses the same game setup (like unclogging traffic on a highway). If you can do that, maybe knowing that you'll change it later will make it doable?

What about making the concept art super super cute and as inoffensive as possible? Sort of geometric/abstract or very simple or smiley poos?

I cannot believe I just suggested smiley poos in an AskMefi answer. Someone should ban me for that.
posted by dayintoday at 4:36 PM on February 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'd find it offensive too. But probably, if you'd shown up on time and just said you couldn't agree to do something like this, it would have been painlessly changed. It's a bit late for that now. (And frankly, I did tremendously well in school and never felt obliged to show anyone my work, so that shouldn't concern you on its own.)

I would talk to the professor and make it known - in advance - that you find the concept of the project offensive and that in no way reflects on any of your, umm, interests. And I'd simply realize it for what it is - a stupid school project with no bearing on future reality.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 4:36 PM on February 2, 2010


Depending on the professor, this might not be an option...but I've been in a situation like this and my solution was to discreetly ask the professor if I could work on my own. In my case, it wasn't offensive, but it was a group project that I felt would not result in a satisfactory portfolio piece for me, and part of my goal in the class was to work on my portfolio. Of course, it would necessitate being able to do the work on your own, and depending on the class this might not be an option.
posted by beyond_pink at 4:37 PM on February 2, 2010


You're doing the art? Make two sets of graphic assets, one now to make the team happy with their poop images, and another (when you're able) to plug in and actually use in your personal demo/portfolio. Recompile the game with the second resources to make the "non-embarrassing" version whenever you want.

I thought of this right after leaving the class. While I may do this, I still need to focus on the current project.

are you sure it's too late to change the theme if it was just decided on today?

It may not be, I have a few classes with members of my group where I can talk to them. For now I'm assuming it's set, since everyone else in the group seemed pretty gung-ho.
posted by hellojed at 4:38 PM on February 2, 2010


Did you ever work with one of those jerks who demanded that a project be changed to accommodate their personal whims? Well, now you know why they did that. From now on, never be late and refuse to draw poop. It's not like they can do this without you.
posted by GuyZero at 4:38 PM on February 2, 2010 [5 favorites]


I hate to say this if this is too obvious, but you may want to address it with your instructor before you do anything else--were these ideas approved by him/her? Because if you find it offensive, you might not be the only one.
posted by larkspur at 4:38 PM on February 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


I guess I don't know enough about these kinds of projects to know if this would be helpful, but my first thought is that perhaps the stuff clogging the toilet could be more metaphorical. Things I may have shoved down my own personal metaphorical toilet creating an unhealthy clog might include (but certainly wouldn't be limited to):

jealousy
resentment
pride
stress
failed relationships
and on and on.
posted by nickjadlowe at 4:41 PM on February 2, 2010


I informed one member of the group I have serious reservations about doing this, despite this I have pledged my support for working with the team.

You've only told one person - that sounds like the main problem. Let the entire group know that you are opposed to this theme for career reasons. In its current form, the game probably can't be listed on a resumé or shown to prospective employers.

They probably just haven't thought of that, and I'd be surprised if they object once you bring it up.
posted by ripley_ at 4:41 PM on February 2, 2010 [8 favorites]


Perhaps take the angle of this is how the plumbing works/maze-like game and ignore poo altogether? How can the little goldfish get back to the ocean? Lots of non-poo things get flushed...watches, an apple at my house once, toothbrushes. Another idea might be collecting different objects for points as you make your way through the plumbing, no poo involved. I'm thinking of something along the lines of the Magic Schoolbus books. If your team insists on poo, then I would ask for a different role on the team. I really can't imagine a professor being amused at the poo.
posted by tamitang at 4:49 PM on February 2, 2010


Of course, lots of things can clog a toilet -- toy cars, cat toys, earrings, etc -- you don't need to destroy huge pieces of shit. Nor do you need to actively use the poop related jokes in the game itself, though of course they are fun jokes to make while planning (for many but not all people).

Tell your team that you believe the project in its current form can't be used, and give two options: no poo (or yellow water), just weird objects blocking the pipes OR a different theme altogether (and suggest some details from one of the other ideas that you were considering). You want to provide not just the problem but some possible solutions.
posted by jeather at 4:50 PM on February 2, 2010


Let me guess, they called it 'Ass-teroids'?

I lecture on a games-design degree course, and I can tell you that potential employers in the games industry won't be looking at the theme of your game. They'll be looking to see how well the poop's rendered and animated, and whether the controls are responsive and if the game is fun. So make it the best toilet-centred game you can, and you'll be fine.

You get one chance to change people's minds on this. Talk to everybody in the group at the same time, make your objections clear, say you think it's a dumb theme for a portfolio piece. If you're rebuffed, suck it up. You tried. Learning how to do creative work as part of a team of asshats is a key part of the course you're on. Be wary of doing too many graphics that don't fit what the rest of the team expects and not enough of what they do: you may find yourself without a team. One of my students did just that recently. Module fail.

(It could be worse. Some students on my course have just elected to create portfolio-piece games about the bloody torture and dismemberment of rabbits. That's the game: you torture rabbits. Best of luck in the industry with that one, guys. And the first videogame I was hired to work on in the industry was a porn-themed RTS. I told the boss he'd never find a distributor for it, and lo he never found a distributor. But I still got paid.)
posted by Hogshead at 4:50 PM on February 2, 2010 [12 favorites]


I do not think we can change this, being 2 weeks into the project.

You just decided on the theme today, and you had multiple ideas kicking around. It shouldn't be too late to choose a different idea, assuming you start on this right away.

I really want to say "This is a stupid fucking idea. I won't be able to show this project to anyone. I am embarrassed by the existence of this project. I don't want to be associated with this project if we make a 'Shit Themed' game."

So... say that. It's that simple. Tone the language down of course, but you seem to have a completely valid objection and keeping it to yourself doesn't help the group.
posted by ripley_ at 4:51 PM on February 2, 2010


I though nickjadlowe was going to make my suggestion, but he went another route. What if your art for things in the toilet were mostly funny and not poop-related? The premise could be more about what a child put in the toilet like the remote, a stuffed animal, a live fish or turtle, a wallet, etc., etc. It would make more a more amusing overall game than just turds.
posted by parkerjackson at 4:52 PM on February 2, 2010


"more a more" --> "for a more"
posted by parkerjackson at 4:54 PM on February 2, 2010


nthing talking to your professor. I'd keep it classy and just stick to the bad-for-portfolio/can't-show-my-mom aspect and refrain from bad-mouthing other team members.
posted by hydrophonic at 4:59 PM on February 2, 2010


Super-cute poop. Think Asian animation.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 5:01 PM on February 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Welcome to real projects at real workplaces.

You have two things to do.

1) Raise the issue with your team/peers. Acknowledge you were late. Do not demand anything. Raise your personal objections in a meaningful way - do not insult others. Be constructive. You were late, but you are part of the group - your input is required. Air your concerns accurately, and let the group decide. Is it personal? Is it the image it presents to the rest of the org? Is it how you feel the instructor will feel? Etc... be accurate. Let the group know how you feel this may affect the.

Then, be completely prepared for #2.

2) Once a decision has been reached, buy in, and give it no less than your best effort to complete your work. This is how real jobs work - you sometimes have to do things that you personally, or professionally disagree with.... then Unless this falls under religious territory or something extremely offensive and politically incorrect - suck it up and do the work, and do an awesome job... and don't keep complaining about it.

There are situations where you have to lay your job down on the line for personal/ethical/whatever reasons and go against your superiors, over their heads, etc, make a fuss - but those are far and few between, often have lasting damage, and certainly don't apply in an educational setting.
posted by TravellingDen at 5:01 PM on February 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


if you're considering throwing a hissy fit down the line and refusing to list your name in the credits - get it taken care of now, non passive aggressively. write an email, get everyone together, call everyone - do whatever you have to do in the next 24 hours to make sure your voice is heard. and if you're overruled in the end, like Hogshead says, suck it up and make the best poo you can. but you really owe it to your team and to yourself to deal with this head on and up front instead of turning in substandard work and dragging your feet because you know you won't be showing it to anyone.
posted by nadawi at 5:03 PM on February 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Make them robots shaped like poops, made out of shiny brown metal with rivets, and possibly eyes, a la Mega Man. This will really cut the grossness and tastelessness down, and perhaps reduce it from "I don't want to look at that" to merely "very weird."
posted by ignignokt at 5:09 PM on February 2, 2010


I have sent an e-mail to members of the group. Thank you for the responses so far.
posted by hellojed at 5:10 PM on February 2, 2010


Perhaps take the angle of this is how the plumbing works/maze-like game and ignore poo altogether?

Yes! Toilets are pretty small gameplay areas, no? I mean, a white bowl, a short pipe, and ... ? So make it more about the sewer system, where the toilet is just the portal to an amazing underground world. Convince your team that although poo jokes might be funny, it would be hard to sustain an entire game on that premise. A larger world gives you more options.

Also, an episode of Dirty Jobs where Mike Rowe went into the sewers might give you some ideas.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 5:20 PM on February 2, 2010


If you do end up having to do the toilet-themed game, you may want to take a look at the canonical list of foreign items.
posted by benzenedream at 5:20 PM on February 2, 2010


If you're going to be a freelancer in any kind of artistic profession you'll probably work on plenty of projects that aren't your cup of tea.

Think of your classmates as "clients" and use this as a device for detaching yourself emotionally from the project. Give the clients what they want, draw the best poo-monsters you can summon, finish the project, collect your "paycheck" (the college credit), and put the project behind you. (No pun intended. Ok, pun intended).

Now, if you disagreed with the project for ethical reasons (a racist game, for example), then I'd say get out even if it meant dropping the class. But a poop-themed game is, at worst, a bit juvenile and distasteful. Potty jokes may not appeal to your sense of humor, but calling it offensive is taking it a bit far (especially considering the context: video games are primarily targeted at adolescent boys. Adolescent boys like poop jokes).

I don't want to say "don't be a snob," but it might be worth lightening up a bit or your group's dynamics will always be miserable. One day you'll have clients you think are idiots but you'll have to learn to keep that inside if you want to stay in business. Start practicing now.

The poop game might end up as the lead item in your portfolio, but one day you might find that a big potential client enjoys scatological humor and this unique item in your portfolio will set you apart from all the other. You don't have to enjoy it, but do your best.
posted by Alabaster at 5:23 PM on February 2, 2010


Are you kidding? This is the perfect project to have in your portfolio.

"To whom it may concern -- This project was decided on by my classmates. I didn't like it, and I voted against it, but I was overruled. So I did the best damn job I could. Just like I would do if you gave me a project that I didn't agree with -- I would tell you why I didn't like it, I would give you an alternative that I thought was better, and if you didn't agree, then I would do it anyway. I'm a team player, and I understand that being a team player means that I don't only get to do stuff that I want to do."
posted by Etrigan at 5:45 PM on February 2, 2010 [25 favorites]


I don't think it's that offensive if you make the poop cute and super-stylized; being professional about it is the way to go.

Don't forget the diamond rings, prescription drugs, and radioactive-yellow vitamin pee -- and the sewer rats and crocodiles coming the other way.
posted by aquafortis at 6:09 PM on February 2, 2010


Hmmm.... I'm liking some of the themes here, especially the sewer maze. You are trying to get from the bathroom to the open seas! And once you accomplish your mission and reach the sea!! You are swallowed by a big fish! And then, Level 2, you get to navigate the internal maze of the fish!

Sounds fun to me!

I mean, really, anything could be down there starting with ordinary objects and then morphing into tiny colonies of angry aliens... robots as mentioned above... huge creepy spiders, rats, ALLIGATORS!!

I think you should pitch your best take on this concept and do bring up the issue of portfolios and wanting to tone down or eliminate (hee!) the poo references so that the work can stand up well. It'll be a gas! Just plunge right in! Start a movement!

sorry.
good luck!

posted by amanda at 6:13 PM on February 2, 2010


I've communicated my concerns with my team members, we're tentatively agreeing to town down the level of "gross"

The reason we really can't change right now is that the idea was approved by the teacher, so we'd effectivly be a week behind if we changed it now to get approval next week.

Regardless, I have been keeping in mind the "work experience" aspect of the situation, so in that way there is a silver lining.
posted by hellojed at 6:22 PM on February 2, 2010


Good for you for talking with your team members on this. I think a more compelling argument is that, if the goal is to unclog the toilet and your only obstructions are poo, that's a boring and visually uninteresting game. How does the player know what obstacles are higher-scoring? Introducing other objects would make it much more fun to play.
posted by sfkiddo at 6:39 PM on February 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Etrigan is on the money
posted by radioamy at 6:45 PM on February 2, 2010


That's an easy one. Tell your group this is not a good idea and needs to be changed. Be prepared with three alternatives that have at least some nominal connection to the existing idea, to the extent you can leverage some work that has already be done. Suggest that they cannot veto all the ideas unless they come up with something better themselves. If they won't play ball, go to the professor. If he won't play ball drop the course. A week behind is no big deal.
posted by supremefiction at 7:44 PM on February 2, 2010


A quick thought on art direction that might ease the grossness a bit and improve gameplay at the same time: think of the feces as the container in which resides the food that created it, such that you shoot to shatter the container and then (based on what type of food -- or other stuff -- is inside) pick up, destroy, avoid or fight what's within. Kind of like dissecting an owl pellet with a gun, and potentially battling or collecting what's inside.
posted by davejay at 7:51 PM on February 2, 2010


Seconding (thirding?) that the craziest things that clog a toilet are the easiest to draw and the least gross. Seriously. Poo? That is so ordinary, boring and predictable. Poo never clogs a toilet in our house. If you have ever lived with little kids or old people, the things that can clog your plumbing include, but are not limited to:

-What amounts to an entire roll of toilet paper

-A washcloth
-A toy boat
-A stuffed dog
-False teeth and eyeglasses
-Socks
-Underwear
-Plastic soldiers
-Diapers
-Headless Barbie Doll
-Box of pasta
-And apparently in England, a week old puppy (which survived)
-All sorts of odd things

This topic even has its own FACEBOOK GROUP. Yep, it's a popular subject.

There are also the extreme items that end up in there without needing help from a curious toddler, like:

-Rats
-Snakes

So, if they want to be so boring as to limit their thinking? Eh. They don't deserve to get a good grade on this project.
posted by jeanmari at 8:07 PM on February 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Lots of good advice here, and I especially like Etrigan's. And this story will be the answer to every annoying interview question EVAR.
posted by desuetude at 8:25 PM on February 2, 2010


I can sympathize with your reaction to this. However, my first thought was similar to others: do interesting objects that could be (have been!) stuck in toilet plumbing. And don't sell that idea to your team so much along the lines of "I think poop is gross/offensive," but more along the lines of poop being boring.

Seriously, having different non-poop objects really would make the game a heck of a lot more interesting. You could even start stretching the boundaries of reason during specific parts of the game, and maybe add some completely off-the-wall objects for that extra bit of surprise/absurdity. This is actually an opportunity to come up with some really clever ideas.
posted by the other side at 8:31 PM on February 2, 2010


You might take solace in the fact that Conkers Bad Fur Day covered this subject before, rather hilariously:
posted by rc55 at 1:11 AM on February 3, 2010


(and a link!) ... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0w5neFPat1w
posted by rc55 at 1:11 AM on February 3, 2010


How about bringing it down to a micro level, like mites, and other little beasts, even germs, and create a new World? Draintopia...Flushlantis...maybe the 'fly a ship' theme is a bit stretchable there; nobody knows how big that ship actually is, maybe its really tiny and the task actually overwhelming, so they end up fighting colonies of Whatsits who at the same time are being attacked by other Whatsits etc. instead.
posted by Namlit at 1:18 AM on February 3, 2010



"To whom it may concern -- This project was decided on by my classmates. I didn't like it, and I voted against it, but I was overruled. So I did the best damn job I could. Just like I would do if you gave me a project that I didn't agree with -- I would tell you why I didn't like it, I would give you an alternative that I thought was better, and if you didn't agree, then I would do it anyway. I'm a team player, and I understand that being a team player means that I don't only get to do stuff that I want to do."


Now that is some seriously great spin.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 2:38 AM on February 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Poo doesn't have to be gross, in Korea they think poop is cute. The stylized swirl of poop in particular might be of use to you. Try making it cute and funny instead of gross and disgusting.
This blog talks more about the whole Korean/Japanese poop obsession - complete with lots of images.
posted by smartypantz at 2:40 AM on February 3, 2010


Toilet Duck Fights Germs
posted by Kiwi at 3:22 AM on February 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


I love the ideas above re non-disgusting foreign objects. The corncob idea upthread and the objects Jeanmari lists would be colorful and interesting, as would an earring, a toothbrush, fake eyelash, cellphone or other random object of the type accidentally dropped in the toilet.

That said, video poop can be cute! Bambalam's GUACAMOLE iPhone game is my favorite (ok, only) example of undisputably cute poop.

I also love etrigan's advice re spinning this portfolio project in your favor--because I think it's solid advice and also because such a discussion would allow you a very natural opportunity to demonstrate with a potential employer or client your interpersonal skills (and perhaps also share a laugh). Provided your work is sophisticated and professional, these decision makers are not going to judge you negatively on the basis of the game's juvenile humor. Finally, unless you expect to be so successful that you're regularly turning town clients you can count on future projects also beneath your tastes and sensibility. Good luck!
posted by applemeat at 6:32 AM on February 3, 2010


(Old Skool original Toilet Duck)
posted by jeanmari at 8:00 AM on February 3, 2010


As a father of four, I know by experience that it is never just poop that stops up the toilet. Try small toys, hair barretts, plastic bags, socks, etc.
posted by cross_impact at 11:06 AM on February 3, 2010


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