The shiny object syndrome and you: How to interrupt the cycle

Extensive shoutout to @ElliottLMz and @Cinema_Sin for sharing their experiences with the shiny object syndrome with me.


Developmental proficiency and productivity are unofficial prerequisites in the development industry. Often, the most industrious of developers can fall victim to the notorious shiny object syndrome. The shiny object syndrome is a often categorized as a cycle or loop where a developer actively develops a flawed game idea within weeks, months, and occasionally years, and eventually replaces it with another flawed game idea concurrently. Kind people were interviewed to evaluate unhealthy practices individuals with the shiny object syndrome routinely perform, as well as share personal anecdotes about their experiences with the notorious syndrome.

Hard work beats talent when talent does not work hard.

— Kevin Durant


What determines the shiny object syndrome as negative? Generally, evaluating the provided circumstances assists in identifying methods to prevent it. The shiny object syndrome can drastically hinder developmental productivity and competence. Ultimately, productivity would be invisible along with valuable work. Concurrently discarding effortful assets and projects may raise stress levels to specific individuals. Two interviewees, @ElliottLMz and @Cinema_Sin both frequently experience the shiny object syndrome, and it substantially effects their working environment.

When I feel tired or burnt out, I usually just get no developing done.

@ElliottLMz, Discord


:grey_exclamation: As a general rule of thumb: always evaluate the provided circumstances


The shiny object syndrome - Its impact on you

Through the dialogues of multiple individuals experiencing the shiny object syndrome, it’s conclusive that the impact is drastic. Both interviewees struggled through unnecessary stress; @Cinema_Sin sacrificed time for study and homework because of the shiny object syndrome. Additionally, both interviewees set a lenient restriction that ensures development must end after few hours in a day. Fortunately, methods were developed to interrupt the cycle of the shiny object syndrome.


The shiny object syndrome - Methods to prevent it

Originally encountering the syndrome could potentially be frightening and overwhelming. Evaluating all the circumstances is a very accurate decision. This refers to evaluating fundamental ingredients to success: evaluate potential collaborations; evaluate what’s trendy on Roblox; evaluate advertisement alternatives; evaluate potential game audience. Such factors are fundamental but ensure the game is compelling, thus ensuring development is unanimously valuable. Additionally, evaluating time and development capabilities are vital.

…external “professionals” who have “experience” are fundamentally penalized by a simple problem: they don’t understand the audience. You guys do. This makes all the difference in the world.

— zeuxcg, In response to Developer’s Feedback on Developer Exchange


:grey_exclamation: As a general rule of thumb: evaluate all potential circumstances and how to utilize them


Directing a game without assistance is difficult, but developing a game in full without assistance is practically impossible. Collaborating with others reduces the feel of being obliged to develop. This feeling is strong, and automatically resolves multiple family-development balance tensions. Collaborating additionally improves development proficiency and quality. It’d be kind of arrogant to close all collaboration opportunities. There’s rarely a valid excuse.


:grey_exclamation: Two brains > one; collaborate in development stages


Allocate time to spend with family and real-life interactions. Ensure development doesn’t consume into the real-life contents of a developer. Set a developmental restriction (x hours) daily to limit one’s self from developing constantly. Remember that when going through the shiny object syndrome, development can be procrastinated consequently.


:grey_exclamation: Regressing in development stages to allocate real-life time is effective


Brief recap

:white_small_square: Evaluate and identify fundamental factors such as advertisements, development capabilities, and expected audience.
:white_small_square: Collaborate in development stages to drastically reduce stress while increasing development productivity and quality.
:white_small_square: Regress in development stages if developing is evidently consuming family and real-life time. Apply daily restrictions to prevent this from occurring.
:white_small_square: Establish priorities such as family, real-life and schooling.


Personal Testimonials: @ElliottLMz & @Cinema_Sin

Both interviewees coincidentally experience(d) the shiny object syndrome. Through conclusive evidence, the shiny object syndrome is clearly damaging and disliked. @Cinema_Sin described it as an “eternal loop I can’t break out of.” They also stated that it is damaging and decreases productivity. Similarly with @ElliottLMz, their productivity is hindered as well when experiencing the shiny object syndrome. @Cinema_Sin went days procrastinating homework to push a game update which ultimately transitioned into dust. However, they never sacrificed family time for development.

@Cinema_Sin stops developing a game at random times for no specific reason. @ElliottLMz stops developing when the complicated stages must receive their attention. There are various methods to prevent inherent consumption of the shiny object syndrome. Both interviewees restrict themselves for a general amount of hours daily, albeit they’re partially lenient.

I have a rough schedule. I usually start each day with a notepad writing down my realistic goals programming wise (e.g. finish coding the XP system). When it comes to family time, I usually spend the evenings and certain holidays with my family.
I live with only 2 other family members, so I don’t spend weeks at a time just catching up with people. Generally, I spend a lot of time programming as it’s something I enjoy doing
either programming nonsense or consuming content (like gaming, youtube, tv)

@ElliottLMz, Discord

Not really a schedule, I do take my dog out for walks in the evening though.

@Cinema_Sin, Discord


I can’t confirm if all effective methods were discussed about in this article. Fortunately, I have never experienced the shiny object syndrome. Although the text was brief, it included insightful methods. If critical content was missed, please attach it in the replies section or contact me @ monorust#4750.

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Another great read. It was a lot of fun speaking to you about this! :slight_smile:

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This post has left me with a lot of questions:

What exactly is shiny object syndrome?

Does it differ from a general lack of motivation and/or ability?

Are shiny object syndrome and developing flawed game designs linked?

If it is linked with a lack of ability in game design could shiny object syndrome be eliminated by offloading the parts of game design you have no ability in to other people?

If so, how then does shiny offer syndrome differ from just a general lack of ability in a given area?

Is shiny object syndrome a widely recognised occurance or is it a name you have come up with?

If it’s widely recognised do you have references I could see to better understand your post?

I have many more questions but these are the most pertinent.

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Love the thread design and included quotes.

Definitely found myself in some of those situations :sweat_smile:

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Already addressed in the original post:


Actively replacing game ideas is generally unrelated to motivation and ability, no.


Already addressed in the original post. The shiny object syndrome revolves around developing flawed games, yes.


I’ve read this question about six times and still don’t understand it. Please elaborate on this.


Lack of ability in a given area is unrelated to developing a new game idea. The shiny object syndrome is when a developer puts unnecessary stress on themselves constantly developing new game ideas that eventually turn out to be unsuccessful.


It’s real. You can read about it through an external website here.


I heavily advise you to read the article thoroughly. Most of your questions were addressed in the first paragraph of the original article. If you’re just arguing to appear smart, I suggest you refrain from doing so.

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Thank you for that link, that explains Shiny Object Syndrome in a way I am more familiar with, and without all the linking it to developing flawed ideas and having a lack of ability.

Hey! This article is not like other articles. It is amazing. However, in the above quote, what exactly do you mean by a flawed game idea?

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So I think the etymology of the “Shiny Object” needs to be put into context, because it’s missing in this article – the shiny object is your next project that keeps you from completing your current one. Shiny Object Syndrome (SOS) is mostly about the inability to finish one project because you get distracted by the next shiny project before you finish your current one.

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Quality content as always, very interesting read and it was amazing speaking to you!

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Funny enough, my solution to this “shiny object syndrome” is somewhat backwards.

Rather than restricting myself to working on current project X, if something is REALLY that shiny, fine. I’ll go mess around with the shiny object. However, because I plan things out to reuse code and the like wherever possible (even between games!) in some cases even when I’m working on the shiny object, I’m also working on the original project. In other words, follow the shift of motivation but also apply some of the output to the original target, rather than forcing myself to work on the original project and burning myself out. This applies to data storage (my numbers to higher base converter is useful to me even outside the original FPS-centric intent of being able to very easily edit and add keys to a database by condensing wider ranges into a single digit), character handling, and so on.

What then tends to be left is game-specific mechanics and adaptation, which is often a fair bit easier than the core ambiguous junk in my opinion.

In other words, lying to myself.

The neat thing is that it’s the same as procrastination. It can be handled the same way.

And in both cases it can be a tool, somewhat akin to an explosive. Sure, it may go boom in your face if you don’t control it. But if you do control it you can make that explosion serve you. No different here.

Making bad things serve you instead of you serving them. When you boil all the fluff off that’s what a lot of these things come down to.

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I would like to add that going outside is quite relieving for SOS.

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This isn’t just a problem in game development, but one that occurs in life in general. I would recommend the book Grit by Angela Duckworth. The ability to stick with projects over the long term is a huge measure of what you’re able to produce.

I have personally improved my long term resilience with projects by turning my game development into a time-boxed habit.

Realising I’m bored with a project is when I need to work on it the hardest. Develop long term passions, don’t rely on short term markers, and allow discipline and compounding habits to drive your results.

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Slightly off topic but thoughtful walking is really legit. I solve my most complicated programming problems when I’m going out for a walk. Might not work if you’re in a more high density area, but I’m lucky enough to be able to walk through a bit of nature. It does great things for my focus too.

Results may differ when wearing air pods

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