What is a "Black Triangle" moment?

by phil on Sunday Jan 25, 2009 11:05 AM
helpful words to label things, mainfeed

Game programmers can relate to this, but it's also a metaphor for life:

Our company financial controller and acting HR lady, Jen, came in to see what incredible things the engineers and artists had come up with. Everyone was staring at a television set hooked up to a development box for the Sony Playstation. There, on the screen, against a single-color background, was a black triangle.

“It’s a black triangle,” she said in an amused but sarcastic voice. One of the engine programmers tried to explain, but she shook her head and went back to her office. I could almost hear her thoughts… “We’ve got ten months to deliver two games to Sony, and they are cheering over a black triangle? THAT took them nearly a month to develop?”


Afterwards, we came to refer to certain types of accomplishments as "black triangles." These are important accomplishments that take a lot of effort to achieve, but upon completion you don't have much to show for it -- only that more work can now proceed. It takes someone who really knows the guts of what you are doing to appreciate a black triangle.


Oftentimes you're given an mysterious, undocumented, and incomplete engine, and it takes weeks of just poking at it here and there, hoping you can affect the system in a meaningful way. But once you do so, it feels like what Archimedes once said, "Give me a place to stand and I will move the world." I sometimes feel like I'm making black triangles in life, trying to work through theoretical aspects of our undocumented engine, with very little to show for it initially. What if your whole life were black triangle moments?

Maybe Rick Warren, in his Purpose-Driven quest to imitate culture, could start preaching that the Bible, "is. the. operating system. manual."

(via jason kottke)


thehomestargunner said on January 25, 2009 2:45 PM:

I have had this moment more times than I can count.

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