Every so often I get the urge, nay passion, to create something on my own. Something that is mine and mine alone. Something that I can show to others and garner–I cannot lie–both respect and admiration. My head is filled with wonderful images. I am a white knight of game design, and I fight valiantly; I charge forward on my trusty steed of fundamentals, covered in my armor of past mistakes, and brandishing the flaming sword of my passion. This time, I often say, will be different…
It is always the same; both how I start and how I fail. Inevitably the battlefield is litered with the ashen corpses of half scribbled notes, the directionless orders of counltess txt files, and possibly, if very determined, the dry bones of an eclipse project.
Why is this? I told a friend once, that the magnitude of my early stage passion is destroyed, in equal measure, by a significant level of delayed apathy. While this is true, I think it is only a smaller symptom to a greater problem of mine. A problem I have no clear solution for.
When I set out to make something, I can never decide who I want to please. Me the designer, me the player, you the client, or you the peer. These desires come from both a conscious and unconscious place, and each of them is meaningfully different.
- Designing for me, the designer, means that I am trying to create things that exemplify what I know. Whatever that means at the time, as I am always learning new things.
- Designing for me, the player, means that I am trying to create things that exemplify the kind of game I want to play. Whatever that means at the time, as my tastes are constantly shifting.
- Designing for you, the client, means that I am trying to create things that I think people want to play. Whatever that means at the time, as other people’s tastes are constantly shifting.
- Designing for you, the peer, means that I am trying to create things that exemplify what is meaningful in the world of design. Whatever that means at the time, as what is hot is always changing.
It is impossible to satisfy all of these goals, at least it is impossible to reasonably start from these goals, for it is like being pulled in too many directions at once. You try and create “the most amazing, relevant, creative thing ever made”, but all you end up with is the most generic drivel you’ve ever seen.
These four directions can be best summarized as a battle between two things: Make and Play. I want to create something for the sake of making it, or I want to create something for the sake of playing it. That battle is where I always lose. I’ll start to create something that I want to play, and then suddenly I’m telling myself I’m wasting my time, that it’s too much work. Vice versa, I’ll be working on something that I think is meaningful, something realistic, something feasible, and suddenly I’m telling myself it’s boring as fuck.
I can’t win!
The advice I try and give myself, and that I know others have said is simple: make things for yourself, as it gives you the strength to push through hardships. If you are lucky, in the end, you will have created something that appeals to other people as well.
That’s all well and good. That’s fine. But that doesn’t change the fact that I still suck at following that advice. At some point I will win this battle. Maybe my fundamentals will becomes strong enough, my failures make me tough enough, or my passion will burn bright enough, and until that day comes I don’t plan to give up.