Cascade of personal revelations incoming! TMI, so much TMI. Mute nao.

Cascade of personal revelations incoming! TMI, so much TMI. Mute nao.

* I’m sort of terrible at being for-real competitive in creative spaces. I suck at participating in Game Chef. I’m neurotically frozen in place about that Civics game design thing. I compete in other parts of my life, no problem. I would even consider myself a competitive person. So what’s up with creativity?

* This extends beyond just game design. I went to school for music composition and I’m a published author. In school, I’d get discouraged when someone else submitted a modified-piano thing when I had been working on a modified-piano thing, and just pull out. But then again I also wrote a mountain bike guidebook when there were already several on the market, and I didn’t get hung up about that. Because I knew I could do better. You could look at the offerings and ways to improve were clear. Magazine articles, though? It’s why I couldn’t make a full-time career out of it: I’d think up a story angle, see the same story angle a couple weeks later, and toss my draft out the window. Story of my life. Ideas are cheap, work is hard, discouragement is an easy out.

* I think my deal started with that thing where kids who are complimented on their smarts and talent don’t do well because they don’t want to disappoint anyone. That’s why modern parenting theory says to compliment the work and not the talent, because the work is something you can do something about. You have no control over your talent.

* That somehow mutated into this thing where I value novelty over quality. Is it new? Has nobody ever done this before? It’s a way to dodge actual competition, right? I don’t have to be better if I’m different. Totally contra Roger Ebert’s “it’s not what the movie is about, it’s how it’s about it.”

* Novelty plays a part as well, especially in the game design space. Hence generations of fantasy heartbreakers that are (arguably) objectively better than D&D but aren’t different enough. Then again you’ve got niche fantasy like Earthdawn that’s different, but D&D squats the mindshare.

* Anyway! This isn’t about the big bad scope of all gaming everywhere, this is about me stumbling into a malformed piece of myself that I’m finally figuring out how to face. Because now I’m stepping into the ring for real, I hope, and I can’t (just) count on novelty to score a victory. It has to be new but it has to be better as well.

0 thoughts on “Cascade of personal revelations incoming! TMI, so much TMI. Mute nao.”

  1. Paul, I’m guessing it’s too late to think in a process-oriented way about the project you’re contemplating?

    Also, you didn’t explicitly mention perfectionism, but I take it that’s a big part of what you’re talking about? I used to think my perfectionism was a wonderful thing that kept me on point in my projects… but now I realize it’s cost me as much as it has given me. (I can see now where I’ve driven myself and my collaborators crazy on occasion and I’m not convinced that the extra emotional overhead made the end product any better.)

    Anyway, I thought this was useful and pithy: Ideas are cheap, work is hard, discouragement is an easy out. A good thought for the day.

  2. If it helps, Game Chef ended up annoying me when I entered last year. I was fully expecting to get through to the final round, which was of course completely morally incorrect. And some of the judges just didn’t “get” my game. Which in my stupid mental space is on them rather than on me for my writing, or the idea (dammit, who doesn’t want a game based loosely on Justin Cronin’s vampire apocalypse…)

    I think I’m bad with feedback. I’m fine if I’ve asked for it and can brace for it, but when it feels unsolicited (even when there’s always going to be anonymous feedback, as in Game Chef), I find myself sulking.

    Often I’ll look at a game and think “Cool idea. But I could have implemented it better.” I don’t like people judging my creativity in RPG space (even if it’s far for the course in work), but I’m a judgemental pillock about others’ work.

    I can usually hide it, and I’m trying to be better.

    So it’s not quite the same issue as yours, but somewhat related maybe.

  3. Super interesting, thanks for sharing. The novelty thing I see a lot in academics. There, you value ideas rather than execution. Nobody wants to read papers where existing results were replicated, you gather esteem by advancing the boundaries of human knowledge.

    There’s an affinity here with music composition (as opposed to performance).

    I see this with heartbreakers or games that are mere genre emulation – they’re not advancing the state of the art, they’re a laborious expression of preferences done as a prelude for playing, like making a mix tape.

    These things are valueless from the perspective of ‘are they original?’ despite the tremendous personal satisfaction they generate.

    I suspect micro-game competitions push this feeling to the fore because there there’s absolutely zero illusion that these games are somehow going to become mainstream successes, appreciated through widespread play. They’re primarily going to exist and be appreciated as design artifacts.

  4. Neophilia is a problem in all fields, especially arts- or tech-adjacent ones, and that hits games up both ways. The New New Hotness is constantly demanding our attention.

  5. I wonder if my profession, as obsessed as it is with tradition, nullifies my worst neophilic tendencies. Hm. Neither here nor there.

    (Which is not to say I’m not subject to being swayed by new shiny, because I am, all the dang time.)

    When it comes to creation of new concepts or new packaging of existing concepts, though, I think my professional training allows me to see those things as equivalents. If I know a judge will accept a certain argument, either because they are bound by precedent or because I’ve seen them do it before, then structuring a novel argument in a way that analogizes or parallels the known quantity is a huge advantage! So that’s equally-as-good as coming up with a novel argument that is equally persuasive, maybe better, because it is often less work.

  6. Paul Beakley Have you read my posts? I’m pretty sure the only secret I have is that most people haven’t seen all of what’s in my pants.

    It is challenging, though, when we start looking at our emotional and personal relationships with games and creativity. For me, creating is a need. I often don’t even want to do it – I have to. Writing is like that – I have a blog that I write on that only I think 3 people read, and I only write there because I ache if I don’t. Design is just getting shit out of my head – but I want it to be Exceptional and Interesting and Exciting! I want people to want my games as much as I need to make them, and “everyone else has done this but I guess I’ll try my best” never feels enough, hence, novelty, desperation for something fascinating, and never really knowing how to actually finish a project because it’s never Enough.

  7. My first #myrealityselfie was taken during my morning poop. So.

    Agreed on all parts re game design. Hence the ugliness and wheel spinning of “but it’s so derivative!” and “omg could you even make it more complicated?” and “ehh, fuck it, I’ll just wait for someone else to do all the hard work.”

  8. A+ TMI.

    Basically, yeah. Right now I’m working on Turn and like, I got a really good level of feedback from my first Alpha (like, “this is the best alpha playtest I’ve ever run” and “I’ve never seen this complete and quality an alpha” and “I could run this from the materials on hand” kind of feedback), but I’m still FREAKING OUT because what if there are too many fiddly bits? What if someone else publishes something cooler inbetween now and when I KS? Are my design elements going to be dismissed as just another PbtA hack?


  9. Dude I’m having all the same feelings. It sucks and it’s unproductive and, for me at least, utterly self indulgent. Like what I’m doing is so very important.

    Which it isn’t, and that’s a relief! It’s just important to me. I mean I’m excited and in a good place to get it done, but grappling with the fact that it’s honest-to-God unimportant helps because it means the consequences of failure are, at worst, that I learned a hell of a lot about the process for next time.

  10. No one should be scared of Civic Games! Josh, Sarah, and I have basically no idea what we’re doing and the point is just to generate a bunch of cool ideas.

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