Designing is Redesigning

Designing is Redesigning
Self Indulgent Rambling

I’ve produced about eight drafts of my Secret Project in the past year, and of those probably…three of them were comprehensive rewrites, as in burn it all down, start over, question everything. Like, it was less work to just start from scratch and maybe c/p useful non-system grafs than to try and carefully edit an old draft.

That feels like too many but I’ll bet it’s fairly typical. What an exhausting process.

I think half my problem is a FOMO thing, like, I want to include alllll the clever little gestures and big ideas under one roof. I’ve never been short on cleverness, which is not as awesome as it may sound. Another was that it’s damned hard for me to narrow my game idea down. The impulse to build a toolbox is really hard to shake.

I’ve been working on the fourth comprehensive revision for a couple weeks now, and I feel like I’m balanced right on the edge of bored/frustrated with the whole thing, and excited that finally, finally the thing is narrowed down and specific enough that it feels for-real playable.

I suspect the process itself is the biggest reward I’m going to get out of this. It’s proven to be true: I’ve done two contest designs this year that were enormously easier for me to conceptualize, narrow down to a specific play goal, and write (I hope) fairly clearly. And at the same time, it’s getting harder all the time to justify the time and mental effort to work on the big stuff, my own designs, my own design ambitions.

Related story coming up. Maybe stop reading here.

When I was on the up-slope of getting “good” at mountain biking, as in being able and willing to ride all day, traveling to other countries to ride, building my free time and disposable income around the bike and travel, it felt emotionally similar to where I am now. And I reached…well, not an apex, because the world is full of people who are better than you/me. But my apex, let’s say. And a moment entered my mind at that apex where I asked myself, “great, so what’s the point of all this again?” And I just quit.

It wasn’t all at once. But I’d fallen out of love of the thing. It really did feel like falling out of love with a person after putting a ton of effort into the relationship and then asking yourself “so what’s the point of all this?”

I guess I know myself well enough to fear that happening again. It’s just so easy to shrug off my own enthusiasm, to play it cool with my own excitement. It’s hard for me to maintain focus and excitement in the face of external factors, and I kind of hate that I’m so easily dissuaded.

And yet I’m so close. So close. I’ve got three Scrivener windows open right this minute and I’m like…do you cross the finish line or do you shelve it, again, for an unknown number of weeks or months or years?

Hence this procrastination exercise.

Saturday rambling; feel free to disregard. 🙂

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0 thoughts on “Designing is Redesigning”

  1. You touch upon one of the main reasons I still hesitate to go deeper into game design. I’m afraid that if my passion (gaming) becomes more like work… it will cease to be a passion. That I (to use your words) will fall out of live with it.

  2. I was like that about contract bridge. I started to compete, realized how much ongoing effort that was going to be, and suddenly my enthusiasm for even casual play imploded.

  3. So, are you familiar with the Relationship Escalator? The whole idea that society is structured to push people in relationships through this series of phases (dating, moving in, marrying, kids, etc.)? With the idea that staying put at any tier is somehow failing?

    I think that’s relevant here. I think that taking on others’ metrics and rubrics is unhelpful; putting the time and effort to figure out why you do this for yourself is what I’d do.

    Obviously, I love this secret project and am really excited about it, so I have a vested interest in your answers, maybe, but whatever, ignore that. I think that feeling like you’re (personally) topping out and abandoning a thing is a response that might be worth interrogating. Is there a way for you to continue to find value in a thing without feeling that you’re pushing up? Maybe, maybe not, but it’s worth pursuing clarity on.

  4. That’s so funny you say that Joe Beason​​… This post made me immediately think of James Stuart​​’s similar experience with bridge.

    Paul Beakley​​ and chance you’ re harbouring anxiety about letting it get finished / be a thing of its own in the world?

    I ask because that’s a tricksome thing my brain would do.

  5. Oh wow! I did not know Joe Beason (or forgot) that we were bridgemates. Basically, I walked out of the North American Bridge Championships , gave up tournament bridge, and haven’t played in seven years.

  6. Not out of any anger or anything, just, either it needed to be 20 hours a week, or it needed to be 0, and I thought about it, and decided on 0. Still feel 100% confident in that decision.

  7. Sometimes it is better to allow a creation out of the studio and into the world to stand on its own.

    Turn it over to the people who will take it to the next step and don’t let yourself edit again until a few of those steps are complete.

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