Pick Any Two
Here’s a fun look at how perfectionism has finally, after a lifetime of slow buildup, completely stalled out any designer aspirations I’ve ever harbored.
This morning I was looking over my uhhh rather lengthy list of projects I’ve fiddled with, on and off, for the past several years. Many of them are now in the low-hundreds of pages, as in maybe playable even. But I don’t want them in the world. And I couldn’t figure out why. So I talked it out with my wife, who is happily here at home (unhappily because she’s got a head cold) and is always my best, and kind of only, sounding board.
I think I’ve trapped myself by demanding too much of any given project. Basically I have three requirements, and possibly aiming for all three is either impossible or such a tiny dime-sized target that, no shit, I’ll never hit it (so why bother, wah).
This one seems like it should be #1 and non-negotiable, right? Haha you’d think so! But let me proceed with the other two.
This one seems like it shouldn’t even be on the list, right? Oh but it is. A lot of that is because of the segment of indieland I travel in. There’s a nontrivial amount of hype, discussion and celebration of the transformative opportunities of roleplaying games.
This one is probably the product of my endless lifelong journey to learn literally everything there is to learn about this thing of ours. And right now I feel like, honestly, there’s not much left. But it’s also left me sort of struggling to just enjoy a game, because I can’t help but deconstruct it. And that means it’s also a necessary creative agenda.
So here I am, looking at my list of shit. And of course not a single damned one of them is engaging and meaningful and innovative. So my ego and my insecurities say, meh, don’t bother. Throw in the towel. Let smarter/better people aim for that tiny dime-sized target.
Having said all this out loud to an actual human being, though, I’m working on how to unravel myself from this impossible thing. Maybe…maybe I can pick any two. Every combination has some merit:
Engaging + Meaningful but not innovative? Shit man, I’d play that myself. We’re kind of between major innovations right now anyway.
Engaging + Innovative but not meaningful? A tiny bit harder for me to swallow, but also not. I’d put Circle of Hands or Imp of the Perverse in here. I’d totally be proud to have my name on either of those titles. I think I’ve let indie culture embed but is it transformative in my head too deeply.
Meaningful + Innovative but not engaging? That might be a designer ego trap. Or at least it is for me. Maybe I feel like “engaging” isn’t really that hard. But then again my efforts to create more specificity in my more-advanced designs (Monsterknights specifically) has proven far more difficult than I thought it would be.
Yeah. I think that last one trips me up a lot, for indiegame-culture reasons. I honestly don’t hear much hype or celebration on the “is this fun?” front, you know?
Enough navel gazing for now. Just some thoughts about how I’ve let a lot of outside cultural stuff invade my head space.