Follow-Up: Time + Hard Work != Great Game

2011 Feb 28

As a sidenote to my post from last night…

This is about also needing the spark.

I had about a 4-5 month break between when I stopped working at my last job and starting grad school. During that time, aside from a little freelance graphic design work, I had nothing on my plate except finishing Geiger Counter. And yet, it didn’t get finished, despite me trekking to Starbucks multiple times a week and spending 3-5 hours on it.

Sometimes, what’s wrong with the game isn’t something you can fix right now. Maybe you won’t be able to fix it ever. Or maybe you’re just not in a place where you can really work on it. Time and hard work isn’t a substitute for the insight and energy that you may need in order to move forward on a project and people come to their insight in different ways. For me, it almost always happens when I’m doing something else — walking the dog, doing dishes, in the shower, playing a game written by somebody else, or working on a game idea supposedly unrelated to the other one.

But, during those 4-5 months, I was so stressed out about finishing Geiger Counter that I wasn’t really open to those moments. Or I was depressed or anxious about the other crap in my life, and music was a much better creative outlet that game design was, at least for that period. In any event, the insight didn’t come. Geiger Counter still had a number of issues and I wasn’t in a position or state of mind to address them.

I was just chatting with Elizabeth and she was saying that the important part is combining the insight with time to work on it. Sometimes the insight, the spark that gives you the ideas and energy to move forward, comes when you’re too busy with day-to-day life stuff to take advantage of it. That sucks. But then other times you have the time set aside but the spark isn’t there, at least not for the project you’re “supposed” to be working on. That sucks too, maybe, but not nearly as bad. You still have the time set aside, right? Doing something else with it, something that excites you right now or something that connects you to the people you care about. Those are the very things that throw fuel on the fire, that nurture the spark.

And then hopefully you’ll be ready when it strikes again.

2 Responses to “Follow-Up: Time + Hard Work != Great Game”

  1. Micah Says:

    Really good advice, and I needed it. It makes total sense, but it’s so foreign to the way I actually work.

    I sit down almost nightly to work on my game (lacking spark but having some free time) and I hardly ever have anything to show for it. That time would be better spent on something that I am actually inspired to do. Then the frustration of never making any significant progress can give way to a feeling of accomplishment in another area, which can only be a positive thing in the long run.

  2. Paper games are a particularly weird beast, creativity-wise, I’ve been finding. When working on fiction or a computer game, one really needs to put in the hours. 10% inspiration, 90% perspiration. With paper games, it’s pretty easy to go from inspiration to playable text – and then I have to wait for the opportunity to play it.

    I don’t think I’ve ever had inspiration and not been able to find the time to write it down – unless there’s some inspiring thought I’ve had that I’ve forgotten. (How inspiring could it have been, really, if I can’t remember it.)

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