Sometimes Your Game Will Be Meh

I caught a Twitter exchange this morning between Sage La Torra & Jonathan Walton that made me think about my own early experiences. They were talking about dealing with feedback and worrying that their games aren’t good enough.

Here’s the thing: They never will be.

Seriously. I look back at games I’ve worked on, some published, some not, and see things I wish I had done better. Some critiques for A Penny For My Thoughts that I’ll do are based on what Paul & I wish we’d done better[1]. Definitely little things about Dresden Files RPG, mainly in explanation organization. Know Thyself, my ashcan from 2007, man I wish I hadn’t released that–though I learned a fuckton by doing so, thus making it a worthwhile endeavor. And with the fiction I’ve written & published[2], I always look back and wince at phrases and transitions, etc.

I’m going to feel that way about Mythender. And every other game I make. I’m going to be disappointed by the playtests that go “meh” more than the ones that go down in flames. But that’ll always be the case. Not every moment in time is a dramatically good or bad one. I console myself with knowing that “meh” moments tests if my game or story is a flash in the pan or not–if I have them and people are still interested to play again, I’m comforted.

So if that’s what’s keeping you from publishing[3], that’s unfortunate. Because it’s only in getting your work out to other people and seeing how it happens that you grow. And it’s only by closing a project, stop tinkering with it and just get the work done, that you begin to learn how this process works. Your game will never be perfect. Perfect is the enemy of done as it is the enemy of good.

Do the work. Let it breathe. I know it’s hard, but having been on the other end a few times, I can tell you it’s worth it.

– Ryan

[1] Not that I knew about them until after publishing and seeing so many come into contact with the text…which is the point of this post.

[2] Yeah, I’m also a short story writer. Bet you didn’t know that. I have a story in an upcoming anthology, Human Tales from Dark Quest Books, edited by Jennifer Brozek.

[3] Whatever “publishing” means for you, from selling a book to rocking a Lady Blackbird-style PDF and being done with it. That John Harper‘s a fucking master of Being Done.


3 Responses to Sometimes Your Game Will Be Meh

  1. Yep. I know that feeling all too well, re: Beast Hunters. But things wouldn’t be what they are if they hadn’t gone the way they did (an obscure shout-out to Cora E. that no one will get, but true nevertheless).

  2. Jason Pitre says:

    The key issue I am faced with is trying to determine what is good _enough_. It is the challenge of determining what is good enough, without releasing poor quality work recklessly.

    I suppose the only approach I can suggest is the law of diminishing returns. If it will take another year to fix 1% of the total game, it’s probably time to release. Do you happen to have any better suggestions in terms of approach?

    Thank you once again for your insight.

  3. Jason says:

    Besides, no matter how crap your game is, someone on the Internet will love it. Same principle says 10,000 people on the Internet will hate it, and you.