Your Game Will Suck & That’s Okay

A friend with impostor syndrome and a rather successful Kickstarter asked me a question a few weeks ago:

What if my game sucks?

I didn’t give them a soft bunny answer:

It will.

To unpack that in its various dimensions:

Your game will suck to you. It’ll suck to you in ways where you feel you need to compromise to get it done. It’ll suck to you as time goes on and you learn more, both about this game and about design/production over all.

Your game won’t meet every fan’s expectation. It’ll suck to them, for whatever reason. Maybe you reject their criticism initially, that’s fair to at least do in your head. And when you’re in a space of calm reflection, you might come away with new understanding—often something different than the core criticism itself.

Your game might even get critically panned. If that happens, well… the game is out in the world and you can’t change it now. You can decide to learn from the experience, and you get to choose to be gracious or an asshole in each moment you come into contact with that criticism.

I’ve been both gracious and assholish about criticism (and I consider “silent” to be a form of gracious). I regret most of the times I’ve been an asshole—I realize now I was frequently being unreasonable in my youthful defensiveness. I mention that so some of you can learn from my missteps: if you’re to be remembered for how you respond to criticism, what would you rather be remembered for?

And unless you are a really shitty person, having a bad game won’t kill your chances at selling another game. It won’t kill your chances of working on games with other people. People in such positions understand that games tank, and when you show you learn from your missteps you earn respect. And fans who remember you may give you another chance; plenty of people will also not remember your old crap games.

(Hell, they sometimes don’t remember your old good games either.)

To reiterate:

Your game will suck, in some way. I promise you it’ll be okay.

Try your best. Surround yourself with people who understand your vision and will tell you plainly what you need to hear to make the work better. And accept you can’t please everyone, including yourself.