Sometimes, when I express frustration that I’m not able to figure something in my life out, a friend of mine (who is decidedly not a game designer) will needle me with ‘Why don’t you just make a game about it? Isn’t that what you do?’ And then I hang up on them.
Well, no, but I do roll my eyes. ‘Yes,’ I think, ‘that is what I do, but that doesn’t make it the thing I do right now.’ Particularly if the thing I’m trying to solve for is having, say, too much on my plate, which adding ‘design a game from scratch’ to is unlikely to help matters, at least in the short run.
My friend (who is one of many who have given me this “advice”) can’t hear me roll my eyes over the phone- it’s more like a glaring silence- which is a good thing because we had a call scheduled to chat through why I was having trouble figuring out how I was going to confidently do something I felt sure would go poorly (tldr: that thing was network at an event and the thing holding me back was that I wasn’t physically at the event yet- everything was totally fine when I got in the room, per usual). They had already suggested to me that I ‘just make a game to solve the problem’ on our previous two calls, which had the effect of me feeling like a double failure- unable to make a complex, heartfelt, time-intensive, feeling and behavior-changing game on command, and also unable to solve the original problem for myself.
My friend means well, they all do, but what they failed to realize- and what I had failed to realize as well- was that I was too close to the material at hand to have perspective on how to change the system. I wasn’t thinking creatively and so I wasn’t going to be able to design a game about it that was any more effective at laying out achievable steps to reach a stated goal as this article on falling asleep fast ‘the military way’ which contains ‘Step 5: Now clear your mind’ is. I know military folks are good at taking orders but this is next level. If you’re already good at the task at hand you don’t need a game for it and if you need a game to get good at the task you must playtest it, which is time-consuming, and I can only create so many games at once without coming to my friend with the same question over and over again about how to keep things off my plate.
This is a familiar sand trap for me in many regards, as it is for many of us. This time, anticipating a positively negative feedback loop that would ensure if they told me, again, on a third call in a row, to ‘just make a game’, I decided to preempt the suggestion. If it worked my problem would be solved, though it would be at the cost of me being wrong and having to admit it, but the fact that I would win if it worked and gloat if it didn’t was enough to move me through the task that, to be fair, absolutely no one had set me.
The game I came up with (this month’s Patreon game) is like a pep talk you’d give yourself in the mirror before having to speak at a public event, only communal and way more jacked. It’s based on the song ‘GMF’ by John Grant. Spoiler: GMF stands for Greatest Mother Fucker and the song includes such lyrics as:
I am the greatest motherfucker
That you’re ever gonna meet
From the top of my head
Down to the tips of the toes on my feet
So go ahead and love me while it’s still a crime
And don’t forget you could be laughing
Sixty-five percent more of the time
If it weren’t so tongue in cheek it would hit *way* too close to home for some of the folks I know (see lyrics in the first verse, ladies) but, personally, I find it too funny not to enjoy. And guess what? The game is pretty fun and loosened me up considerably, so… win. I’ll probably even recruit a few folks to playtest the game, too 🙄🤦♀️🤷♀️