Sidequest: Harsh Truths

Sidequest: Harsh Truths

Howdy! Welcome to another Sidequest, where we have another topic, but the same kind of semi-coherent ranting, raving, and rambling, courtesy of yours truly. So, I wrote this article thing regarding beginner mistakes, but the original idea was to write about the harsh truths of game design. Y’know, the shit no one tells noobs because no one wants to hear those things. That’s exactly why I take it as my solemn duty to do this sort of thing. It’s a dirty job, but someone’s gotta do it.

Now, when I say harsh truths, I mean it. This is gonna be a bit more educational than other Sidequests would be on average, but it can’t all be fun and games, just most of it. So, by now you’re probably tired from the intro and are pissed off at my rambling bullshit. You’re still reading this, though. Let’s get to it.

Harsh Truth #1: You’re going to fail.

Boy oh boy, this is a big one! Let’s just cut to the chase. If you somehow go from concept to complete product without resetting shit at least 3 or so times along the way, it’s more or less a miracle. You’re going to have to accept the fact that you’re going to have more failed projects under your belt than Google’s social network attempts. You have the best idea in the world, you start working on it, you can already see all the awards you’re gonna get for it… and then it hits a bit of a snag crashes and burns in a spectacular garbage fire.

Oh no.

Well, that’s it. You failed. The only reasonable course of action now is to dye your hair black, find your sweater + t-shirt combo, and pull out your Black Veil Brides CD, cause it’s time to cry!

Except, like fuck it is. There are very, very few situations in life worth going full emo-mode over, and your game design idea not working as it should is definitely not one of them. Instead of wallowing in self-pity, actually stop and think for a bit. It’s game design. Failure is not just always an option, it’s a hell of a useful thing when looking at the bigger picture. Pull yourself up by your bootstraps, and get back to work. If everyone gave up the first time something went belly-up, we wouldn’t have nice things like the screen you’re reading this on, nor that BVB CD you “lost ages ago”. The key point is, innovation takes persistence. No pain, no gain. Stop crying and start trying. <insert motivational motto here> etc. etc…

Harsh Truth #2: No one cares about your game.

Boy oh boy, this is a big one! We’re all special, unique, creative souls, with infinite potential, completely unbound by the laws of this mortal plane. So, we each have our own pet ideas that we want to see through, and we care about them very much. The only problem is, no one else does. At least. not nearly enough as you do. Say you have a player who absolutely loves your game. Can’t spend a day without playing it, constantly active in the community (or they pretty much are the community), gives a lot of feedback etc. Even your #1 fan still doesn’t care enough about the game as much as the person who made it, i.e. you. This is a fairly natural thing, though.

You care the most about your game because you have spent the most time involved with it. From the original concept, through the implementation and testing, most of the investment in the entire process has been from your end of things.

The first time a lot of people realize this, it ain’t pretty. But again, this isn’t something you should get all mopey over. Get motivated! Get angry… then calm the fuck down, ’cause it’s just board games.

But seriously, all you need to figure out about this is that you shouldn’t really give much of a fuck. Keep working on your game the same as you did before. If you absolutely need to have the complete and total approval of others, then… uhh… ignore everything I said so far. You do you, champ!

Harsh Truth #3: Game designers aren’t exactly rockstars.

You did it! You made your first game, polished it, published it, and are now browsing the yacht catalogues for a shiny thing to spend all that game de$ign money on.

Except, being a game designer doesn’t exactly pull in yacht-levels of income. Dreams crushed, I know. At least you have the international fame that comes with releasing a hit game, right? RIGHT? Yeah, about that…

Like the title of this section so eloquently puts things, fame and fortune aren’t really the end result of making tabletop games. Sure, there are famous(ish) designers out there, but unless you make a game that replaces Magic: the Gathering or anything like that, you’d be lucky if your name is even mildly known among other designers. Then again, this all boils down to the mindset you have. If you go in looking for the ca$h and the fame, you’re gonna end up di$appointed. If you consider it a nice bonus on the side, a reward for something you enjoy doing, chances are you’re not gonna have a problem with things.

Sure, it’s not impossible to make a living by making games, and a lot of people do have it as their day job, but that’s just the thing. Unless you’re one of those people who work as part of a company, for a salary, working a 9-to-5 as a dedicated game designer, living off games might not be that sustainable in the long run. So, don’t quit your day job just yet. (Unless your day job is game design, in which case don’t quit it period. Or do, if it’s not something you like doing and/or there are issues at work and…)

(Disclaimer: I’m not a lawyer. This should not be taken as serious legal advice. Or taken seriously at all.)

(Don’t sue me.)

Harsh Truth #4 (four) (IV) (cuatro): There’s nothing new under the sun.

What happens when you find out that your completely unique never-been-done-before idea has indeed been done before? As unlikely as that might seem, it happens more than you think. This is why you do your research, people.

Look, if you only care about uniqueness or special snowflake status, chances are you’re gonna end up with something stupid as an end product. Every rock out there is technically unique, but they’re still boring fucking rocks. Stupid analogy, I know, but it’s a unique analogy… you get the idea. Unique doesn’t necessarily mean good.

Besides, it’s always better to pick up where the last sorry bastard left off with the same idea. Build on the mistakes of others, oh ye designers of games, lest you be built on yourselves – whatever the fuck that’s supposed to mean.

Bottom line is, you need to embrace the mentality sooner or later, but take care not to go into full plagiarism mode, lest you be memed on by the suits. Everyone copies everyone else, so no need to go out of your way to avoid it.


Blah. I suck at writing conclusions. To recap: shit happens, you learn things, you do some things good and some bad. You go ahead and read blog posts like this. You listen to emo bands. You don’t listen to emo bands. Maybe some day you decide to write for a game design blog like yours truly. Join me next time on Sidequest, where we might tackle the absolutely prestigious, scholarly topic of Why game bad?

Here, have song-I-think-good:

This is ur mom lol InvertedVertex, signing off.

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One Response

  1. […] Sidequest article planned for the very near future, talking about some harsh truths in game design, but since it’s a Sidequest thing, it will be a lot less formal than […]

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