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My friend (Vic) and I have been slowly designing our own game system for years. When it started, the idea was to do a clone of our favorite game system. This was a game that we both love to play, which shall remain nameless because I don’t want that to serve as a distraction to the main point. The only thing that matters is that we love to play it.
On our first session, I proposed an exercise: Create a table of the broad gaming elements that we don’t like about the system, the ones we like about the system that need no improvement, and the ones we like about the system that need improvement. There were 6 likes, 5 likes requiring improvement, and 9 dislikes. That is, there were more dislikes than likes. Only about 1/4 of the broad categories we identified needed no improvement in our opinions, and therefore had to be maintained in our new system. Gaming is, as we all know, about having fun, so logical breakdowns aren’t always a good predictor of whether any given individual will like the game. Remember, this apparent disaster (about half of it we dislike) is our favorite game system, and that’s not because we didn’t legitimately love playing it. Don’t be afraid to criticize what you love, including your own work. Whether you’re designing a game or picking and choosing which rules to use at your table for an existing game, try things out and make decisions based on your own sensibilities.
All of this reinforced a lesson I learned a long time ago: Nothing is perfect. You (and others) can always reasonably criticize even your favorite [fill in the blank], and there’s nothing wrong with that.
You Do You
I’ve spent the past several months publishing posts criticizing various gaming systems as a reaction to my impending return to 1st Edition AD&D (including 1e itself). My blog’s audience isn’t very big, and I’m not even sure how seriously anyone takes me. However, if you’re designing a game system and have ever heard criticism from anyone, even an established game designer, that claims you’re going in the wrong direction, never lose sight of the fact that the only person that knows the right direction is you. You should design the game you want to design. Maybe it’ll be a commercial failure, and not just because there’s too much competition. Maybe most people simply won’t like it, but maybe fewer would like it, including you, if you weren’t honest in your approach. It’s also easily possible that all those critics might really enjoy your game despite its inclusion of gaming elements they criticize.
Listen to the critics but form your own opinion. Design the game you want to design. If a career as a game designer isn’t in the cards, you should accept that. At least you’ll have done the best job you’re capable of doing, but perhaps, with persistence, future redesigns may result in something you and everyone else likes.
And you certainly shouldn’t get upset that someone else’s work is being criticized. 🙄
This post reads like a Roxette song.
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Dungeons & Dragons is a trademark of Wizards of the Coast, LLC, who neither contributed to nor endorsed the contents of this post. (Okay, jackasses?)