My primary focus through 2017 will continue to be Funkitron and Cascade. But it’s important to me that even when I am off the clock, I do as much as I can to keep growing as a game designer.
So to kick off the new year, here are some of my game development goals for 2017:
1. Level Up My Game Design Toolbox
When I first started formally studying game design, I fell into the trap of obsessing over critical language. I searched for and asked community leaders to point me to a “Game Design Dictionary”, and offered to organizations like the IGDA Game Design SIG to help build one. At least one experienced designer said I should slow down, explaining to me that critical language is an organic Darwinian process that cannot be forced. But at the time I was frustrated at what seemed like a lack of tools, so I ignored the advice.
As it turns out, overthinking highly subjective semantics is a very inefficient way to learn. I should have taken that advice. Like designing games itself, it makes much more sense for me to jump into the creation process, borrow any tools available, and rapidly iterate on my own personal Game Design Toolbox as I go. I consider a toolbox a set of handy design concepts that I can apply direct to my work. Unlike a dictionary, the primary focus is on function over meaning.
One clear method to level up my toolbox is to expand it. I will continue my search for new tools by trying new games, reading articles/books on the subject, and in general exposing myself to everything life has to offer.
But the bigger the toolbox gets, the more it needs to be organized. So as I iterate, one of my goals will be to put the weaker tools on the bottom, the handy tools on top, and my trustiest tools on my tool belt. In practice, this looks like a curated collection of notes in google docs and spreadsheets, with links to more detailed sources. As it evolves, it may become more of a tree or web, and I may explore new ways to access the information.
Success here looks like a vastly improved toolbox by 2018; one that lets me quickly and effectively solve game design challenges.
2. Shrink My Games Backlog
It’s very important to me to as a designer and gamer to play a wide variety of games. I want to try classics that have shaped today’s landscape, to play innovative games that took risks, and to keep up-to-date with modern games and trends. And I do not want to be tunnel visioned by my natural preference towards certain types of games.
But to really make a dent on my backlog, I need to accept that cutting games from my list is always good, and that it’s never too early to move on from a game that isn’t giving me anything useful.
Success here looks like an smaller and more sustainable backlog by 2018. I hope to be well-versed in 2017 hits, and get a few major classics under my belt too.
As a healthy creative outlet and to keep my rapid prototyping skills fresh, I hope to spend some of my off-time this year creating mini concept prototypes in HTML5 and Unity.
Tinkering is important to me, because it lets me take weird creative risks that I cannot easily get away with in the constraints of my professional work. It lets me answer lingering questions, and introduce me to even better ones. It helps me clear my head and kill my darlings.
And on the physical side, tinkering lets me practice my rapid prototyping skills and stay fresh with game making tools. Which never hurts!
Success here looks like a personal collection of microscopic digital and paper prototypes, spanning a range of genres and taking interesting risks.
4. Get Involved With The Community
Since leaving Playcrafting in late 2014, I have spent the last two years with my head down, focusing entirely on my work. As a result, I have become relatively recluse, missing out on many Boston game community events.
But now that I feel that I am hitting a comfortable rhythm in my career work, I want to get involved again. I am starting to see that even as a young designer, I may have valuable things to offer to others such as advice and encouragement to recent grads and indies trying to break in, and maybe a fresh optimistic perspective to the vets.
I don’t know what form this will take exactly, but it could include speaking engagements, teaching, event planning, and more. To start, I will be giving a short 5 minute presentation for Boston Indies February Lightning Talks.
Success here looks like a strengthened bond with the Boston community, improved presentation skills, and a positive impact on some younger aspiring game developers.
These are some meaty 2017 goals for the year to accomplish on top of my career work (and on top of a social life and marriage), but they are all crucial to my growth as a person and as a game designer.
At the same time, although I’ve defined success individually for each goal, overall success is much more flexible. These goals won’t change me overnight, but help shape the kind of designer I will be long term. So even if I land below the 50% mark, I will consider that an overall success. And I expect all four of these goals to come back in 2018 regardless.
Cheers to a great 2017!