Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Hard to Mope on July 4th

I'm not going to lie: last night was a disappointment.

I hate to complain and whine and say, "o poor me," but I AM human, after all, and we all have days where we wish things had gone better. For me, I have even less excuse than the average human...I live in the richest country in the world (still, I think) and I do have health care, and a job, and a loving family. AND I've got a hot-selling PDF on RPGNow that was occupying the #1 spot most of yesterday.

[what we like to call, "#1 with a bullet"]

And it's still at #2, which is just fine by ain't a competition, after all.

So, why O why was I feeling disappointment last night when the new PDF sales gave me the money I needed to buy beer at the Baranof? Because I was drinking that beer alone; none of my players showed up for the evening's play-test.

Here I am, writing and selling games, and I can't even entice people to play 'em.

Now, I'll be honest...Tuesday night play-testing is a drag anyway. I hardly want to go out that early in the week (Wednesday mornings are almost always hectic at my house, due to a variety of scheduling reasons). But dammit, when there's a holiday the next day, most people get to sleep in, right? You'd think it would be easier to get out (and being in the exact middle of the week, folks are less likely to take a two day bridge to make a long weekend). I am whining again with no real reason. I've got a buddy in San Diego who's been unemployed for more than a year and whose wife just quit her job to start their own business AND they have a newborn baby...and he's doing proof-reading for me in his spare time. For free! What have I got to complain about?!

Well maybe this (and I wrote a whole blog post on the subject yesterday, though now it feels a bit obsolete due to circumstance): play-testing is kind of a drag anyway. I would rather just be sitting down and gaming with everyone enjoying the hell out of each other and the game, without having to keep an eye on what's broken and what needs tweaking. And yet, if you don't test there's little chance that your newly designed game is actually going to work as designed. Theory-hammer alone just doesn't cut I've discovered pretty much every time I've tested something new, from game systems to house rules.

So I suppose the question arises: if you don't like the testing process, why bother writing games at all? I mean, B/X works right? And it's a cinch (well, as "cinchy" as writing gets) to write material for B/X. I have to say, I've become something of a "B/X master" over the last couple years, and I've still got a ton of ideas that I could bang out and sell and give Labyrinth Lord players goodies for years to come. Why bother busting your buns trying to do new games at all?

I don't have a good answer for that question. Look, it's fun to come up with "nifty" mechanics (or even cannibalize existing ones from other systems), but that doesn't mean one HAS TO write or design games. Heck, you can just post 'em to your blog and let other, more ambitious types run with 'em. You don't have to pour out all the blood, sweat, and tears yourself.

But maybe that's it...maybe I'm one of those "ambitious types." Maybe I want to find a way to make a name or way or pile of ducats for myself in the game industry because I've always wanted to do that with something, and gaming is the only thing that holds my interest long enough to make a go of it. I mean, it would be cool to be a professional football coach, but seeing as how I have zero experience playing professional football, my chances of breaking into that field seem pretty darn slim.

But...ugh...doing that means relying on other people, something I've been historically bad at. I mean that with all sincerity: doing anything worthwhile usually involves some level of collaboration, and game design is no exception (artists, proof-readers, printers, and play-testers AT MINIMUM go into the process...and then there are distributers, reviewers and marketing, lay-out folks, dudes that can do the on-line PDF thing, etc.). And collaboration has never been my strong suit.

But let's get back to the title of this post: it is difficult to mope on the 4th of July. Especially when it is such a sunny and beautiful day (as it is today). The 4th is a celebration of independence, but NOT of independence from each other...if our forefathers had not worked together in their revolutionary struggle, they would never have achieved their independence...the freedom to govern themselves and pursue their own independent agenda in the New World.

And their struggle was a lot tougher than MY personal struggles.

So, yeah, I was disappointed last night and I'm not looking forward to the work that's going to go into the two or three new games I'm working on in my spare time. But this whole experience is a good one for me...for my personal growth as a human. Sure, I can blog on my lonesome without anyone's help, but that's just like working out between matches (to use a sports analogy). The blog-o-sphere is a transitory arena...things whizzing around the Web, disappearing into oblivion at the blink of an eye. My game design is about something more than just passing ideas into space. And that's worth a bit of a struggle.

All right, time to go eat some chorizo and eggs that my wife has cooked up. Like I said, I really have nothing to complain about.
; )


  1. Well, if it means anything, I envy you. You've actually published something that's sold fairly well (for our little corner of the game industry, at least), which is more than most wannabe game designers like me can say. So keep up the good work, stiff upper lip, pip-pip, and all that other motivational stuff. ;) B/X Companion was great, and I'll probably end up buying whatever you publish next.

  2. @ Edowars: yeah, I hate to sound like an ingrate to a universe that's given me so much...but sometimes you (well, me anyway) feel like venting/bitching. But I'm working on it.

    And thanks for your support by the way...people buying my books is the encouragement I need to quit complaining and get back to work!
    : )

  3. I'm far too lazy to write anything of my own, even though I have the same kind of cool ideas most gamers and GMs do. For that reason alone I tip my hat to you sir. I do understand the fun goes from a gaming experience when you need to keep a better eye on what's going on, taking notes of pertinent things can really break the flow.

    I had something similar when I went to uni as a mature student - graduated last year age 33 - and had to go back to reading history books for the sole reason of taking notes. It did suck the fun out of it, reading only the chapter you needed, missing huge swathes of interesting events and breaking up the narrative flow.

    Since graduating, I've been struggling to find work other than the part time book shop gig I got to support myself through my studies - hence having the free time to start my own blog - and have only recently picked up another history book that I intended to read just for the enjoyment of it (Lives of the English Rakes, if anyone is interested).

    Would i change any of it? Hell no. You stick with stuff through harder times because you love it. And I hope you do the same.

    P.S. Don't feel bad about feeling grumpy on the fourth, is does mean you're no longer a little bit English, and that has to suck, just a tiny bit. ;)