Frustration Leads to Great Game Design
Aaron from A'n'SR here. I've been frustrated. I've been playing lots of RPG systems. I've been trying to find the perfect game system for the stories we like to tell. I've been subjecting my wife to multiple versions of her character as we figure out how each one works. We've had these great moments of "this is it; this one really works". Then, we figured out where it broke down or didn't work for what we were doing, and went looking for the next thing.
It's been frustrating... and good.
Playing Games is Good
Any game designer worth their salt will tell you to play lots of games before trying to make one. If you don't you are walking into a hubris-filled delusion of your own greatness. Really, anyone in any craft will probably tell you something similar: immerse yourself, then try. There is a reason. Actually there's a few reasons, but I want to harp on one: the conversation.
One of the major reasons for playing games is that designing a game is part of a larger conversation. The games that came out 30 years ago were played by people who made games 20 years ago. 10 years ago, the people making games took the lessons and losses from the games made 20 years ago to make their games better. 5 years ago, people made games that fixed things that bugged them in the games they played 10 years ago. And now, someone is making a game that adds to this evolution of the game style they love.
Game designers are involved in this evolving conversation of entertainment. We use the lessons from the past, the things that worked and didn't, to inform us on what to avoid and include in our next project. We stand on the shoulders of the giants before us, and avoid the pot holes left in the wake of bombs that few enjoyed.
Because of all of this, playing lots of games is a good thing. It lets you know the conversation better, so that, when you jump into it, you know what is going on and fit seamlessly into it. That doesn't mean you be boring, but you at least don't re-state the thing that the other person said 10 years ago. Instead, you add to it. And add to it intelligently.
So, after all of this. After all of the playing and listening to the conversation, where does it leave us? It leaves us leaving frustration. Something awesome happens when you shut up and listen to the conversation you care about. When you simply stop your brain from formulating your next point in the conversation, and truly take in the information that people currently talking are saying. That magical thing is that you learn. You learn that what you were going to say should be changed. You learn that your might be wrong (if you're willing to admit that). You learn that there was something you had not thought of that may derail you. You learn and you finally find out what it is you want to say to add to this conversation. You figure out the next intelligent point you are going to spew froth into the world so that ears may hear it.
When you know what you want and have a clear path to get there, you leave frustration behind you. I'm not saying I have had some great epiphany or something, but I think all the playing and all the frustration have lead to some glimmer of clarity. It has helped me figure out what to say next. It doesn't mean that what flows off the tongue will get the entire party to laugh or ponder, but it is a well-formed thought, now. Something that might help the conversation along. Something that might help make the conversation better.
I have an idea of what I want to say. I have an idea of what I want to do. I am hoping it will be somewhat brilliant. It may or may not be. We'll see. Basically, what's next is a new RPG system that I am happy with. One that not only adds to the conversation, but I am hoping catches fire and makes the whole room say "wait, what was that?" Something that will either leave a pot hole to help others avoid, or give a shoulder to stand on. It's what happens when you get frustrated, play games, listen to the conversation and finally get the gall to add something to it. Here's hoping it finds ears and is found worthy of the conversation.
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