Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Business vs. Art

It's been four days applying my new writing practise and I'm ecstatic about the result so far. Not just the fact that I'm finally getting words through my fingers again but how well those words work together. Not only do I have an introduction for High Plains Samurai but it now has a voice and character. It's also brought up something else very thought provoking.

Throughout the online writing communities of the world, there are many inspirational posts about sticking to your vision, don't get caught up in what others are doing, writing is a labour of love and many more. The latest one I've seen was from Chuck Wendig and while I skimmed through it briefly this morning, there were many valid points about not getting caught up in others' accomplishments compared to your own. I have to admit I'm extremely guilty of that, especially of late. While it's not like I've been sitting on my laurels (that's a fancy word for my butt, right?), many others whom I follow are happily plugging away on their projects and getting the word out there. Not me and while Mr. Wendig's words are true to form, it does little to quench that need to kick myself in the nuts over this.

Anyone who knows what's been going on (even if it's just the basics) knows that things have been pretty crazy for the last while. I'm happy to say many things have cleared up over this summer (including a certain litigious issue) and that's created the need for new concerns and matters to address. Things that required my full attention combined with the insanity of my job (seems there really is no slow time for us when it comes to the behind-the-scenes workings of a ski resort) have made it difficult to me to keep up with the demands of my burgeoning game design career.

And there's that word. Demand. That's been bothering me, the feeling that I need to tweet more, need to post more on this blog, need to get the column done, need to move forward on Version 1.04 of ScreenPlay, need to this, must have that ready. There's a lot of must-haves when you're working on a new game, all of them part of the creative process.

Then it hit me - it's not the art of designing games that's bothered me, it's the business of selling them.  Playing to your audience, addressing them at their level, setting aside that precious creative time to plug your product ahead of time... all the necessary evils that comes with wanting the world to play your game once its ready. Maybe it's the fact that I work in marketing and particularly social media. I have to admit the more I've seriously studied this modern phenomena, the less I personal enjoy it. Maybe it's my compulsive nature as what I feel are my failings eat away at me like a gnat chewing on... whatever it is that gnats eat. (Meh, so I don't know much about the insect world. I can let that one slide.)

It's not like I haven't gone through all this before. Killshot was a big experiment in many ways and I'm still deciphering the clues it provided but there was also a major difference between then and now - I had nothing but time back then. The whole day was available to dabble in everything related to the project. Suffering from writer's block? Go on Twitter. Worn out on Facebook? Get some writing done. That doesn't apply any more, particularly in light of the fact that I have a very creative job. The biggest matter I'm still addressing is creative energy at the tail end of the day.

It also dawns on me now that Killshot was not designed as a product; it was designed as labour of love. It was art. Could that be what's missing now? Have I started pushing myself too hard to follow-up the blazing success of that project instead of noting what worked was the art of its creation. I'm a big believer that tabletop game design is an art form and if you don't believe me, just take a look at the numerous discussion and disputes regarding game mechanics across nearly every forum available. We debate game mechanics the same way museum patrons delve into a painter's vision and intentions in a particular piece. That's what I love about this craft, not the business side of things. Yet, as it is with so many things, you can't have one without the other.

And that's what's bugging me today. 

Monday, 25 August 2014

Getting Back In The Ring

I've put this off for far too long.

If you read that sentence and heard Ian Holm's Bilbo in your head, then we're off to a good start because that's exactly how it sounded when it came to me. I've been away from a couple of things for too long now and it's time to get back to it. What am I talking about? Gamemastering and writing. I believe I've taken steps to help fix that. 

First one's easy: start running more games. As you can see from last week's posts, I've started running a mixed online/in-person D&D game but that's just the beginning. While I love my Ottawa playtesters, I need to whip out a lot more playtests for ScreenPlay and stress test this mofo. Which is why I'm looking into starting up a semi-regular online group to do that very thing. Details are still being worked out and I haven't established anything other than a fist-clenching oath to get it done, so stay tuned. If you're interested already, comment below. 

The next is as critical to Gamemastering and playtesting and so much more: writing. With my career and personal life demanding so much attention lately, my time at the keyboard has suffered for it. That needs to change and I may have something to help fix that. Sure, sure, setting aside time is great and a lofty goal but I need something suitable to my current lifestyle. 

To paraphrase the South Park kids, I learned something this weekend. I'm a morning person (who also likes staying up late but that's a different matter altogether). The sooner I can get to a task, the sooner and better it will be done. Over the weekend, I happened to wake up extra early on Saturday while the missus slept in and spontaneously decided to finally clean up the garage. With nearly three uninterrupted hours as people sipped their morning coffees and stores prepared opening for business, I cleaned and ended up with a better result than originally intended. Get an early start, get better results. Translation: I need to write something as early as possible in the day to get something done. 

My plan (and it's Day Two right now) is to not putz around on any social media until after I've written at least 500 words on a project or personal entry. (Yes, that includes blogging since I can write that much easily in one sitting. I should also note this doesn't include work's social media as I gets paid to tweet for them.) 

Has it worked out so far? It's already the second day and I have an opening legend for High Plains Samurai and a blog post talking about how I'm going to get more writing done. So far, so good.