The Rite of Passage

I hate to tell you this, but your first game isn't going to be published.

The games that are getting published are people's 10th and 20th games. My first game published was my 17th game. Many people have spent years on some "labour of love" first game, instead of putting it in the bin.

Many designers do go back and work on their earlier projects, but their design skill has improved so much that they need to redo most of the game. 

It is highly unlikely that your first design is a good enough game. Even if you consider yourself a genius, please spare us your lesser works, and give us your masterpiece fifth or tenth game instead. 

There is a rite of passage that most successful designers undertake. That rite of passage is the abandonment of their first game.

Please allow me to crush your dreams...

I've playtested lots of people's games. Most people are working on their first game, and it's an epic "kitchen sink" game, with everything in it. They've been working on it for a long time, and they have the intention of getting it published.

After playing such a game, I almost always tell the designer the same thing: your game is far too complicated.

As a published designer, people are very much interested in hearing my feedback, though some people disagree, and defend their game. "It has to be that way..." or "my vision is... [exactly what the game is now.]"

Others are open to feedback. I tell them that the correct choice is to eviscerate their game, and reduce it to its core. This can be a lot to take in, and I've created a crisis in fellow game developers' minds on numerous such occasions.

The crisis

This crisis, however, is only the first step. They wrangle with their game for a while, and we usually message back and forth for the next hour, or day. Then, I present to them a solution. They should not decimate their game project, to make it publishable. The game should stay as it is. It should simply be seen in a new and more realistic light. It was fun to work on, one of their friends liked it, and it was an amazing lesson. It was a labour of love, and that's how it was meant to be.

This may seem unnecessary and destructive, but these people are serious about game design. I tell them it's great if they want to do their own thing, and just make a game for their friends. However, they're not trying to do that. They're trying to make something that's going to be popular, and/or succeed, and they need to take the rite of passage.

What happens next

For the ones who keep working on their game just for fun, nothing much changes.

For the ones who keep working on their game, and ignore my advice, I keep an eye on their game. These people tend to go to Kickstarter, as they're not interested in having to listen to a publisher either. I keep an eye on their game, and follow it through to its eventual Kickstarter, which almost always fails. They take the rite of passage, but it's forced upon them. Most of them end their game design careers at this point.

If I keep working with them, they're often keen to begin a new project, and I'm happy to help. They've learned a great deal from working on their first project, and they're no longer constrained by it.

How about you?

I realise that reading this website may have had such an effect on your game, as well. My apologies.

However, it's better that I tell you something, than a publisher tells it to you two years from now (or worse.)

When a game dies, a short period of reflection on the old game takes place, and the development of an exciting new game begins!

Don't worry. Your early games were not a waste. You were never really building games. You were building a designer — you!

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