The creative process is a whole lot of trial and error. Even all the formal education in world will only give you concepts that you’ll still need to implement and see in action at some point. Sometimes, those high concepts click for you and you’re able to implement them, and sometimes it takes some work.
A little under a year ago, I had the idea of making a “post-apocalyptic worker placement game” called Barterville. I really wanted to play with the worker placement mechanics and had a fun idea of a post-apocalyptic world cooked up with my creative partner, Mat. This was the second game I had ever prototyped, the first being “just” a card game, so I really had my work set out for me.
The image presented is literally paper taped to cardboard, with sharpie scribbled all over it. I even took this to a small local game convention and had game professionals play it. While I’d like to say that given the time and the knowledge it was going to get some exposure I would have gone back and cleaned it up beforehand, that was a very important part of Barterville’s creative lifespan. There were several mechanics that were retooled, polished, or even ripped out that weekend. I came in early Sunday morning so I could actually add a fifth player!
Since the board was relatively crude, the fifth player and all added elements actually blended in and none was the wiser. I was able to evolve quickly because I had allowed myself the space to fail and realize that four players wasn’t going to be enough for a maximum player count. I had set myself up so that even though I failed, I could benefit from it.
Give yourself room to fail. Not everything can be a success on the first iteration – nor should it be. Part of that is daring to push where you wouldn’t because you might be afraid of failure! I could have refused to bring Barterville to the local event, but because I did, it benefited greatly from the feedback (and actually garnered some early fans). My favorite story from the weekend actually came from a fellow amateur developer who had been afraid to show his games because he felt his games were too handmade to be taken seriously. One look at Barterville made him say “well, mine looks at least better than that!” It hopefully gave him the confidence to start prototyping.
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