For the Right Reasons

February 20, 2007

I was thinking today that there are two approaches to gamethought.

1) Thinking and posting about games to gain the attention and respect of others for being gosh-darned smart, interesting, and sexy.

2) Thinking and posting about games because you’re actually working on a project — whether for publication or your local gaming group or for yourself or for someone else — and gamethought is the byproduct.

I suspect that online forums — the Forge, Story Games, etc. — even if they start out with other goals in mind, gradually tend to drift towards the former. Or maybe, those of us (including, of course, me) who are easily seduced by the instant gratification of [1] do that so much that those forums aren’t great environments for [2].

Thing is, people’s attentions are ephemeral. The “Hey over here! Look at me!” thing might work in the short term, but in order to really gain people’s respect and long-term attention, you really have to put up AND shut up. You have to stop tooting your own horn in their faces and just quietly do your thing in the corner. After all, if you and your ideas are as awesome as you think they are, people will be drawn in without you doing a whole lot. And that’s real gratification.

Really, this is a marketing lesson. If you’re all hype and no substance, people will get bored with the hype pretty fast. But if you have a lot of substance, a tiny bit of hype will blossom into a huge hype machine run by other people, as your admirers tell other people how cool you are.

If you can’t tell by now, this is an attempt at self-criticism. Sure, I’ve been around long enough to have slowly earned the respect and admiration of some pretty cool people. And I’m really grateful for and humbled by their support. But I really only started feeling productive, as a designer, when I left the Forge and started this blog. So now I’m thinking about spending less time on Story Games and more time on my new WordPress blog.

Instant gratification is hurting my productivity, basically. I need to get away for a while and finish a few things. I’ll still need support. But I need to write games for some long-term awesomeness, rather than writing posts for some fickle attention. I need to sit down and write games for myself or for specific people. I need to finish Gridiron Gods for John Harper. I need to finish The Good Ship Revenge for Mike Sugarbaker and Andrew Kenrick. Right now, I need to finish While You’re Far Away for Josh Kashinsky and his girlfriend and Mo.

So I guess you folks are stuck with me here (and here) for a while. Hope my explosion of productivity on the blog side of things won’t overwhelm you.

2 Responses to “For the Right Reasons”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    Can I offer something in-between options one and two?Worries about “designing in a vacuum.”

  2. Jonathan Walton Says:

    Sure, what do you have in mind?And I wasn’t really thinking vacuum. I’m still likely to talk to my design compadres on a daily basis and SGBoston once or twice a week and read blogs.


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