Forget Your Fears

It’s a cliche but true nonetheless; gaming has brought a lot to my life.

In an effort to give back, I give talks and participate in panels at a number of conventions. These sessions tend to have titles like Networking in the Game Industry, Curating Licensed Properties, and Finding and Serving Your Core Engagement. With titles such as these, you would be right to say that our audience will be filled primarily with freshman designers.

Being new to design, attendees also tend to be a little bit timid or hesitant. That’s okay. It’s perfectly natural.

If you’re in that audience, I want to see you succeed. I really do. And so do the panelists sitting to my right and left.

Each of us begins as a beginner–a beginner who needs encouragement, support, help. We understand the position you’re in. We were there. You can depend on our sincere desire to see you succeed.

Some of us however need more. Some of us have a devil on our shoulders and we need to talk about it.

We all have them; the fears and the doubts that fight back against our own best interests. What I speak of now is bigger than that. This little bastard digs its pitchfork into your shoulder and whispers its foul lies into your ear and it must be stopped

Looking at my body of work, you might think this kind if thing came easy. Not at all.

The day of my first meeting with a major publisher that demon had me terrified. I was convinced the the scout would laugh at my work or berate me for wasting his time. Reaching out across the cellular network, Debra was the voice of reason that got me to the table.

So let’s talk about some of the most common fears and dispel them.

I didn’t bring my proto because it’s not ready to test.


51st State started with only a handful of cards and the question “is this interesting?”

Your game is ready the test the moment you have bits to move and rules to guide them. To wait longer is to waste development time.

My game isn’t good.


Be assured that every game of mine started out as bad. Many of them still are.

Playtesting is all about turning bad games into mediocre games. And turning mediocre games into okay games. And okay games into good games. And good into excellent. It’s an iterative process. If you want your game to be excellent, put your proto on the table and get to it.

No one plays/publishes this kind of game.


The only people in a position to measure your work are the people you share it with. When you decide not to share your work, you are pre-rejecting it.

Share your work with everyone. Some of them may indeed reject it. But others will love and admire it. Provided that you give them a chance.

Furthermore, it may be true that no one has published a game like yours. What if no one’s published a game like yours because no publisher has yet seen a good game like yours? You could be filling a critical gap in the gaming landscape!

My game’s theme has been done to death.


Consider what Fiasco did for role playing. Consider what Star Realms did for deckbuilding. Consider what 1960: Making the President did for political games.

Great games reinvigorate bloated genres. Make yours the best game ever to serve its theme. Success will follow.

These are the lies I hear regularly. And these are the responses I give, whether it is your demon speaking or my own.

For further encouragement, I urge you to check out Austin Kleon’s enlightening books Steal Like an Artist and Show Your Work.

What are the lies your fears tell? How did you move past them? What did you learn from the experience? Share with your fellow readers in the comments below. And if you’re enjoying what you’re reading, create an account with WordPress and follow this blog. If you keep reading, I’ll keep writing.


One thought on “Forget Your Fears

  1. Jena Hill says:

    I found this really encouraging. I’ve just begun making games and my inner demons have been tormenting me lately. “You’re not as good as anyone else,” and “Your games will never be good,” run across my thoughts every once in a while. I recieved a rejection letter this week for a scholarship I applied for to go to the GDC. I don’t have any experience, so I completely understand, but it felt as if all of those thoughts were validated by my failure.

    Finally, I told myself today, “Stop worrying about the things you haven’t done and focus on the things you can do.”

    I have a feeling those thoughts will come back later, but my hope is to have evidence to prove them wrong. Until then, back to the drawing board.

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