Podcast recommendations, and a change of perspective

While mowing the lawn I listened to two podcasts that I would like to recommend. They gave me some food for thought and how I want to change my perspective on my game design work.

The first was the latest Back to Work episode. I like Back to Work and listen whenever it shows up in my podcatcher, but this episode was pure gold. Dan Benjamin, one of the hosts for the show, was out sick for the show. The other host, Merlin Mann, did the entire show by himself. I've been a fan of Merlin Mann's work ever since his work with productivity and the Getting Things Done (GTD) methodology in the early 2000s. Back then Merlin did a podcast for his blog (43folders) that was very thought provoking. The Episode Shiny Red Cleric was a return to that form. In the episode he talks about sharing his nerd enjoyment of Dungeons and Dragons with his daughter. One of the thing that he was fascinated with in the D&D realm was painting miniatures. One of the miniatures that he painted back when was with the Testors model paints that were common back in the 1980s. I could relate to this because I did some model building when I was younger, and one of the worst things was painting those models with the paint. The paint never seemed to go into the right spots, and I wound up with more than one Star Wars ships that were too shiny, too smeared, or looked like they had neglected to clean out the tar from their encounter with on a tar planet. I could totally relate to his tale of making a shiny red cleric. Fast forward to heading to the hobby shop to get some paints and supplies to paint some cheap miniatures. He relayed how his memories of painting a shiny red cleric were haunting him and that he didn't want to repeat those same mistakes. So he was recommending being cautious and watching a ton of videos before starting his painting project. His daughter didn't have the same baggage, though, and after one video was painting the miniatures with wild abandon, improving each step of the way. Merlin was amazed at her progress, but in retrospect he realized that the only way to really get better at painting miniatures is to paint the God-damned miniature. So he painted and transformed from making little brown treasure-chest blobs to a reasonably well-painted paladin.

The moral of that story was that instead of bringing the fear of failure, or of not being good enough that we bring our best selves in the moment and play the game as best we can. We'll show up with what we have.

The second podcast is a series by Justin Gary called Think Like a Game Designer. The episode with James Ernest was the episode that I finished as I was finishing up the lawn. Near the end Justin asked James about any books that he might recommend. His answer was interesting to me.James replied that there were a lot of good books out there and a few great book (some of which include articles written by James) but his best advice was to just design games. Then he made a distinction that I think is lost on a lot of folks. There's a difference between designing and making a game, and publishing / marketing a game. A game can be just for yourself. It doesn't have to be mass published. That's something that I've struggled with; the feeling that I need to publish everything that I feel is good or neat or what-not. The second piece though is that publishing and marketing games are different skills than the designing process. Too often I've picked up books that talk about game design that finish off with how to publish your game and market it. Honestly those should be in a separate book about game publishing, which are completely different (and necessary) skills than game design.

What this proved to me is that I need to align my focus more on the design process. I've been prepping by reading every book out there (quite literally) and while I can speak with authority on the game design process I haven't really seen it through yet. The same is also true of programming in many regards. So I am shifting my focus from being the dilettante of design and actually put some god-damned paint on these designs to flesh them out.