Recently, I was on leave to recover from oral surgery. Between drooling and sleeping, I started making a video game. In this post, I’m going to be talking about my creative process. I want to address the thoughts that demotivate us. The ideas that lead us to give up prematurely.
This is us when making a game. What should my game be about? Making games is stupid and hard, it’s stupid hard. Making games is silly. I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m probably doing it all wrong. Should I use Unity or Unreal Engine? Or should I roll my own game engine? Am I creating the game controller correctly? Will this perform poorly? These are the kind of thoughts that get in the way. They kill the creative process before it even begins. It’s the judgement, it kills ideas before they have the chance to see the light of day.
It think the first misstep is trying to create something “new.” Don’t try to create something new. Creating new stuff is just a distraction. It’s a void into which all thoughts die dead. There is freedom in having constraints. Starting with the limitations or parameters helps us. Mine were, it had to be playable on Nintendo Switch. Try to find one thing you like and alter it in a way that delights you, no matter how silly. It’s all about sourcing material then playing the role of Dora the Explorer. The easiest way to do is to start with one thing. It really doesn’t matter what the thing is, it’s just a baby idea. My baby idea was to ask the question, “What is a game?” From there, I found several YouTube videos on creating puzzles. Then, I had the idea to create some kind of Teleport puzzle mechanic. If I player runs over a thing it would teleport them somewhere else. It’s a simple idea and that’s all you need.
You start building. You search around how to do X but you’re not sure if that’s the “right way.” I don’t know but I can say it’s the “wrong” question. Right & wrong are demotivating and distracting. They stop progress. Ask instead, does it work? If it works… keep going. This is a learning process. When I was mentoring at a coding school, I had a student create a web site that was not technically great but the end product was amazing. I was so impressed. People create crazy cool things all the time that are simply “wrong.” Who cares. The goal is creative self-expression not a test to be passed. That’s actually what attracts me to creativity in the first place. It’s a place to be free, to discover, and to explore. All my favorite things.
Work with that you have. Whatever tools are at your disposal. It doesn’t matter. Play. Explore. Create. Be silly. Let the critic take a hike. Oh and don’t do it for other people. Do it for yourself. That’s the most honest kind of creativity. Reject what other people want from you and embrace what you want from yourself.
I know this all sounds so basic. How true that is. But, you know, that’s where we mess up. We forget the fundamentals. We forget K.I.S.S. (keep is simple silly.) We get lost in the deets. We lose sight of the forest for the trees. We can’t see what’s directly in front of our face. If it were a snake, it would have bitten us. Enough with the idioms! Fundamentals are just that, fundamental. It’s our operating system, the thing that makes us tick.
Here’s a short video of the Teleport game prototype:
My plan is simple:
- Have my kids create the artwork, music, characters, and story.
- Translate these materials into game assets.
- Discover ways of using this mechanic by playing with it.
- Make the game playable on Nintendo Switch so that my kids will be able to see the whole process.
Hoping you’re inspired to create silly things!