This week’s game was an experimentation in making a game that could emulate the feeling I got that one time I finally made it to the veni vidi vici trinket in VVVVVV. I’ve always enjoyed the parts of VVVVVV that required a lot of precision with the gravity switching mechanic and movements. I very much wanted to emulate the feeling of fun frustration (or funstration, if you will) that you get when you attempt to perform a precise movement that requires a lot of practice – specifically the feeling that when you fail it feels like it’s your fault and not that the game is too hard.
What went right
The game ultimately turned out simple and fun – which was exactly what I wanted. I tested out a few alternative scoring methods to use instead of the obvious “how far did you get?”, but ultimately concluded that the nature of the game lent itself very much to just trying to get as far as possible before dying.
What went wrong
I don’t feel that I really captured the frustrating feeling that I wanted. This game isn’t particularly skill based – it’s mostly about precision and twitchy movements. I like those two things, but I really wanted to make a much more frustrating and skillful feeling game. I’m unsure how to really capture that at the moment, and it’s something that I’d like to explore further in the future.
What I learned
Like I said, I played around with a few alternative scoring methods as well as a few other “room” setups. I play tested it a few times and got a lot of really good feedback from people that I wouldn’t have gotten otherwise. It’s a lesson I’ve already learned, but it’s a good lesson to reiterate anyways. Play testing is good. Getting feedback is good.
A related lesson that I want to talk about is self-depreciation and skewing player feedback. I (and from what I gather, MANY others) have a habit of pre-empting negative feedback by declaring that whatever it is that I’m about to show off “isn’t done yet” or “isn’t very fun yet”. The first person that I showed this game to, I sent it over and then promptly declared that the game “isn’t very good yet”. This was meant as an semi-apology for its rough state but mostly to make myself feel better about any negative reactions to the gameplay (since I already told myself and the player that it wasn’t good anyways). It also makes an positive feedback, if gotten, feel that much better.
This is bad.
This is an un-helpful way to approach getting feedback and presenting your work to others. By declaring that the game isn’t good before giving someone the chance to even see it, I’m already planting the seed of doubt in their head. They’re no longer anticipating a game that could be fun – they’re anticipating a game that “isn’t very good yet”. Now they’ll give feedback based on how to fix the problem of “not being very good” as opposed to ways to improve the gameplay and usability. There’s a huge difference between those two types of feedback, and one is definitely better than the other in most cases.
Aside from that, I’m beginning to realizing how toxic it is to our self-esteem, as creators, to constantly be giving in to this feeling of inadequacy. We already all deal with impostor syndrome at every turn – why do we feel the need to make it worse by indulging in this idea of “not being good enough” yet? I talk about it a bit in the last section of this post, but this way of thinking literally does nothing to help improve our craft. Self-depreciation, even in the most “joking” of ways, is just an unnecessary hit to your self-esteem by the one person who should really be believing in you the most.
On a totally unrelated note, this now concludes half a year of game a week <3