Third Helix is now Kickbomb Entertainment! Please visit kickbomb.us for all future updates.


08 Apr 2010

I posed this question on Twitter:

Game devs: do you consider playing your own game a reward for finishing it? Or is the reward moving on to making another game?

The most common answer was that by the time you finish making a game, you've been so close to it for so long that you really just want to move on to the next project. That's not terribly surprising: I've made a handful of games in my time and that's certainly been my experience.

I was thinking about what drives me to finish Cortex, specifically, which is what prompted the question. And for me... I don't really know.

Cortex isn't planned to be a commercial game. When it's done, it'll probably be released free of charge like the rest of the content on this site... so there's certainly no financial motivation present. Similarly, the game isn't likely to reach a wide audience: less than 20 people responded to the game's first public playtest (and thank you all, by the way: your feedback has been invaluable!), and that was 2-3 times the exposure I thought the game would get. So there's definitely no motivation to earn widespread praise or accolades, either... maybe just a few positive words from a small circle of friends and peers, at the most.

I'm proud of the game thus far. I feel like it has a strong design and a lot of the fun potential has been realized since I released that playtest. When I'm testing the game, I recognize that fun is occurring... but I also seem to have a sort of clinical detachment from that experience, like a scientist observing a lab rat. When I look into my post-Cortex future, I honestly don't see myself filling up my leisure time playing the game; I see other people doing that, while I work on the next game.

So I had this realization: I'm making this game as fun and engaging as I can, but that fun and engagement will in no way benefit me. It won't make me money, it won't win me praise, and it won't fill my leisure time. What it will do -- all it will do -- is fade into memory, just another entry in a list of "stuff I've made".

That sounds really bleak, right? It totally sounds like I'm abandoning the game, abandoning the whole idea of making games, because it's all so fucking pointless, you know?

Except I'm not. I'm totally driven to finish this game, and I'm totally driven to make more games, and hidden somewhere in the psychological soup is something *that brings me joy in so doing. *Something is fundamentally satisfying about building these things for which completion is abandonment.

The other common answer to my Twitter question was that you find satisfaction in knowing that you've brought others joy. I certainly hope people will enjoy Cortex when it's done, and that's naturally the over-arching goal as I develop the game. I've never really thought of "bringing joy" as a motivator: I've always thought if it as just something you do when you're a game designer, because duh, they're games. But I guess if I made a game that people didn't like, I'd view it as a failure and that wouldn't be much of a reward at all. So then the question becomes: am I motivated by making players happy, or by happy players telling me I did a good job? I suppose it's a little of both... but weirdly, neither really fits my personality.

There's something awkwardly irrational about all this. I love making games, and I can't definitively say why. Maybe I'm just a little insane. :P

What about you? What motivates you to complete a game even if it's not going to make any money, win you any accolades, or fill your leisure time? What drives you through this cycle of completion and abandonment, if indeed you experience such a cycle at all?

Posted In:

cortex game-design video-games