Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Bustin' Out of Wonderland

“I give myself very good advice, but I very seldom follow it.” – Alice, Disney's Alice in Wonderland.

November is National Novel Writing Month. The requirement, as a I understand it, is to write at least a 50,000 word novel starting on November 1st and getting it done by November 30th. The goal is not to write the next great masterpiece in literature. The goal, simply put, is to take on an enormous creative task and actually produce a finished work. A complete story.

Brain Crack
Now, I don’t have much interest in writing a novel. My passion is game design. However, the noble goal of producing a finished work is something to admire and aspire towards. I have drawers, boxes, and computer files littered with once great ideas that almost got finished. Ideas are cheap. Anyone can have an idea at any time. Execution is everything. While something is just an idea, it’s a cool concept with endless possibility.

The web artist/comedian/toymaker Ze Frank refers to this phenomenon as brain crack in one of his amazing video blogs: http://www.zefrank.com/theshow/archives/2006/07/071106.html.
Basically while you’ve got an idea, it’s pure possibility with none of the problems of actual design to bog it down. It’s easy pat yourself on the back just for having it.

Half-Baked Still Ain't Dinner!
A partially finished idea isn’t much better. It’s all the possibility of an idea with the parts you “just knew were going to be cool” figured out just enough to seem real without actually being useful. It feels slightly closer to being a reality, BUT you still can’t do anything with it. You didn’t tackle the tough challenges, make the difficult decisions, and you didn’t form it into something useable.

In game design, forming something useable is incredibly important. Playtesting, ultimately, is what makes a good idea become a great game. To playtest something, you’ve got have a finished product. It doesn’t have to be complete with everything you wished it would have. It just has to have a start, a finish, and rules to make it into some kind of playable game (even if it’s not quite yet the game you want it to be.)

Man Up! (Or Woman Up! …as the case might be)
Now, I’m like Alice in the quote above. I often give myself great advice, but following it is not always easy. As Morpheus from the Matrix would say, “There’s a difference between knowing the path, and walking the path.” Very Buddhist of him. That’s what I love about the idea of National Novel Writing Month. No excuses. No worrying about quality. Just man up, woman up, grab whatcha got and get something done. I see no reason why this kind of healthy, slap in the face challenge has to be limited to writing novels in November. It does, however, need to be limited to a short time frame.

My Challenge
I have been kicking around an idea for a role-play game using a system I call Cool Factor 5 (name sound familiar?). It’s been a partially done idea for some time now. On the first weekend in December, I am going to playtest it. Hopefully it’s awesome. It may suck. But it WILL be done enough to play. Throughout the month I will post a few bits and blurbs about what the game is and why I think it’s such a “great idea.” The challenge is to do this with no excuses about time and energy. I’m starting a new class today. My work is coming into its busiest time. I’m trying to produce a play for my daughter’s preschool and it needs some organizational work done this month. I can’t slack off on any of that. However, I will find the time to get this game done.

Your Challenge
You! Yes, you there! My quite possibly non-existent readers! If you are reading this, I challenge you to join me. Join me now even if you are reading this in February 2015. The stars are in alignment, your horoscope looks good, and fate is holding your hand. Pick something you’ve been telling yourself would be a good idea. Something that takes some effort. It can be building something, organizing something, or just about any kind of creation that suits you.

Right now, give yourself a deadline approximately 30 days out and GET IT DONE! Hold yourself accountable to it. Post your declaration in the comments of this blog and then post back when you’ve completed your masterpiece/project that was good enough to call done. Even if it sucks, you will be many times more awesome than someone who just keeps patting themselves on the back for a good idea left not done.

Let's Do This Thing
Wonderland is a great place to visit, but not a great place to live. Most people living there are quite mad you know. Bust out! Make something real and just possibly spectacular. Because I don’t want any of us to be addicted to brain crack.


  1. I think I'll clean my house...

  2. Okay so here is a problem I have two projects, the TajMahal mural and the cliff house sculpture which both could still be finished before the end of November. But I am not into finishing them, I'd rather commit to finishing my sculpture of Atlas since the sphere of the universe is vulnerable to being touched/damages/destroyed before it gets cooked by my sons. It survived them yesterday... I am having trouble figuring out how to support the little man (god) so that the universe can literally rest on his shoulders. But there are 3 things worthy of completion, I'll keep this blog in mind.