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There’s No Such Thing as a Perfect Game

Perfection in Art quoteThere’s no such thing as the perfect novel. Perfection in art is unequivocally subjective. What one reader hails as perfection, another will throw across the room in disgust. As readers, our preferred reading experiences span the gamut from cuddly, reaffirming romances to gritty, life-challenging noir. And that’s awesome. A world without variety would leave authors with very little of interest to write about.
Because the perfect novel will never exist, authors have lots of room in which to play around and find their niches. Therefore the question isn’t so much “how to write the perfect novel” as it is “how to write your perfect novel”.

– K.M. Weiland

There is no such thing as a perfect game. No matter what genre, what theme, what mechanics you choose to limit yourself to, there is no such thing as a perfect game. No matter how good your game is there will always be someone who doesn’t like it, someone who thinks it’s stupid, or slow, or boring or just plain bad.

This is great news.

Because if there is no such thing as a perfect game there is no such thing as a universally terrible game. No matter what weird mixture of genre, theme and mechanics you choose to brew, someone will always find it fun, challenging and inspiring. Someone will always be willing to play it. There is no such thing as a universally terrible game.

Your job as a designer isn’t to create the perfect game. Your job is to create a game you are satisfied with and then find the audience who likes it. Just don’t expect anyone to like it. And don’t expect anyone to hate it.

Writers have to simultaneously believe the following two things:

The story I am now working on is the greatest work of genius ever written in English.
The story I am now working on is worthless drivel.

– Orson Scott Card

#1 Creativity Killer – Expectations

Greatest work, wrothless drivel quoteExpectations are the killer of creativity. If you expect your work to be great then you force yourself to evaluate it through the lens of perfection, the impossible goal that no game can attain. Your game won’t be perfect. If you expect it to be you will never, ever be satisfied with it. Chances are you will never finish it and if you do, never push it towards publishing. Why would you? Your game isn’t perfect, who would ever want to play it?

Don’t expect your game to be bad. If you expect your game to be bad then there’s no reason to work on it. Expecting it to suck will kill your creativity, your joy at designing it, your motivation to show it to others. If you think your game is worthless then it’s worthless to work on it.

Your Game is Always Great

You need to think your game is great. That will give you energy, the will to move the project forward, to see it to completion. It will give you the excitement that comes from knowing that you will gain fame, fortune and adulation once you’re done. It will give you the confidence you need to work, to push onwards with new ideas, new mechanics, new path. To boldly go where no human has gone before.

You need to think that your game is crap. That will give you the freedom to do whatever you want with it, to trash it and move it in direction that are just plain stupid just to see what will happen. To follow any and every idea that you get without censuring yourself with worry that it will wreck your game. Go, young padawan, where no Jedi has gone before.

In short, to design a game you need to be a little bit crazy. But then, you already are a game designer.

Dreams of Futures Past Book Cover


  • Zac Wooddy

    Kick ass article, I’ve been struggling myself with sticking to one story until its done and I’ve recently been running out of steam (though I’m only 15,000 words into it right now).
    These bits of wisdom often help me keep on writing past the part where I tell myself “Gawd! This is all shit!” and thrown my keyboard across the room.

    • Filip Wiltgren

      Yeah, I’ve noticed that once I finish a story, or when I hit the doldrums, I need about 3 months to get perspective on it. If I look at it before then I end up with “this is horrible” – but if I look at it after having had time to get some distance the story is often quite good and only needs a bit of polishing.

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