The difficulty of making something that means a lot to you personally but also speaks to others. - art by Ryan Penning

The difficulty of making something that means a lot to you personally but also speaks to others.
- art by Ryan Penning

I have been designing a personal game/experience for little over 2 months now, completely mine code, art, story, design, all of it. Mostly because I want it to feel like something I personally made and something people can see is crafted by me and understand a bit about me.

While I'm not going to talk about the game itself in this piece I am going to talk about a trouble that I generally think not only plagues me, but many others.

there are definitely highly significant things that I’ve put into the game that have very specific meanings to me, and looking around on message boards and forums, I’ve seen individual people find most or all of those pieces, and say, “I see this, you know, and here’s what this means to me, etc.” I haven’t necessarily seen one person put it all together. It’s a very, I would say actually a very complicated text, and the way it works with the gameplay and the puzzles is very complicated and subtle. And so I wouldn’t even necessarily expect to see that yet. And frankly, my goal is not strictly to have most of the audience play the game and automatically understand [it].
— Jonathon Blow interviewed by the AV Club

Soulja boy's thoughts on braid are what most people refer to when they discus no one "getting it".

While Jonathon Blow's problems with understanding his game came after release, my problem exists while designing it. The game I'm designing is about a time in my life that impacted me greatly and right now I don't know if I should design it with broad aspects in order to make it cater and appeal to many, or design it specifically about me for me. I'm going to break it down as much as I can to get a bigger picture for me and others.


Designing it as close and personal to me as possible

When designing this personal game I set up to design something that would give people a glimpse or give people an understanding of a moment within my life, I generally thought it was going to be easy to convey this but as design went further ahead I realised trying to convey something as personal as I'm trying to convey is difficult when it's not something many people consider to have happen to themselves and therefore wouldn't really have a "complete" understanding of what I'm trying to convey. The one way I can counteract this is by making most of the expressions and content in the game be broad but still thematically in-line with what I was conveying.

It brings up several things to consider

  • Will making the content contextually broad make it more understandable.
  • Is it actually counter intuitive to broaden it? Will doing this tarnish my idea for the game.
  • Will making it personal strengthen the design and turn it into a niche experience for few or act as an example for the genre and tone it's evoking. 

I actually got a chance to talk to some people about this, most notably Alex Ocias and a few others as they were having a discussion in line with exactly my dilemma.

I can't really quote them 100% on what they told me because it was 2 months ago but I do remember the advice being along the lines of

Making experiences impactful to everyone is a incredibly hard task and I am of the opinion that you should just make what you truly believe is what you want. Be it be about a lover or a friend, there will no doubt be people that will understand what you’ve created.
— Alex Ocias

finishing note:

While I'm still caught in between what I want, the design for this experience I'm crafting has become clearer and reachable. While it sounds like I've made no progress that's not really the case for me as before hand the experience was blurry and hazy almost dreamlike, but ever since the advice and constant pondering on it I can now see it as clear as ever.

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