Lowering Expectations

My thoughts on games and making them. Mostly.

Lowering Expectations

One of the core tenets of my game development practice is “Quantity over quality.” Worrying too much about whether or not a piece is “good” only serves to introduce unhelpful self-doubt to its creation. By removing that worry, I can focus clearly on the piece at hand. Just finish it, and whether or not it’s good will work itself out. Also, with each game I finish, the odds that I’ve created a good game increase! It’s the most sure-fire way to increase those odds.

Graph showing the odds of having created something good go up over the total number of things created

Chances of having created something good vs total things created

Zeroing in on this mantra is easy when I’m in the middle of a project. “Don’t worry if it’s good,” I tell myself. “Just finish it. What’s next on the to-do list?” The work itself can distract me from the worry.

However, this focus deteriorates easily when there is no current project to focus on. This past Friday, I submitted a collection of games I’d been working on for three weeks to a conference. Since then, I’ve been fretting a lot about the “direction” of my work – “the big picture.”

I want my next project to be really good! I want to make sure it’s right, and that I’m not wasting my time on it. I really do want it to be good. But I can’t really control that. I can only control that it happens – that I start it and that I finish it. All the worrying serves to do is delay the starting.

Great Creator, I will take care of the quantity. You take care of the quality.

A handy reminder right next to my desk

The common phrase is that it’s easy to miss the forest for the trees. But conversely, a forest is planted one tree at a time. Easy enough to remember when there’s wet mud in my finger nails and my foot on a shovel, but when I stop to rest, it’s too tempting to look at the empty field and wonder, “What’s the point?”

So this is a reminder to myself that even in the spaces between projects, “I take care of the quantity. You, Oh Great Creative Force, take care of the quantity.” It’s perfectly OK if what’s next isn’t the best thing yet, or even great, or even not complete garbage. But it is not OK if it doesn’t exist. It must be started, and it must be finished. And that’s really all I can control.


further viewing: Darius Kazemi‘s excellent XOXO Festival talk, “How I won the Lottery”