on game jams and the value of crap

i had given up on game jams.

i’d only participated in less than a handful:

i was pretty discouraged. and even though i’d signed up for one game a month earlier in the year, i’d only completed a single, measly game (the aforementioned fishing jam game) by the time november rolled around.

but then i read this blog post by chuck wendig, about national novel writing month. (note: this is not really the article to read if you’ve never heard of nanowrimo, as it’s a response to online criticism of the nanowrimo concept. in short, though, nanowrimo is a personal writing challenge to write a 50,000-word novel in 30 days. as you can see it’s similar to the game jam concept: namely, a communal goal to create something from scratch in a limited time.)

reading the post reminded me of one of the reasons i find nanowrimo inspiring and fun (which i’ve been doing on and off since 2002): it’s ok to write crap. and it’s not only ok to write crap, but as a writer, it’s vital to write crap. wendig writes:

If you were going to go build a chair — like, the first chair you have ever built — do you think it’d be the kind of chair you could immediately go out and sell? Ikea will buy it and call it SJNARGN and it’ll make you a million dollars? Do you think King Joffrey will sit on that motherfucker and not then ask to have your head cut off so he can kick it around like a soccer ball? No. That chair will be the ugliest goddamn chair you ever did see. It’ll probably be a safety hazard to you and everyone you love. But nobody says to the carpenter’s apprentice: “You shouldn’t build a lot of worthless chairs.” You have to build a lot of worthless chairs!

the entire post is worth reading, but this paragraph really fired me up again. maybe — no, probably — my games will be crap. so what? that’s ok. i’m learning. i’ll get better. it doesn’t matter if no one likes them.

so i’m back on the one game a month wagon, and back to participating in game jams, starting with last month’s ludum dare.

and, if you feel like it, come see my worthless chairs! :P


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