Making mistakes is better than making nothing

Posted: January 7, 2013

I failed a personal challenge I set myself during December. Which was to enter and to win the steam workshop competition for Game Maker: Studio. It wasn’t a failing of effort or productivity, but I made some key mistakes:

  1. I chose a type of game that I would be hard pressed to make myself happy with releasing without ample coats of polish and perfection in the space of merely a month.
  2. I underestimated the number of components necessary to really make any game feel ‘complete’, or even in a demo state that I could show off to other people. Things like a working menu, some nice music and sound effects. These were things I was just starting to rush together and it was making me not even like the game.
  3. It was December. Even with the brief holiday much of it was spent either working, travelling or with family. I ended up just denying myself the right to enjoy this time off the way I should have done in favour of desperately trying to get the game finished. Friendships and my sleep both went neglected, making me all the more mad I didn’t have a finished product to show for it by the end.
  4. I only worked during December, treating the competition as if working under ‘Jam’ rules. With a sincere desire to win I should have started working the moment the competition was announced 3 months back, as I largely suspect the author of the game that will almost certainly win has done(I’m not bitter I’m not bitter I’m not bitter). It kind of made the structure of the whole competition seem strange. Three contests over three months and only the top game each month sees a prize. There weren’t even rules about re-releasing old content (Although as far as I could tell this didn’t happen.) This is kind of an aside point, as I didn’t ultimately submit the work I had done anyway.

Two days before the deadline it became very clear the game wasn’t going to get to where I wanted it in time to be entered. I started cutting out features and trimming the game down, but it got to the point where I’d be submitting something rubbish. I actually believe in the game idea and the early work I did was really promising so I don’t want to release it until it matches up to that original vision or close enough so that I’m happy with it.

I decided to push on anyway and work until the deadline. Working a whole month on one thing and getting it done was the main motivator for taking part so I wanted to at least hang on the first part of that.¬†Sure enough the game didn’t get finished. I was really unhappy to see the deadline pass and felt like a failure. I could have spent those days doing so many other productive things like youtube vids, ads, website stuff, blog posts,¬†HTML5 Games, networking and so on. I didn’t even end up with a finished product I could say was worth the time.

I did however come out of it with a pretty awesome half-built game that I still see a ton of potential in. I want to carry on work with it but for right now, the moment has passed. Other projects have been neglected in place of this ‘one-off’ and it’s time to get them going again. I did learn a lot from the experience and don’t have too many regrets about making those mistakes, as it’s infinitely better to be making mistakes than to be making nothing. My title for this blog post was “Reflecting on failure” but actually that last line is way better. I’ll use that.

-S