Thursday, August 16, 2018

Turn, Bigness, Mental Health, and "Different"

First off, I'm going to make a damn #TurnRPG hashtag, then we're gonna talk about this precious gift of a game I have been working on since December 2013. And have I got some WORDS for you this evening, my friends, about Turn, and about large design projects, mental health, & "different."

a yellow bird on a branch with its beak open with a bunch of As in the background like yelling

Turn is a slice-of-life supernatural roleplaying game about shapeshifters in small, rural towns who must find balance in their shifter identity and community with their fellows. I'm planning to Kickstart it at the end of October.

I've been really digging into it and I'm in the expand and explain part - I think the mechanics are solid, but trying to ensure people understand the mechanics is hard. I've been struggling through recovering from a brain injury, & until recently, sometimes my work was nonsense.

So a lot of this is revisiting old text, making sure it makes sense, revising it, and adding as much as I can to make it approachable to people who aren't me. John helps with this - he's my dev editor - but he can only do so much when I'm struggling personally with the work.

Turn is the biggest thing I've made and a large part of me *needs* it to succeed, to be appreciated. So I want everything to be perfect! Like, everything has to be exactly how it's supposed to be written in my head. And that's a pain in the ass, and doesn't guarantee perfection.

A picture of Diana as a child in Wonder Woman with a tumblr post posted over it that says "me, logically: it's never gonna happen. the tiny hopeful goblin in my brain: but what if it did"

So like today I've been asking for help figuring out a new title for the facilitator role because facilitator sounds boring and what I was using, Storyteller, is too associated with White Wolf (not why I was using it, but no one cares) and also doesn't describe the role well.

Now I'm trying out Meddler, because I tried a whole bunch in text and it's the only one I like next to Busybody but is slightly more teasing than mean like Busybody tends to be. And I listened to a bunch of people's input, too, and felt kind of "eh yeah?" and like COME ON.

See, one thing that I need to really tell you here is that the longer your project, the more likely you are to hit a wall of mental health issues, new or old. They will fuck you UP. I love this game. I love it SO much. And I find myself poking at it all like "I should trash it."

I'm working on this big, meaningful project and I'm getting engagement with input from people and all my big stupid brain can say is "Well I dunno, people haven't said it's visionary or anything, and these other people aren't interested, so maybe it's just awful." This project!

Keegan Key saying "I mean, I spent the majority of it in a deep fog, in a profound depression."

And part of it is because it's a big project, a lot of time and energy with (to date) little to no returns. Most of my projects seem futile because I don't exactly swim in recognition, reviews, or funds as a result of them. But I still do them, and I'm still doing this. I'm especially still doing this.

If I was working on something smaller I could be done and stop torturing myself with the maybes and the whys. But it's big. It matters. And mental illness just wants to dig in its claws and remind me that I'm not doing good enough. But I also know it's because Turn is different.

Jaylah from Star Trek Beyond yelling in preparation of a fight.

I said it, I mean it. When I play Turn, it always feels different than other games. When I've been designing it, it feels different than other games. I haven't played all games, and I'm not fucking gonna, but I do know that compared to the games I have played, Turn is different.

Maybe it's because of the angle? Or because it's quiet drama? Maybe it's because I took away failure, and focused on consequences? Maybe it's because this game isn't designed to play like an adventure, but instead like everyday life that gets hard and troublesome but also loving?

Mad Max pointing towards one of the bikers in recognition.

And like, the biggest thing I struggle with while designing this game is that I want to maintain that "different." Some people have looked at the mechanics without playing the game and said it was just copied from a bunch of places, but it's not. It's different. So it's rough!

How do I keep my snowflake of a game from melting or getting mushed together and ruined? How do I present it to people in a way that highlights the difference? Worst of all, what if I AM wrong and my game's actually just a boring facsimile of other games I don't want it to be?

It's a lot. I just want this game to be good and succeed and I want this weird experience I have when I play it to be replicable for people. I want to do a Kickstarter and not have it fail because I want people to be interested in it and excited for it. But I'm also very tired.

If it was smaller, maybe I'd care less. I didn't have a mental illness, maybe I'd struggle less. If it felt samey, maybe it would matter less. But none of those things are so. It's a mattering struggling caring mess. I'm mulling over every design decision like it's life & death.

My final real point, I suppose, is that all of these things: bigness, mental health, difference, they are important to the game and the design process I'm experiencing, and I have to overcome the challenges. I love Turn so much, and I can't let it fade away, I can't risk that.

So if I kind of sound like a pain in the ass a lot right now, & for the foreseeable future, I want you to know that it's only because I'm trying my best. I want to do my best. I want the game that I put out to be one you can pick up & have an amazing experience with. I'm trying.

Andy Samberg as Jake Peralta on Brooklyn 99, in workout clothes. Someone asks " Are you crying?" and he responds "No. That's eyeball sweat."

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