100 Experience Points
An Adventure in Indie Game Development

Your Game Requires the Heart of a Human Sacrifice

Your game requires a human heart. Your heart.

I frequently visit a Q&A site about startups. I just saw a question there that I immediately had an emotional response to. Rather than answering it there, I thought I’d answer a similar question here.

Should I work on the game I’d have fun making, or one that would sell?

The instant you commit yourself to making a game, your mind is quickly filled with thoughts about what game to actually make. In theory, your mind is full of possibilities, and it’s simply a matter of picking the right one. (If it’s not, there’s things we can do about that, but not here.)

So let’s say you find yourself in this situation. You’ve narrowed things down. You have two possibilities to choose from.

The first idea is one where you fling avifauna of the less-than-happy persuasion at portly bacon creatures, using nothing but a giant stick of wood and a stretchy rope. You’re quite certain it would sell. People seem to like casual games these days, and any game with chartreuse bacon is sure to be a money maker. But unfortunately, you’re a vegetarian, and you’re more of a less-than-happy kitty person. Making this game… well… it might be a little bit like going to work. (No offense intended, work, I promise!)

Your second option is to make a game where the player cuts the grass. You really don’t know if it could sell well. In fact, you know that people pay good money to not do this in real life. It may be unrealistic to think people will pay money to do it virtually. But you just love grass. (Like I said, you’re a vegetarian in this scenario. Go with it.) And you love cutting it. You even have freshly-cut-grass scented deodorant There’s just something about this idea that gets your mind going, and your heart pumping.

So what do you choose? The game that will make you rich, or the game that you’re passionate about?

The answer is simple: always, always, always choose the one you’re passionate about. I don’t care how much harder of a game it will be to make. I don’t care if you have serious doubts about it selling. Those things don’t matter.

A game requires a human heart.

A human heart has to be there to keep things going when it’s 2AM, and development has caused nothing but frustration and broken code for six hours.

A human heart has to be there when you realize your favorite planned game mechanic kills the fun factor, and has to be changed.

A human heart has to be there when you slip past your deadline, and it may be months still, before your game is up and running.

A human heart has to be there when the allure of playing another video game, or hanging out with friends, or any other diversion comes knocking. (Not that there’s anything wrong with any of that. All of it is fine in moderation. Heck, some of it is required in moderation.)

The reality is, a human heart is what will make sure the game reaches completion some day. A human heart is what makes sure the game is truly awesome to at least somebody. A human heart is what makes sure the game is unique and interesting. A human heart is what keeps looking until it finds the right touch to add to a lowly lawn mower game to make it creative and fun.

A human heart is what gives your game a rudder to steer with, and sails to travel by. A human heart is what gives your game character, and gives it a soul. Your excitement and your passion will shine through the game. For many games, that’s all it takes for players to love it.

And without the human heart, a game that could have been–should have been–a guaranteed money maker never gets worked on, never gets finished, and never gets that spark of life.

When faced with the decision to choose between the game you’ll love making and the game that will make you money, always choose the one you’ll love the most.

Of course, in an ideal world, you’d find an idea that you’re passionate about and will make money…




5 April 2013 at 01:51 am

There you go, you just made me teary…

RB Whitaker

5 April 2013 at 09:31 am

Let me guess, it was Grumpy Cat, wasn’t it? :D