Sunday, June 20, 2010

Left Coast: Why I write

I wanted to pull out a couple of comments from the previous post about Left Coast. A asked:

I think the question is what do you want to do? What are your priorities? Cash? The widest possible audience? Creative satisfaction? And what would be the opportunity cost of prioritizing this project? 

And then Karen asked:

If you do this, do you think you'd learn enough from the process to make it worthwhile anyway? (Whether it succeeds or fails in attracting a wider audience/making money/being an awesome creative endeavour or however you are measuring it... I reckon any experience you learn from is worthwhile in some sense) 

These are excellent questions. And complicated - Sean has a whole blog devoted to examining his answers to them. I had a discussion with J recently that helped me start to answer the first of A's questions, about my priorities. Two of the big reasons I write are 'to realise a project's potential' and 'for the sense of creative engagement'.

I love the satisfaction of taking a project to its conclusion and making it the best it can be. Oddly, as I've noted before, this sense of satisfaction seems to be completely independent of the size of the project. A script I've been working on for seven years gives me the same buzz as feeling like I've written a blog post that clearly articulates what I'm trying to say. The only difference is in the amount of complexity that the project has or the amount of layers it contains, which changes how satisfying it is to revisit something. So I write to finish things, but also to revisit them and see that they've lived up to their potential.

In this case, writing a game is interesting because the amount of times I can revisit it and experience it is probably higher than with a TV series or script.

I also value the sense of total mental engagement that I have when I'm creating something. A combination of puzzle-solving, intense visualisation, feeling deeply about characters who don't exist, and discovering the core of an idea (then figuring out how to express it). That sense of engagement is like crack for me ... in that I find it addictive and rewarding, rather than rendering me a non-viable member of society.

So, to flip to Karen's question: I do think I would learn enough from the process of writing Left Coast to justify doing it. I think it's an interesting game and one I want to play, and it contains a whole bunch of ideas (about who is actually telling the story) that I want to work out how to execute. It's also about characters I care about. Writing the game would be a chance to apply some experiences from writing Bad Family, as well.

... Yes. I would learn enough from writing (and especially from playtesting Left Coast) to make it worthwhile.

But it's A's question about opportunity cost that really hits home. I have something I want to work on now that has a hard deadline of October this year. That'll involve working up three projects for a Film Commission scholarship. Anything else I do will have to fit around that. For the meantime, then, Left Coast will probably fit into the category of things I play around with during the breaks between those three projects.


Simon said...

Hi Steve!

Here's a thing I was thinking: We should play Left Coast. We should play it using some existing system (I think maybe Archipelago would be a good idea, because it's easy to adapt, but you could make the concept work with something like Sorcerer too, with the books being Demons maybe). We should kick around the characters, the setting, and some of the situation creation system you've already developed, and get a feel for what kind of resolution the game needs - where the game needs to push you. I think it'd be a fun thing to do, it'd be useful from a design perspective, and I think it would also help you figure out how you need to approach the game.

Steve Hickey said...

Interesting idea, but I think I'll get a lot more out of testing the rules and ideas that I've been assembling over the last couple of weeks. They feel interesting to me in a way that porting the game over to another system doesn't.

Simon said...

Oh! I didn't realise you'd developed the rules more! We should definitely play those.