In June, I did not ‘release’ a game, as per my usual schedule. I made, and had plans to release, the Nyarr, a supplement for tabletop roleplaying games, which as I write this hopefully is out by now. It should be. This represents the first month where I did not release ‘a’ game in two years.
When I was a child, I found that certain dates and times passing gave me enormous anxiety. At uni, I was dreadfully afraid when assignment dates passed in case I missed one or mis-delivered one. Reporting my income to the government comes with an absolute throat-tightening terror, because I’m afraid of doing it too late. This is naturally a great combination with things where I feel guilty about my lack of productivity so I want to avoid confronting them.
With the Nyarr, though, I don’t feel… bad.
I don’t feel great about it, but I do feel peace.
The first thing is: I know I did the work. I worked on the Nyarr in June and before, I had a plan and a schedule and funds set aside for work and the things that kept the Nyarr from coming out could not be changed without hurting people. If it’s me under pressure, that I can meet; but I cannot force creativity from other people, from other friends. I cannot make people deliver, and the idea that I can shows an ownership of their labour that I simply don’t have.
Second, a game a month is kind of a raw deal if the games are all too similar. If I make two town builder games back to back, they are in direct comparison and it’s unlikely, if you like town builders, you want both. I want to keep making varied and different game types, and so if I put out a game in one month you don’t like, the next game might interest you. That variety means that there will be experiments and unforseen testings.
Third, I have made more than a game a month. Some of them didn’t get released – games like Ruck and Clout got test prints and then got put away. The game Blackjack Dungeon is absolutely a do-over. Then again, in addition to the other games I’ve released as official releases, there were times I released two or three games a month. Games getting time to breathe in development prevents me from making big mistakes and releasing games I’m sad about later.
Alter Access for example, for Middleware, for example, is a small rules patch which was meant to form the first of five expansions for that game that simply haven’t gotten made because I felt bad about them. Maybe tomorrow morning I’ll wake up and hammer those out, who knows, but I do feel that Alter Access as a release unto itself is just a bit weak.
Finally, the Nyarr isn’t just my work. It is an experiment in that kind of RPG content, testing the market and making sure the product is valuable to non-mechanical purchasers – but it’s also huge, some 50 a5 pages long. Since that content includes the flavour writing and artwork of people who aren’t me, I want to make sure it’s good and it shows the care for those people’s work I can.
So in the end, I didn’t release an actual game, officially, in June. It was delayed a little.
And I’m okay with that.
That feels like a big deal.