Mid-game Uncertainty

Last week, I started a new game for The Gentle Issue and made great progress. I fleshed out the idea, sketched out a roadmap, and began coding. It’s a game about frogs and snow globes and taking breaks, and I really liked where it was heading.

After I got all the basic systems in the place, I stepped back and took a look at the little pond I had created.

A cartoon frog jumping around a video game
My little froggy friend

The frog jumping felt good (physically), you lost energy with every jump, and you could regain energy by resting. There was tension between pushing forward to get a high score by collecting more things versus take care of yourself by taking breaks. I wanted that tension to drive the game, and I felt good about the possibility to do so.

But how, exactly? How to build out around that tension and structure it in a way that added to the game? A million options ran through my head, and I started to experiment with them.

Should snowglobes just continue to appear one after the other? And how would that make sense story-wise? Maybe a bunch of globes would appear at once, like a wave, and once you collected them all then another wave would appear. But then how would the waves increase in difficulty? Would the area they cover expand? OK, I experimented with zooming the camera in and out. OK, that took a day and proved technically infeasible. What if I kept the zoom steady but panned around an ever-growing world? More technical challenges and also introducing another metaphor element of world size. Ugh.

If I had gifs of all the bizarre solutions I tried out to structure the game, I would post them here. I was spinning out, wasting days, and going nowhere.

Then I remembered, “Hey, this is a game about gentleness and taking breaks.” And I remembered some advice from Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way: “Ideas are like seeds. They need time to germinate.” If you pull them too soon before they’re ready, they die.

So I decided to take a break. I’ve now stepped away from that game for a bit. If bits of ideas come to me in my morning pages or in the shower, that’s great, but I’m not actively working on it. It needs to rest and rise. Like bread (I think? I’m not too sure how bread works, to be honest).

And it’s OK that I don’t know where the game is going at the moment. It’s a lot easier and more comfortable when I do have a complete vision for a game and can just focus on executing that vision, but that’s not how it always works. So I’m sitting in the uncertainty for a bit and trusting the universe that something will come to me. In fact, while I was writing a draft of this post this morning, I had an idea that I’m excited to try out.

But for now, I’m still letting it germinate.