Try to Make a Mess

Game Chef gains momentum every year. I’m anticipating over three hundred submissions across the eight participating languages. Like every year before it, this will be the best year yet. But amidst all the excitement, I’d like to take a moment to ask two questions that I think are really important:

  • What does the Game Chef format do well?
  • How do I get the most out of Game Chef?

What does the Game Chef format do well?

Game Chef pushes people to create in parallel. As a result, there is an energetic momentum that happens around this time of year, an extra push toward putting pen to paper (or finger to key, more likely). Game Chef is full of infectious enthusiasm. In addition, the deadline and competitive twist mean that you’ve got a big push to set out the time to do it, to really sit yourself down and make something. In our daily lives, it’s so easy to let art and creativity go by the wayside as more pressing needs arise. Game Chef brings people together in an excited tizzy, and it gives them a reason to make something right now. That combination of excitement and deadline pressure has a really welcome side effect. It tends to kill off your perfectionism. Perfectionism likes to tell you that your art isn’t good enough to share with others yet. It tends to kill creative momentum, and it gets in the way of actually improving. One of the keys to improving is to share your work and get feedback on it. To develop working prototypes and then iterate from there. To feel proud of your half-awful mess of a first draft, because that half-awful mess of a first draft is an important stepping stone. Game Chef is a great place to experiment with new ideas. If you submit a game at the end, you’ll get peer review from four other designers. That feedback can be really helpful in growing as a designer. Game Chef rewards creative risk-taking. You don’t need to worry about whether an idea is polished, precedented, or even playable. Your peer reviewers will still engage it.

How do I get the most out of Game Chef?

The Game Chef format doesn’t often produce polished games. Many of the games submitted aren’t ready for playtesting. The flipside to a design environment killing off your perfectionism is that what you produce probably won’t be perfect. So, lean into that. Forget perfect. Aim to make a game that is compelling, experimental, troubling, new, weird. Use your Game Chef energy to launch an inquiry, to find out whether an idea can work. And submit your results, so that others can engage with your brilliant mess. Make a mess. Engage others. Give people feedback. Cheerlead others when their energy or confidence flags. The more you put into the Game Chef design community, the more you’ll get in return. The return won’t always be fair or balanced, but it will be there. Respect the community. That means adhering to the posting guidelines of the Google+ community (which will be posted tomorrow). It means attempting to make your game as accessible as possible. It means asking people what kind of criticism they want, throughout the public design process. It means trying to help everyone around you succeed. Get hype. Get experimental. Give feedback. Give support. Design to find out what happens.

1 Comment

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One Response to Try to Make a Mess

  1. Jonathan

    This is excellent advice. This is one of the few events where you can really experiment and try something totally new. I am more inspired every year to really push myself when I see the other entries. It is also a place where you can showcase what you want. Even though complete games aren’t necessary, I am [a fan of] layout, design and splats. I use game-chef as an opportunity to practice those skills as well because I find the visual component of RPGs very inspiring.

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