If you write, draw, paint, sculpt, build, or do any kind of creative work, there has probably come a point where you’ve made something and have decided to show it to a close friend. Someone you trust. Someone safe.
“This is great!” they say. “You should share it!”
There it is. That frisson of fear. All of the tiny voices come crawling up.
It’s not ready
It’s not good enough
No one will care
I’m not good enough
This is a set of feelings that I’m pretty sure every creator has felt at one time or another. I know I have. And today I’m going to talk about something that I think is very important and that often gets overlooked when you’re doing creative work (this includes GMing or even playing games):
It’s Important To Be Visible As A Creator
I’ve been listening to a lot of the back catalog of Talking TableTop, a podcast that Jim McClure hosts through the ONE SHOT network. In it, he talks to RPG designers and notable industry people, and they range through a lot of topics. For creators, I noticed a trend—they’d be recounting their history of how they became a game designer, and there was a common thread. Many of them had a moment at some point where they realized: there are people who make these games. This is a job someone does.
That kind of revelation seems simple, but it’s really important. When you’re a kid, teen, or whenever, there are lots of these moments. Everything we use and touch was, at some level, made by someone. When those things are games we love, that means there’s a person who we can model ourselves after. There’s a path to follow.
The more that the act of creation is seen and normalized, the more people will do it—and that’s a good thing.
Without being able to see people making things, it can be difficult to imagine that you could make things. This is also why representation matters in the media we consume. If a black child only sees white people making things, they may assume that they’re not allowed to do the same.
Make Games, Talk About Games, Don’t Stop
More people than I care to count have ideas about how games should work, what they could do, how they could be presented, etc. Most of those people will never do anything with those thoughts aside from share them with friends.
This is my call to you: please talk about the things you care about. Redesign character sheets if you don’t like the ones you see. Write fanfiction if the plot doesn’t go the way you wanted it to. Make up new worlds where people who look like you are center stage. Do these things, and do them where people can see you. Here’s why:
If people see creators try, fail, try, mess up, try, succeed, try, try, try? That’s encouragement.
It’s really easy to get discouraged when you’re creating things. The picture in your head will almost never match what ends up down on the paper. You don’t know the right people. You’re afraid people won’t care.
There’s often this perception that you need permission to do things in a professional capacity. I see this all the time in RPGs and other tabletop games. This is an industry where the line between hobbyist and professional is really blurry and, in some cases, nonexistent. The truth is: no one needs to give you permission to make games except yourself. You just need to decide to do it.
Everyone starts somewhere, and everyone needs feedback and refining. Putting your work out there for people to see gives you access to those things. That said…
There Are Real Concerns Out There
Everything I’ve written here is true as I understand the world. I’m also a white, dude-like person in a heterosexual relationship. I’ve got privilege in spades. By and large, I haven’t had the world telling me no, I don’t get harassed online, and the society we’re in basically tells me I’m tops all the time.
If you have few or none of those versions of privilege, all of what I’m saying to do could be much harder for you. In my mind, that makes it even more important for you to do them because the more people who are not white, straight, cis-gendered dudes make and talk about things, the more people who are not white, straight, cis-gendered dudes will be encouraged to make. A rising tide raises all ships.
HOWEVER, that puts all of the burden on you. So here’s my promise: I’ll support you. If you make things, you have my axe. I’ve got your back, think you’re awesome, and will do what I can to use my voice to help you succeed. I’ll use my privilege as a weapon and a shield.
My Twitter handle is @TheOtherTracy. My DMs are open if you want to talk or need help.
This is a complicated issue, this visibility as a creator. It doesn’t come with instant anything, is hard work, is often thankless, can feel like shouting into the void, and can make you feel invisible for all that you’re putting yourself out there. I promise this: the more voices there are, the less void there is. The more we shine, the less room darkness has. Put yourself out there, if you can. I’m with you.
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Next article, I’ll go back to a more traditional look at game design as I keep working on my re-write of Iron Edda. For now, I’m happy to hear from you in the comments or on Twitter about the awesome things you’ve been making.