The beginning of the academic year always is a pretty brutal time at my job… I point this out because I find myself reading more than writing these days, and only reading when I’m waiting for an elevator in the library…
But recently, I read an old piece that was posted by a Facebook friend – and it was a quality piece by Chuck Wending about how Aspiring Writers need to stop Aspiring. And I don’t disagree with his message. You wanna be a writer? You gotta write. It really is that simple.
Here’s where I pull up short though. Just because you write does not make you a writer. Feel free to disagree. Maybe I don’t like myself enough. Maybe I don’t get it. Maybe I’m too practical-minded and I’m too aware of the academic editorial model…
But I gotta say, I’ve published story I got paid for, published a few I didn’t, have proposals out there right now that I’m waiting to hear back from, gotten rejection letters, and I write all the time. But I don’t call myself a writer. My take is this – If I’m only writing for myself – I’m not a writer. If I don’t have a clear audience that is actually wanting my stories – I’m not a writer. If I can’t pass the bar of editorial review to get published – I’m not a writer. I’m just someone who writes for fun. I am – in fact – an Aspiring Writer. I’m doing the work, I’m writing and trying to find outlets for that work but I am not a writer.
It’s the same thing with game design. I respect the hell out of game designers, just like I do writers. Mr. Wendig’s magic bullet of envy that he mentions is certainly always lurking, though I’ve mostly gotten over that through the years and I can be genuinely envious in a good way of the work of game designers. There are a lot of pretty cool games out right now. Without meaning to I’ve started to morph into a fan of Fantasy Flight’s new Star Wars game – Edge of Empire. I loved reading Numenera and think it is almost perfect (still not a fan of the difficulty system). And there are so many great small press games I read this summer – like Dungeon World for example.
Don’t get me wrong – I love this stuff and read way too many games to be good for me. I also create. I’ve written two games – they live on my downloads page. Both are playable, serviceable games that I’ve enjoyed the heck out of even as I know in my heart that they are far from perfect. But I will never call myself a game designer. I read on another blog a while back – not even sure who it was now, this part just stuck with me – that the writer there was designing and churning out simple games as a way of building a resume. For me that would have been a face palm moment if we’d been talking in person. Don’t get me wrong – the guy can do whatever he wants, but just writing a game does not make you a game designer.
Review, play, enjoyment, and the validation of creating something that sticks are (to me) vital measurements of whether or not you’ve earned the right to call yourself a game designer. You can call yourself an aspiring game designer if you feel it, you can call yourself a hobbyist or an amateur if it makes you happy. Heck – forget it – call yourself a game designer if you like. But I won’t.
I got involved in this discussion at a con a while back and I run into this conversation all the time with artists, gamers, etc. What “qualifies” you to be an Author or a Musician? Is self-publishing really publishing? (I’m not making a judgment call on that one – just saying it comes up). Do only the guys working for WoTC, or Green Ronin, or Catalyst get to call themselves game designers? And if so, why?
I don’t personally “get” his stuff, but I certainly think someone like James Raggi gets to call himself a game designer, for example.
But despite 30 years in the hobby, despite writing and “publishing” two games, despite a lifetime of tinkering and creating new bits… don’t call me a game designer. I’m happy to continue apsiring.
How about you? Am I crazy? Am I wrong? Do I spend too much time around academics? You tell me.
Thanks for reading.