Failure is Always an Option

“Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.”

–Winston S. Churchill

How often do you sit in a design meeting, have an amazing idea, and then sit there in silence? I used to do that all the time, afraid to suggest my amazing idea because it might be a total failure. I was terrified by the possibility of failure, it effected my creative designs, my play tests, brainstorming sessions.

I know what you’re thinking, “William! You just said you’re terrified by failure, what changed?” What changed was I started seeing my mistakes and my failures as stepping stones instead of mountains. It wasn’t easy, but eventually I saw these failures and mistakes as a path on how to improve upon something.

Let us use that amazing idea as our example to show why failure is a stepping stone instead of an impossible obstacle. Instead of keeping it silent, you suggested it, and it sounds like a great idea to your group. Your team spends the next week making a proof of concept for a playgroup to test. When you observe the play test, you very quickly realize that the idea was a failure. At this point most people would walk away from the failed idea and move onto the next one instead of analyzing what made it fail.

Analyzing a failed design and play test data allows designers to learn from their mistakes and can now apply that information onto the next iteration or the next design. This is what sets good game designers from great ones. Being able to see failures as a learning lesson instead of a burden is what truly sets them apart.

Enough of the made up situations, let me share a real world situation with you. In September 2017, I participated at Indie Galactic Game Jam as a Technical Designer. I worked with an extremely diverse team with only 48 hours to create a game from nothing. After bouncing ideas around we found one that stuck and began immediately to flush out its details by the end of the first night. The day development started, we quickly realized that some of the ideas were either not possible or honestly just bad. If we walked away from the idea, it would have been impossible to create a game in the time frame provided. We worked as a team to see why the ideas failed, iterated upon them, and eventually discovered something that not only worked, but was better.

A final word on the topic is to remember much like life, game design is an iterative process. There will always be ways to improve it and ways to learn from mistakes. I hope you are able to start seeing that failure is a tool for greatness, instead of an inhibitor. Remember it isn’t the end of the world if you fail and there is always something to learn from even the worst failure. Fail fast, fail often, and succeed in all your endeavors.

-William

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