I know a game designer. He is quiet. Absorbed. A bemused observer. The one who notices patterns. The smart kid who sat in the back at school, bored out of his mind.
He is a builder, but for as long as he can remember he's been caught between two conflicting impulses: save the world, or blow it up and make a new one. He lives in the space between, drawn to anarchy, but irritated by disorder.
He believes a robust system can harness chaos, but he knows entropy will play the last card. Still, he stubbornly believes he can win. The triumph of design. The elegant loop. Optimal trumps beautiful. Strike that. Optimal is beautiful.
He does his best work alone. He trusts his instincts, but fears he may be too smart for his own good. His intelligence both enables and alienates him. He lacks the common touch. The winning smile. The self-effacing demeanor. He says the thing that needs to be said, but at the wrong time, or with the wrong inflection. Charm is an awkward chore. He wishes we could skip the diplomacy and just focus on the work.
For him, it's always about the work. Keep your eye on the ball. Leave your pride at the door. Bromides, but valid ones. He lives for incremental progress. The daily grind is the fun part for him. The crashes and roadblocks are his wheelhouse. Eureka moments are lovely, but overrated. He has learned to appreciate the squashed bug that stays dead.
He shares an uneasy relationship with his audience, the player. Without her, his game doesn't exist. He needs her, yet mistrusts her. She will teach him things he needs to know about his game, but what will he teach her? What is she willing to learn? Can he challenge her expectations without losing her? Her confusion will be his mistake. How to balance the urge to please with the resolve to push, to innovate? Sometimes when his mind wanders, he recalls his days in QA. It's definitely better on this side of the fence.
Now he's on an airplane with the latest build on his hard drive. He's headed to an event where he will show and tell and show and tell. He's got the business cards and the pithy description, but his ace is the game, all by itself. Out of the kitchen before it's finished, he'll share it with people he's never met, hoping they will spend a few moments to consider a thing he's risked everything to make. He'll take notes. Maybe he'll get a meeting.
I know a game designer. His work lives in an unreal space. Call him an artist. Or don't. It makes no difference. His game is the thing. File it in whatever cultural drawer you like. I know a game designer. He acts like God. What a life.