For decades I have watched people declare themselves to be game designers. I’ve watched as they threw their bodies into the void, never to be seen again. The problem, from my perspective, is that their games didn’t stand out. They neglected to see that there’s a simple way to make your game unique.
At one end is the phenomena of the fantasy heartbreaker. Most of these were an attempt to create “the next D&D”. The intentions were good. The talent and passion might even have been there. What was missing, with apologies for the harshness, was a clue. The creators lacked an understanding of the harsh realities of the hobby.
On the other end is the Open Gaming License (OGL) and its conjoined twin, the community content program. You’re playing in someone else’s sandbox, and that someone else has a budget for top professional writers, designers, and artists. You’re not only in competition with everyone else using the license, you’re doing battle with the mothership itself.
I feel like I should mention failed Kickstarter projects in here as well, for reasons that will be more clear when we get to the conclusion of this piece. As with fantasy heartbreakers, I don’t think a lot of people realize what they’ve bitten off when they launch a crowdfunding campaign. That doesn’t address the quality and vision of their project, though.
The Simple Way to Make Your Game Unique
I’m not passing judgment, because I don’t have room to talk. The first game I even worked on was a fantasy heartbreaker. It wasn’t my game, but I helped to develop an unpublished system that was the author’s attempt to address everything he thought was wrong with D&D. I was paid in hamburgers and rides to the comics shop. For a couple of years I was a third party publisher of Pathfinder and Fate material. I’ve alluded to why I no longer do that above, but I could devote a whole post to the topic.
The way to make your game unique is painfully obvious: Stop trying to do things people have already done. Don’t strive to be the next someone else. Worry about being the first you. There is nothing new under the sun. Every writer knows that. Others already did it. The difference is that it hasn’t been done by you. What will make your work unique is bringing your voice to the project. That requires you to understand and develop what that voice is.
About Dancing Lights Press
Dancing Lights Press publishes story games that embrace a minimalist aesthetic in design and presentation. Our print books are affordable, at $10 or less. The 6×9 digest format makes them convenient to carry around. The spotlight belongs on the creativity of the players as they converse and collaborate on plot, worldbuilding, and character development. Roleplaying is an activity, not a book. Our titles are merely part of the delivery system.