I’ve been working on something pretty personal for the last month or so.
Before we talk about what I’ve been working on, you’ll need some history. I should also preface this post with the fact that I’m pretty sure I’m not a narcissist, and I’m not trying to fish for attention/pity.
I’ve been making games for about 5 years, and sharing them publicly for a bit over 3 years now. I started sharing my work by participating in Ludum Dare, and then eventually Global Game Jam. I got bit hard by the jam bug, and started doing gamedev pretty much exclusively for game jams. I found quite a bit of success within the Ludum Dare community, with my games making it into the top 25 rankings, then into top 10 for many categories. In December of 2014 my game, OMNI, placed 2nd in Innovation and Theme, 6th Overall, and top 100 in all but one category. This was a super exciting time in my life. The amazing feedback from the Ludum Dare community paired with such high rankings was super validating for me as a designer.
But that elation dissipated quickly. During 2015 I was unhappy and incredibly critical of everything I made or conceived, and my work showed it. I quickly stopped showing my projects to others. By early 2016 my self-criticism had led to full-blown creative block.
Noah and The Quest to Turn on The Light is a game about why I think that happened.
When I started designing, I was doing it for me. I wasn’t showing my work to anyone more than close friends or family occasionally. I was in early high school, and just making games for fun as a hobby. That’s the attitude I had when I hit the jam scene. But as I learned more, and my projects started receiving more and more praise, my internal motivation shifted from “because it’s fun and I want to,” to “because it’s nice to receive praise.” External validation had become my primary motivator.
I stopped showing people my work because I didn’t feel it was worth showing off. It wasn’t as good as OMNI, and I was afraid they’d realize it. They’d realize that it was just a fluke, and that I’m not actually that good of a designer. They’d tell me my work was bad. Impostor syndrome paired with my fear of negative feedback kept me from making anything to even receive feedback on.
I started working on this project to explore reliance on external validation and its affect on creators.
I’m done talking about myself now.
Noah and The Quest to Turn on The Light (referred to as just The Light to maintain my sanity moving forward) is a game about a creator’s struggle with external validation, and how that external validation can lead to one being overly self-critical.
In The Light, the player navigates dark worlds solving a series of terminal-based puzzles in order to collect fragments of an image of a lit lightbulb. The fragments are to be deposited on a canvas in the world, in order to light its grey bulb, and illuminate the world.
The player begins in the Gallery, a large room whose walls are adorned with framed pictures of unlit bulbs. Each frame serves as a portal to a unique unlit world. Upon lighting of the world and return to the Gallery, the player will find the bulb in the frame is now lit.
Over time, figures begin to appear in the Gallery. These observers comment on the lit bulbs, positively at first. As these observers increase in frequency, they begin to appear in the unlit worlds, offering encouraging commentary to the player.
Eventually, an observer makes a negative comment.
Criticism floods the Gallery, and the unlit worlds. The Observers present at each terminal to criticise the player as they attempt to progress.
The idea here is that over the course of the game, the player gradually stops solving puzzles for the sake of solving puzzles, and begins solving them in anticipation of the feedback from the Observers. When that validation is replaced by criticism, the player must face the discouragement to continue to progress. How they handle the validation and subsequent criticism is completely up to the player. The Light tries to only provide the environment in which the player must face these things.
So that’s the state of things. I’ll periodically post development updates here, but the most up-to date log will always be Twitter. Feel free to reach out to me there or by email with any thoughts about The Light.