I wrote this thought for January’s upcoming droqen was here (#20!), and immediately felt dubious about my usage of the word addict. It seemed to have the right gravity about it, I wanted to take this problem seriously, but I didn’t (and still don’t) think it was quite appropriate — for me or for the word.
So as I have been doing lately, I decided to make up my own word instead, to help me get my feelings all in one basket and deal with them.
It seems so easy to imagine and even implement some dreamy mechanics, but so hard to really put them together and make a genuine game out of them.
It brings me such satisfaction to cobble together things that look like game worlds rich with life and detail, because those things linger at the edge of my mind — not actual life and detail that I could answer, if asked, but imagining the shape of things, the shape of a game I’d want to play or a world I’d like to inhabit, that’s pure satisfaction right there.
The problem is learning the skills necessary to bridge that gap, as well as deciding when to cut your losses and run. When can an imaginary game become a real one?
How much time & effort am I willing to pay to see such dreams realized, and on top of that how accurately can I gauge those costs in the first place?
But as I really embrace my desire to simulate little self-contained worlds full of life and detail, I run into dead end after dead end, because I can’t make living worlds. It’s just not possible.
The beautiful infinite fractal depth that exists in our real lives can’t be reproduced by any medium, least of all the one that gives its aficionados the most explicit power to prod at the edges, to poke holes in the facade.
These gifs excite me, but I’ll probably never turn these playable mockups into anything more than you can see demonstrated above. I want to keep imagining worlds full of life, real life somehow, even if all I can ever produce and share are gold leaf-thin surface representations of them.
What do you call a word that was invented expressly for individual use? The perfectly ironic thing is I couldn’t find a word for this; a neologism is at least etymologically defined by its new-ness, so an established piece of personal language need not apply, and a protologism is even more explicit about being a word that aspires to become a part of common use.
Sometime in September-October 2020 during production of the release of 10mg I coined this term for myself, demon, referring to a specific sort of capacity & willingness to create, & be responsible for the creation of, some thing.
Lately I’ve been thinking about my use of this new term, and how it has become an internal, pseudo-private shorthand, with its own weird little wrinkles. So the process of writing this blog post has doubled as a small study of what it even means to invent, use, and share language.
demon. noun. (1.) A person who has the capacity & willingness to own some particular creative process; I know a demon of video editing. (2, informal?) The drive, capacity, and willingness to own some particular creative process; This project is not satisfying all of my demons.
(ii) DEFINITIONS ARE ART
I don’t say this to elevate my above description, but it was through thinking about how I’d go about describing my (blatantly made-up) usage of the above word that I realized every person who ever defines anything is going through a particular personal process.
Like, the two definitions I provided might have been better served by a single definition with a footnote that simply indicates that it’s common to use this term in synecdoche… but if I did that, which would be selected to be the core definition? Is the demon the person or the spirit contained with in them? It’s an arbitrary call on my part.
People with experience writing dictionary definitions are still “just” aggregating mainstream viewpoints of what a word means and then making a call about how to get across how the word is used.
Anyway, I’m getting a bit off-track.
(iii) INVENTING SHORTHANDS
Some months ago I read an article about a person who was customizing their computer spellcheck to create shortcuts for their own thinking. A bad example: “wdm” might autocomplete to “What is the deeper meaning behind this?“. The short version of the story: this shorthand became something they used even away from the computer. The acronym was more handy, and using it on the computer made it easier to ask this question in all venues.
I’ve lost the original article that I got this from. If you can find it, let me know and I’ll link it. Thanks 🙂
You can use whatever method works for you, but I found this a legitimizing parallel to my frequent invention/appropriation of words and phrases (demons, breaking the horizon, arcade ecosystems).
Shorthands are shortcuts, and they’re part of the art of language and of communication — including internal language and communication.
(iv) ELEVATOR PITCHES
For a long time, elevator pitches were things I thought of as completely isolated from the creative process. But recently I’ve discovered the art of taking something complicated and giving it a memorable and appropriate summary, whether that’s a name or a short description or an image, is something I’ve found deeply useful to my creative process.
That’s part of why I write blog posts here and why I write my zine too; or maybe doing those things just reinforce this way of thinking? hmm; they help me practice thinking about things in a way that I can externalize, which involves some of the skills that help me internally summarize my thoughts so that I can file them away.
Like just now I wrote that previous paragraph, I read it over, and I thought: wow, if I’m going for transmission of information, that was extremely hard to parse, and it wasn’t particularly beautiful, so I can tell it’s going to slip from my mind as easily as it slipped from yours.
Writing blog entries and zine pages (and creating any kind of art at all) is valuable to me because it takes my thoughts and places them into an artifact designed for consumption. I lose my train of thought often. Like, really often. (ADHD, anyone?)
When I make a thing that you can read or play or engage with, it’s also something that I can read or play or engage with in a month’s or a year’s time, when my mind has veered off-course (hence the name of the zine, “droqen was here” – it’s literally a marker of where my mind was at, at the time).
I’m excited about the name “HANDMADEDEATHLABYRINTH issue 0” because it reflects so much of what’s meaningful to me about the project. (Although not the styling. I have no idea if it was a good idea at all to make it all one spaceless word. Still very funny to me, but it doesn’t carry the same conceptual value as the rest of the name’s construction.)
“Handmade death labyrinth” pokes fun at “procedural death labyrinth“, reminding me of what I initially thought would be fun about it and what I still think is fun about it! I still want to explore several of the Berlin Interpretation’s values through the lens of a game with non-procedural level design. (I did a talk about it.)
And “issue 0” lets it off the hook a bit, implies there’s going to be a more full/proper exploration of the above design themes in issue 1.
Anyway, the project is in the fridge right now while I finish up some other projects. I guess the point I’m trying to make is names are powerful, and I do recommend wielding that power against yourself, for your own good.
So, yeah, demons. I started with demons, and I’ll end with them. Having introduced myself to this term has been really helpful in terms of thinking about not just what I want to do, but of what I actually think I’m capable of, and what drives I really need to satisfy, and what the reward even is for game-making.
I wonder if this is succumbing to the idea of all-important productivity but I love being able to think concretely about the things that I can fall productively into for hours on end, vs. the things that I know I’ll struggle with.
Last year and before that when I was with Gloam working on Bravery Network I wanted to make MMOs, online spaces, but it frustrated me to work on them. I couldn’t figure it out, because of course I wanted to make them so why couldn’t I?
Demons always come first now. I won’t bore you by describing my demons in detail, but from my output maybe you can make some educated guesses 😛
If you’d like to leave a comment about your thoughts on this I would, as always, be interested to engage you in conversation 🙂 Tell me what your demons are, or what you think of my whole metaphor invented-personal-language-word (I don’t have a word for my words, haha) thing.