As a kid, I used to read about games only because I wasn’t playing them. My love for games was desperate — my gut would ache, I would feel heat in my stomach, shortness of breath in my longing for other worlds, escapism, power, love, and wonder. When I encountered great gameplay, I basked in it. I loved games so much that it hurt my ability to function in the real world.
One time I took screenshots of Final Fantasy Tactics, at that time released only in Japan, and used the photoshop clone tool to edit out all the Japanese text, replacing it with my own. I visualized what the scenes were about, what the menu options were, how the characters moved across the screen. I wished I could manipulate the placement of characters as well, but the clone tool wouldn’t replace background art. I spent hours crafting and polishing something that nobody would see, just the product of my pining for something that didn’t even exist.
I never look forward to games that way anymore. There’s far greater happiness in my contentment, but there’s a spark I’ve missed. I’ve lost something. Now I read about games because I’m studying my craft. It’s a different kind of passion. It’s like saying I’m passionate about mathematics. I don’t stay up late at night, forgetting to breathe. When I encounter good gameplay, my brain doesn’t explode in joy. The gears turn and I analyze it.
Sometimes I want to experience that wide-eyed childhood passion, and stop thinking so hard about games. Sometimes I want to immerse myself in other worlds and other ways of thinking, to learn new things I’ve never learned before, and be continually amazed. Sometimes I want to lose sleep in anticipation of christmas and birthday presents, and be heartbroken by the difficulty of following social graces instead of rushing to a computer or console to play.
If you make games, and have loved them the way I have, channel some of that raw childhood passion into making the kind of games that would take your inner child’s breath away. It’s not enough to have smart design, precise balance, and clever execution — lose sleep with love of the thing you’re doing. Do the first thing that comes to mind, fly, and at least for a time, let yourself break free of second-guessing, sanity checks, and doubt.