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Why I made the crappiest game I could think of to motivate myself
by Ryan Andrew Smith on 07/05/14 08:11:00 am   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.


Stop me if you've heard this before: "I'm putting the project on hold because ___".

Well obviously you can't stop me because I'm writing this, but I know you're out there. I know you, and I know your reasons.

The game isn't good enough. The engine isn't good enough. The art isn't good enough, the music, sound, level design, nothing about this is good enough. I'm starting over. I have a much better *other* idea!

I've been making games for many years, and it wasn't until this week that I actually made something that I released. I've been project-hopping for so long, I've started so many games that I've forgotten half of them. I was frustrated, angry and upset with myself. It got so bad that this week, after a 10-hour work day, I came home, grabbed a couple of beers, and forced myself to hammer out a game in 5 hours. I completely removed myself from caring. I thought to myself "This is going to be the worst game ever created, but by Golly, it's going to be *finished*, and I'm going to *release it*."

And so I did. And you know what? These past days I've been *euphoric*. My head is clear again, all of the self-doubt, the insecurities, the inner voice telling me that "You haven't even released a single game yet, you suck!", all of that is gone.

The game is terrible, of course. The game has the simplest mechanic, graphics and sound I could think of. It doesn't even have a menu. It's a one-button, one-mechanic game, and I'm kicking myself for not having done this sooner.

Because aside from the self-motivation it's given me, it also has forced me to dilute an idea down to the absolute essential gameplay element. Not only was this an excellent creation for my self-esteem, it was also a great excersise in game design - as game jams often are. There is no story, no hidden meaning, just a toy to be played with. And the absolute best part? I made it with the full expectation of it being terrible. My first game that I released *sucks*.

And that's *good*. That means it's all uphill from here. There is nothing to be ashamed of. Nothing that's "not good enough to show". I have a floor to stand on now - even if that floor is sub-terranian, it's certainly better than just aimlessly floating through the void waiting for that "perfect spot" to land on. I have a benchmark now. Everything I do from now on *will be better*.

So to those of you out there who are struggling with motivation, with ideas, who are afraid about not being good enough, my suggestion is: Why not just go out there and make something terrible? The Android market is already overflowing with terrible games, so there's nothing negative about throwing another little thing at the pile. But the positive feeling of seeing something you released, and *FINISHED*, online, and seeing your name next to it?

Priceless. Go make something terrible to motivate you.

If you want, you can check out my terrible game on Google Play or online with the Unity Player.

Both are completely free and without ads, though I'm afraid the rest of my website is down at the moment.

I hope this little write-up can help other people motivate themselves to take that super-difficult first step of actually *finishing* something. Excelsior!

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James Mackey
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So I'm playing your "game" right, and I'm getting pretty good at it too. I know how to control the character and how to dodge the.. things... But when a big thing and a small thing are so close together... I can't..... It's harder than Dark Souls and Flappy Bird.. IGN 11/10!!!!!!!

Allan Rowntree
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Or why people should take part in game jams.

Michael Pianta
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I think I'm going to do something like this very soon.

Alfa Etizado
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I've done something similar. I went to a message board and asked people to come up with a simple game idea so I'd do something. It is more motivating than working on my own things.

Curtiss Murphy
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How can I contact you? Gamasutra has no direct way for me to reach out. ...

I loved your post! It's starts with a strong challenge, guides through a real struggle, and ends with a powerful conclusion. It's also perfect for the ongoing "Lost My Way" thread over on the Unity forums, and I'm hoping you'll repost your story there so Unity devs can hear your inspiration. Small projects == win!

The link:

You can reach me via Unity forums: Gigiwoo

Kevin Fishburne
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What a timely post for me personally. After working on an MMO for the last four-plus years (alone) I had some kind of mild psychological breakdown. The result, speed-developed over the last 30 days, is the anti-MMO, a sci-fi shoot 'em up:

I plan for it to be finished within a month or two, tops. Since starting the new project I've had more fun programming that I can ever remember having. When it's all over and I can finally say I've released my first game (after 25 years of programming games), I'll resume work on the MMO.

I think the real lesson here, other than the bottom line that an unfinished/unreleased game is no game at all, is that every now and then we to need step out on our one true love and indulge in something a little naughty and less commitment-requiring. A nerd affair.

Terry Matthes
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It takes guts to follow through like this and write about it. Thanks for sharing your experience. Now the rest of us can catch a little of your inspiring attitude :)

Michael Wenk
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Release early, release often.

Tony Yotes
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I had the same experience before jumping into my first big RPG. Just for giggles and a test of ability I made an alternate version of Flappy Bird where you try to feed as many birds as possible to a piranha plant. It was done in 2 days and I still feel the satisfaction of having a complete project out there to this day. It's also my most popular released game so far and I can't believe I didn't make my other first games so simple.
I wrote an article about it here:

Jack Nilssen
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The web version of your game doesn't respond to input.

I've found in the 5 years I've been doing solo development that the best thing to do when stuck in a rut is anything other than "make more game". Doing other things, preferably things far outside & removed from the realm of videogames & their development, have done wonders for my sanity & overall motivation levels.

"Release early & often" works up to a point, particularly if your only goal is "create stuff". But if you're in it as a livelihood there's always going to come a point where you need to quit dicking around & really start to work on something of value. Understanding when that point is, & also knowing if what you're working on is going to be of value, well... there's the real rub.

Your mileage may vary.

Andreas Ahlborn
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Sorry, but I canīt share your enthusiasm.

This article and this game come across as a call for attention of a teenager who wants the world to know that he had its first intercourse and that he so desperately wanted to get over with it that he paid a professional to get it done.

Dont`t get me wrong: it`s fine that you got that off your chest, but itīs no special achievement and you shouldnīt go advertising with it.

But of course you will find a crowd that applauds you, the RERO guys that believe doing really much equals doing really well.

The current Meta at Gamasutra seems to be: do sth. bad and talk openly about it.

For another view on the matter read this article:
sign_Philosophies_Part_1_Quantity_Design.php, because you could be well on the way to become the Quantity Design poster boy.

Proposals for your next games:
Flixel Female, the thing that doesn`t even qualify as a game
Blixel Baby, the ugly offspring of Mixel & Flixel etc. ad inf.

Terry Matthes
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This is a really awful of you to say. It seems to come out of the very "teenage" attitude you claim Ryan is exhibiting. It's sad to see a post like this on Gamasutra.

Ariel Gross
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A noble effort. Nicely done. Thanks for the reminder.

James Morgan
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Congratulations on the release.

Also, I have played worse games before... :)