Author: Behrooz 'Bez' Shahriari

I like making games, dancing, performing music and trying new things.

And so I return. Who cares? I do.

It’s interesting coming back to an old creation.

Is a blog post really a ‘creation’?  I’d argue that pretty much anything is.

Of course, some creations are more meaningful. If I fold a piece of paper into quarters, that’s technically a ‘creation’, but probably wouldn’t have much personality or meaning injected into it.

Coming here, re-reading my words, I remember where I was just over 2 years ago. And I want to ponder what’s different.

I’ve certainly achieved some things. Thanks to KS backers, friends and fellow designers who playtest my things and have shared them with publishers; enabled a visit to Spiel, Essen; encouraged me to keep going sometimes; become friends.

I want to acknowledge my skill. Someone at Dragonmeet 2016 asked how I can say that there are 10 ‘good’ Wibbell++ games. Were they good because of my bias? I replied that I’ve made enough games that bias no longer comes into it so much. In 2016, I prototyped 8 new (non-Wibbell++) games. Not all of them were good. A fair few have potential, but I’d say that maybe 3 of them are good. There are a few others that /could/ be good, if they were very different, but I’m able to see them for what they are; not just what they might become.

I’ve invented tens of things. Most of those ideas have been discarded. They’re just not very good.

And I have the ability to see that.

And I now have the confidence to know I see that.

When Ian Vincent shared his skepticism about the W++ system, I was strong enough to think that I COULD do what he said would be a struggle. The game (Puzzell) that he wrote off, I knew could work with some serious design changes. By using a subset of the deck and essentially eliminating the probability of being screwed, I invented a game that folk have already enjoyed for hours (without coercion). Yes, these are friends. But you don’t play a game that a friend made for hours unless you enjoy it. Specially if that friend has made many other games you could be playing instead.

So, I published IAB. Published IAB JR. Got a publishing deal, got some money, am hoping that ‘Yogi’ does well. I’m gearing up to finish Wibbell++. I’ve been at tens of conventions and I think folk are starting to notice me. I met Martin Wallace – a designer I have massive respect for – who wanted to help me get a publisher for IAB if I didn’t already have one.

I went full-time on 11th January 2016. Despite my frugal existence, I’m still barely scraping by. But with Yogi, I hope that will change.

After UKGE 2016, I started a ‘3-year-rolling plan’. I might scrap that because #blethergame requires a ludicrous amount of art, but that’s a separate story I should ponder later.

Those are some of the highlights.

I’m now living with folk who are a bit more my mindset and I can have folk over sometimes without asking permission. And who I rbing into my room is my own business.

I want to get back into dancing.

I want to do more physical things.

I cycle most days, but not much else.

I need to get my ‘Tax Credits’ sorted. The £40/wk I’m meant to be getting would really help.

Life goes on. Things change. I guess this blog is for my personal/emotional ponderings.

And so I’ve returned.

Outside support in life and in creative endeavours

I wrote something for a website, about In A Bind. Re-reading sparked some thoughts.

Ben Neumann
is mentioned. His contribution in the process was very real. It’s impossible to mention everyone responsible, unless you devote pages to it (as Ryan North did in “To Be or Not to Be: That is the Adventure”) going back to the big bang. Causality and chaos effect and all that.
 
But, at the risk of wittering on or diminishing the importance of anyone’s involvement, I want to say that
a) Without the support of a bunch of people, it would not have gotten to this point. Hopefully, you all know who you are. I have already written a lot of thanks, so I’m not going to go through the list again.
b) Ignoring the fact that my birth is the direct result of other people, as is my childhood environment etc., if this game is successful, it’ll be because of the hundreds of hours I’ve spent on it. I need to spend a few hundred more, just to get to the point of production. And whilst all feedback is appreciated, I can’t expect folk to be as invested as me. I do have psychological barriers. Worries about being good enough. Much as it would lovely to have someone holding my hand, telling me that – yes – everything will be OK, this is not something I can expect. Nor is it even necessary beneficial to have that coddling.

Ultimately, it’s a balance. Just as in life it can be helpful to share emotional problems with others, it can be helpful to share a creative project with another. Get another perspective.

If you have aspirations or reaching out beyond minds that exactly mirror your own, it can be invaluable to gain an understanding of how others will react. Playtest your games. Perform your songs in public multiple times. Rehearse in front of an audience. Solicit feedback.

At the end of the day, the focus is on us. I can’t expect anyone else to do my marketing, to do my work for me, or to be there each step of the way, tell me what I should be doing and reassure me that it’s within acceptable standards.

I worry that backers will be disappointed with the art.

I worry they’ll be annoyed at the delay.

I believe that at some point in the future, there will be a 2nd edition and it’ll look better. I worry that the ‘early adopters’ who supported me will be annoyed at that.

I think all of that is unavoidable. Designing to displease no-one will result in blandness. Striving for perfection in every line will result in stiffness, uncertainty, and those emotions show through.

The final thing won’t be perfect. Each card will be physically drawn and lettered. Some marks on the page will be questionable but ultimately, everything is. There will be some mistakes that show in the final product.

But it’ll be a reflection of me. To paraphrase, I just need it to be that, honestly, and nothing more.

In the end, I hope that people will like the pictures. I could spend another year doing them, but there will never be any guarantees.

I will still ask for feedback – let folk look over everything before it’s sent to the printers, just in case there are any obvious issues. But I need to trust myself.

Now is the time for me to do work.

Don’t rely on others to guide and support. It may be there. It may not. Some feedback should be ignored. Some should be listened to.

I am the judge. This is my project. People have seen my style and I’m not diverging massively from that.

I need to be confident.

Now is the time.

For me to do it myself.

Emotional examination and vicious cycles.

Emotions remind me of quantum mechanics. Despite my limited understanding of both things, I can say with some certainty that the act of observing emotions change the emotions themselves.

We can try to recreate stimuli, hoping it’ll recreate the energy levels or mood we experienced some time ago. It’ll never work – not just because perfect recreation is impossible but also because we, ourselves, have changed. Initial state matters a lot. Imagine pressing a bunch of buttons in MS Word and expecting it to operate like Adobe photoshop. Resetting our state is a lot harder than resetting a computer or booting up a new program.

And once we’re conscious of things, that also changes our emotional response. Over-examination can lead to self-doubt.

I have suffered from performance anxiety. When I am even conscious of the possibility, the fact that it’s bringing doubt into my mind about my ability to perform starts a self-fulfilling prophecy. I have enjoyed sex in the past but only when not worrying about it. But worry isn’t an easy emotion to dispel and trying to stop thinking about something can start a vicious cycle.

Ultimately, it can be the same for particular emotions. Despite what some folk may think (I’ll happily sing or dance in front of a crowd or make a fool out of myself) I do sometimes get anxious and whilst logic can help to actually just go through the motions, the emotional state only changes when any worries are forgotten – when there’s enough other stimulus.

I guess that’s one way of overcoming anxiety/worry – just fill yourself with stimuli. Podcasts at double speed. Music. Lectures in a screen whilst I’m multitasking. The Animator’s Handbook may recommend against this but I feel the need.

I don’t have the answers but I do know that the scientific process can only go so far and has its own limits. Logic and planning are useful, but sometimes you just gotta do what feels right.

My KS project funded. Feeling emotional.

I’m honestly flabbergasted. At least, I think I am. I think I’m happy. Excited. Overwhelmed?

Not overwhelmed, I don’t think.

I’m not so full of emotion that I’m unable to function. Just… a little emotionally full.

I’m going to upload a new P&P today, then set aside the game as much as possible for a few days. At some stage between now and Sunday, I’ll develop the 3 potential ideas for the ‘spare 26 cards’ since there are playtest meetings on Sunday & Monday. But I think I need at least a couple of solid days ‘break’ from In a Bind.

I’m actually excited to be thinking about other gaming ideas, without feeling guilty that I should be spending 100% of my time on a single thing. Multitasking is far healthier. Balance is required, specially when it comes to creativity.

I’m also excited to get stuck into doing all the artwork, learning about the technical side of things, sorting out logistics, getting feedback off folk relating to a product that they’re now ACTUALLY GOING TO DEFINITELY GET.

That’s pretty cool. I could almost cry.

Specially the way it happened, with all the outpouring of support over the last day, getting 1/3 of the funds in 1/59 of the campaign time. It seemed virtually impossible but it happened.

I’m amazed. Definitely amazed.

I need to keep going and genuinely try my hardest.

This morning, my main focus is on my KS.

Part of me, interestingly, just wants to throw it all in.

There’s a glimmer of hope. I mean, 4 backers/hour is within the realms of possibility. But given the rest of the campaign and the relatively low number of backers I have to share the project with their friends, the possibility seems too low to consider.

Accepting that it’s not funded, at least I have some peace. I can move on, think about how to proceed (with a publisher or doing a 2nd KS myself). I can start thinking about other things without feeling guilty that I should be focusing 100% on this project.

Oh, how I’d like to just get back to working on one of the other ideas I have. I know that this isn’t my only good idea. But will my execution of a simple eurogame be up to par? I believe so, but I’d like to prove it to myself.

And yet I see friends sharing my link, and backers who have supported me and I know that to just step away from the computer for a few hours would be doing them a disservice.

Yet, what can I do? Previous attempts to garner attention have failed. I’ve put together the final video. It seems futile.

But with the hope, there’s that fear of failure.

Failure when there was no other option doesn’t sting. Failure against insurmountable odds is not failure. Failure in quality when you focus exclusively on quantity (for brainstorming or other creative challenges) isn’t true failure.

But this is something I had a chance to do and I’ve got to let the campaign finish, e-mail some more folk and see what happens. Throwing in the towel is a way for me to laugh and say, “Haha – I didn’t really fail. I chose to do this.” But that’s not true. It wasn’t true when I stopped attending classes at uni and it wasn’t true when I basically declined to submit work.

Maybe it wasn’t even fear of failure that stopped me from taking that final step. In some cases, I had work that I’d done and simply declined to submit.

Maybe it was fear of being judged. Or of failure being out of my control.

I don’t know. I wish I could analyse even my own brain perfectly. That’d probably be more than anyone.

I’m just hypothesising.

Regardless, it’s something that I need to change.

Give it my all. Do my best. Until the end. It’s hard to keep going when the odds are against you but giving up isn’t the answer.

Sadness mainly relating to KS and lack of money.

I’m feeling a bit shit.

I wanted this blog to be part of a morning ritual. But just as some people become religious only in times of upset, so too have I approached this blog to vent in my time of need.

First, let me remind myself that life is not all bad. The population density in London. Some folk believe in my game. I (sort of) had sex last night. These are all good things that I might explore later.

But now she’s gone. And I see my purpose in life as gaining backers for my project.

I put my game onto Kickstarter over a month ago. My plan was always to spend the first month soliciting reviews, improving the page, doing art and videos, then spend the 2nd month just shouting about it and gaining backers.

It’s just a lot more work, emotionally, than I realised. Folk talk about how much work it is. That’s debatable. I can’t tell because I don’t know if I’m doing enough work to make a successful project.

What I do know is that it’s been slightly depressing at times. To hope for your next backer. To offer rewards that no-one has interest in. These are trivial matters and it’s certainly a bunch of 1st world problems. I think that part of my issue is that having invested so much time and emotion into this project, a lack of uptake suggests a failing and a lack of worth in me. I would do well to ignore numbers and just try things as best I can and see what happens. I wish I could be that logical and need to remind myself that worst case scenario I can cancel.

Repeat to self many times. If I fail, it does not mean I am a failure. I can try again.

I worry though – in doing this project, I hoped to actually learn something. I have learned practically nothing of use. What were my surprises?

That I found myself far more emotionally invested than rational.

That even though people have pledged money, only about 5% of them will take the time to join a FB group to help you out. That was a really big surprise. I know not many folk use FB, but those that do – I thought – would be invested enough to click 2 buttons, given that they had pledged money.

That soliciting reviews is hard. Most reviewers won’t even write back to you. Nearly all of the remainder will just say that they don’t review KS games until they’re actually published.

I honestly don’t know if a 2nd attempt would be successful and so I still feel like a failure.

Also, having lost my job and having no money whatsoever coming in is a real concern. I have enough to survive for another 3 months but after that I don’t know. I try to ignore the issue but that’s probably the worst response. And yet, it’s what I’ve always done. I need to break that pattern.

I probably need to break a lot of patterns.

Momentum

There’s a lot to be said for habit.

For routine.

It’s a powerful thing that can provoke a vicious spiral or a virtuous circle.

I go to work each day, getting up at 5.30am, and it slowly becomes easier. I learn to go to bed on time. Discipline is also like a muscle. As we use it more and more, I understand that it becomes ‘stronger’. By resisting the call of the bar of chocolate and not buying a pack of crisps, I might strengthen my ability to keep working and brush out other distractions.

It’s easy to let the mind wander. Focus. Focus. That’s the key.

There are a lot of ‘tricks’ – a healthy body can lead to a healthier mind. Doing some exercise in the morning. Clearing the desk is supposed to work well.

But maybe what the exercise does is give you that first step into beginning your momentum.

I’m certainly aware that my life has been in cycles of low and high productivity. Once I’m actually doing stuff, it’s not hard to keep going for a while.

I just need to work to first gather momentum.

These are some of the things that I am thankful for:

I have enough money to survive. Ultimately, my basic needs of food and shelter are taken care of. I am able to focus on emotional fulfilment, developing myself, being creative and meeting people.

In London, there are many opportunities to do things for free. There’s LoB meeting nearly every day. Groups. In 2 short years, I’ve met folk who I can have over sometimes and can share activities with.

I have a pole. A brass x-pole. It’s definitely my most treasured possession after my PC. I can train on it.

There is a library nearby with all sorts of interesting books to read.

I get on well with my landlord/flatmate and flatmate.

I have a healthy body and am able to walk, dance, sing and express myself through physical movement. My body isn’t just a container for my mind. I consider it to be part of me. It’s allowing me to type these words. It lets me play games.

Speaking of which, I have no allergies or physical problems. I can eat anything and enjoy it. Cycle for 50 miles and enjoy it. Feel the weather. The changeable, mutable, weather that gives each day some added variation. The physical world is a wonderful thing.

I have mental problems. Caused by external factors, maybe. But I need to respond more healthily.

I don’t know why but I didn’t want to admit any shortcoming for years. Today, at the request of an advisor, I discussed my moods for the first time ever with a GP.

Maybe some of my emotional problems can be talked-through and solved with mere catharsis. Maybe some have external reasons.

But those external reasons don’t suddenly vanish. I’m bummed that I’m still not on a career path, 6 years after attaining a degree. Frankly, after finishing my degree, none of the work I’ve done has been intellectually stimulating at all.

That won’t change overnight. But I need to be able to deal with it despite that.

I should go to LoB and do fun things, even if I haven’t been perfect in my creative life.

I should go back to recording everything I do, minute by minute. Setting objectives each day, even if they’re fairly petty or just involve relaxation. It took an hour of my day away, probably, but it also meant I was more productive over the other 15 waking hours.

It’s one thing to be vaguely aware what your priorities are. It’s another to ensure that you don’t constantly fritter away your time on lower-priority things. It takes a concerted effort.

I will phone up the councilors again. I will phone up my GP next Thursday again.

I will start sorting my shit out.

First post.

So, this is my first post. On a new blog. On another website.

I remember setting up my first website. Every single hit was exciting. I got nearly one a day! Back in those days of 26Kbps modems, I wasn’t even aware of bots and (perhaps wrongly) assumed that every hit was a real person, somewhere in the world, reading my words. Frankly, we need to take a step back sometimes. In these days when 1k hits/day isn’t much, we need to remember that those numbers could be individual, real people, enjoying our words, our creations!

Nearly a decade later, I discovered Newgrounds. I submitted an animation – ‘Farming Fungus’. On Newgrounds, a game or animation needs a few hundred folk to vote on it before it even passes judgement! That was pretty exciting! And I got a few reviews – folk actually responding to my animation and letting me know their thoughts!

It’s great to have the comments and 2-way communication. Ultimately, that’s the hope behind anything we upload – that it’ll engage others enough to respond.

This isn’t my first blog. I started one all about videogames, then another on boardgamegeek.com. Those first entries were exciting forays into a new world. Would people stumble upon these words? Would I get any comments? Or would I be shouting into the wind?

Ultimately, those blogs only allowed me to write about one topic. And sometimes, shouting into the wind is enough. Sometimes, the mere act of writing things down is enough. Catharsis. Solidifying thoughts. Practising the skill of writing. Getting into the habit of making something imperfect and ‘releasing’ it into the world, for folk to see, with all the blemishes that exist on its surface.

There are many reasons to write. If I want comments, I’ll go elsewhere. If I want a response or validation or confirmation of my existence, there are friends or groups I can speak to or show things to ‘in real life’.

So here, I write whatever I want. As an exercise.

This is for me.

This is me.