My Support System
To design a game, you need more than a brain & some construction paper. You need a support system, to permit you to focus on the ideas & game at hand, to give you time to do your tasks. If you are constantly interrupted with brief tasks throughout the day, you will not be able to devote your attention for prolonged periods of time to solving design challenges or creating game elements.
In our modern world, we are probably working on a computer which, at a single click, takes us to vast realms to explore which have nothing to do with our game project. Plus we are carrying smartphones in our pockets which can do the same thing. A designer needs to have some way to be able to stay on target.
I am not saying you need to be a hermit. Every design – EVERY design – is improved by the views and suggestions of others. Even suggestions I reject are useful, because they cause me to consider my own solution carefully, and usually improve it.
Every designer has his own methods of staying on target. At this point I want to give full credit to my beloved wife, Wendy. I have been married to her since 1979 (do the math) and her unstinting support has been what enables me to be the designer I am. Quite literally, if I was not married, or married to someone less amazing, I could absolutely not have designed Cthulhu Wars.
Let me give an example. When I am working apace on some task, the outside world vanishes away. All reality is The Game. She knows this. So if she comes to me with something (important) on which she needs my feedback, sometimes I look up with a blank stare, my fingers still typing as my mind churns on The Game. Many a spouse would try to wake me up, or snap fingers before my eyes, or punch me on the arm, to call me back to reality to get that feedback. Wendy realizes I’m “in the groove” so to speak and unable to pay proper attention (and, if I did, it would probably ruin my train of thought on the project) and she departs quietly, and makes the decision herself. Or waits till later, when I get up to get a drink of water (or pee, or whatever) so I am no longer lost in my own private universe.
She always has my back and even more important, she has faith in me. This was particularly essential for Cthulhu Wars because I spent over a year with no pay working on it. We just lived off our savings, watching our nest egg shrink. That’s a hell of a thing for someone in their late 50s. You want your retirement money to GROW, naturally enough. Remember too, that I have a pretty stellar resume as a designer, so could easily have quit on Cthulhu Wars, and gone back to work for a game company at a decent salary instead of blowing the wad on this insane project that no one else would publish. But she felt that I had the skills & the talent & the will to do Cthulhu Wars and actually is my cheerleader and inspiration when my spirits flag.
Today I told her that we now have a fallback plan. If Petersen Games goes bankrupt after producing and shipping Onslaught Two, and all our money goes towards fulfilling the campaign, we have so many firm backers who love us we can basically travel the world, living and eating with them on a week-to-week basis.