Writing Your Own Game Is Cathartic And Narcissistic

I was trawling through Google+ a couple of days ago and I saw a comment from a person I follow about how she hoped she had not burnt any bridges with some people in the Indie game world because of her views.  It was an interesting comment that had no real substance to what happened so I delved deeper into the comments and found one from someone I can only assume was involved in the conversation about how this person may have felt writing your own game is selfish.  I thought about this for a little bit and I have to say, as a Game Designer, I agree with her.

I am a designing my first ever roleplaying game that I intend to release.  I have made other games that I have used privately in the past but the game that I am working on at the moment is a game that has taken me over 25 years to write.  And I want to write it for me.  Iam totally scared that I will finish the game and attempt to get it out there and have maybe three people look at it, and of those three, none of them play it.  If it flops it will upset me but it is not the adulation that I am after, that is something that may occur.  What I am truly after is a release.

Musing on why I am such a cathartic narcissist!

Writing this game for me is a cathartic release.  I am able to write the system that I want in the shape I want it.  The game as it stands is obviously shaped by other games but that is the way it should be.  I am often one of the people found discussing game systems with people and talking about what I like and dislike.  It is like GURPS.  I have tried a few times to get into GURPS but it is a system that uses far too much crunch for me.  The characters feel contrived and hard to make so the up front system you have to get through just to play annoys me as I always like to have a hand in the characters I make.  But that is not to say that I am right and all the people out there who play the system is wrong.  It is just the wrong system for me.

So I now have the opportunity to write my own system that I want to show and share to others.  Writing the system that underlies the setting of this game is a cathartic experience.  All the things that I do not like about games I don’t have to include and so every word that goes on to the page about the system is a word I have considered and included for the system.  It is an emotional release being able to focus this story game on story and not the shape of a grid for a tabletop miniature simulation with roleplaying elements.  The focus is on the tale and the interaction of the players with it.  I am trying to remove anything that gets in the way of that interaction.  I feel like Erick Wucjik when he was trying to build Amber and decided that the mechanics of the dice were actually getting in the way of what he wanted to change and so he removed them.  It is not that I am removing the dice, but I am only including what I want, what I feel is the right mix for me, and people like me, to play the game and get the experience I want for them.

Of course I have interested gamers and friends around me assisting me in creating this game but I have the creative control.  I have the final word on the material and the system will largely be a reflection of me and my priorities in gaming.  That is a selfish point of view wo you are completely correct.  With every word that I add to the game the satisfaction grows and my cathartic release causes the endorphins to give me that feel good buzz as I add pieces to it like a modular flat pack from Ikea coming together.  but it is an exercise in narcissism also because with this game I am intending to release it to the game community.

This portion of it is a narcissistic route to take because I am now saying more than just “This game is good enough for me”.  I am saying now “This is a good game and I think you should play it.”  I realise that only the lucky few ever actually make money from a pen and paper RPG and I do not expect to make my fortune from it but I do hope to change a few gamers lives.  I want them to play the game and realise that it is good and the setting is fantastic.  I want people to want to play this game.  I want to build a “buzz” about the game.  I want people to anticipate my game and this is my narcissism.

So I sit back and declare that writing your own game is selfish.  It means you want to play in a system with things that you are totally happy, or at least accepting, of.  But if you do not release it this might still only be an exercise in catharsis.  Doing something that keeps you happy and keeps your mind active.  I have a friend of mine that does it as it exercises his brain and he finds it enjoyable.  To me that is only as selfish as playing a game of patience is.  but when you release that game and expect others to like it then it becomes a selfish act of narcissism.  In essence you are getting others to use your game and you want them to love it.  You want them to love it because in reality that game is a piece of you.  It will have occupied your thoughts at times for hours upon hours on end.  You will have struggled with how well tab A fits into socket B and if that has any effect on the shape of C.

So, in response to a comment I read yesterday I say that writing my game this time has been a selfish act.  I want the feel good buzz that comes with forming my game.  I want a game system that I enjoy and performs how a game I want to play would.  I want you to read and play my game and like it because I have given it my all and I think it deserves it!  But do not get me wrong, any artistic endeavour that I undertake will be cathartic for me and if I release it to be viewed it is narcissistic also.  That is just how I work.  Keep on rolling!


  1. I’m just starting down this road myself, and it never occurred to me to think this way. As much as I am writing a game that I would love people to play and enjoy, I am also writing it because it’s the game I want to write, and the type of game I want to play. I guess we’re all alike in that regard when we try to create something like an RPG.


  2. If you really want to crank up the selfish meter, write the perfect game and then don’t let anybody play it. 😎
    I’m not sure the selfish is the right word to be using here. Perhaps hubris would be better. I can see someone making the argument that there is hubris in creating your own game but even that falls a bit flat on analysis. When we create anything, if we put in an honest effort, than we are implying that this product is the best that we could make. That doesn’t automatically mean that we think it is better than everything else. Now if you call it “Detritus: The Best RPG and All Others Are Crap Not Worth Your Time” I might start thinking you’re a bit too proud.
    Making games is as creative as any other field and does entail a certain amount of “art” in the process. I have heard someone refer to a good game as having “elegant” rules. We don’t call an artist selfish for selling his painting so the original comment is something I find puzzling.


  3. Never insist they have to like your game, let them decide for themselves. Some will, more won’t. What really matters is will enough like it, and that will have to be their decision. As an old saying goes; rehydrating horses is at their initiative, not your command.


  4. Yes, as selfish as a musician who wants others to love his music, a writer, who wants people to read her book, or an artist who actually shows his pieces to others and will sell them. Creativity IS selfish. You’re making something that comes from yourself; a thing that was not before, now exists. Exists because of you. But then, so is reading a novel, listening to music selfish. Who are you listening to the song for? Who are you reading the novel for? It seems to me that at least the person who selfishly makes a game and wants others to love it at LEAST is creating something that others can also enjoy. You’re sharing you’re selfishness with others. They are taking someone else’s creative vanity and enjoying the creation and yet YOU’RE the selfish one. Again, creativity has to be selfish or it’s not creative. Its copying.


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