1 min read

On making things people love

At the Game Developers Conference last month I overheard a mentorship conversation in which the student asked the mentor what they wanted from their career. The mentor replied, "To make games people love."

It struck me as selfish.

To be clear: I'm not out to condemn selfishness. Rather, I think what stood out to me while eavesdropping wasn't just that it sounded selfish to me, but that it looked on the surface like something generous. After all, it's great coming into contact with things we love, right?

To me, though, the point isn't loving the thing.

For a brief four weeks I took shakuhachi lessons. The teacher wasn't for me, but one thing she said stuck in my head: "Don't play to be perfect. If you play perfectly, you'll just make people hate themselves."

I understand wanting to make things people love, though. I've reached for it repeatedly over the years. But whether those reaches were in homage to the things I had loved or from my own desire to be loved, they seem to have missed the point.

Why make a game people love? Or any piece of art, for that matter. If the experience of it stops at the feeling, what is it for? Is it distinguishable from getting high off a drug?

But the experience doesn't stop at the feeling. There are lessons about love in the very experience of it which last far beyond the moment. And perhaps the feeling is strong so as to direct our attention to those lessons.

Maybe the goal of making things people love is generous after all. But I might rephrase it so that it's not about the object, nor the feeling.

Let's make things through which we learn how to love.