Overcoming Self-Editing

One of the big problems with starting any creative project is getting over self-editing. Most people (well, most adults, anyway) are very self-critical, and fearful of the disapproval of others. This is no way to galvanize you into action.

When I run creativity exercises, I often start with a warm-up where each participant is expected to come up with three bad ideas first, and share them. This is usually very effective at liberating people from their self-editing. If bad is now good, then that little voice telling you that all of your ideas are bad suddenly becomes encouraging. Not being in the mood for that, though, I’m going to try something similar that I’ve also seen work: start off with something so unthreateningly easy that self-criticism would be just kind of embarrassing. Sort of like the first round of a Limbo contest where you can just sort of duck under the bar.

So, let’s start with a dice deck.dice card

The idea behind this is pretty simple. In any game with dice, you’ll occasion­ally get lucky or unlucky streaks that hit a particular player. In a well-designed game these are often mitigated by the sheer number of die rolls involved, or by other factors. But it happens often enough to leave a taste for some kind of response. So: you make a deck of cards showing all of the possible pairs of rolls on two six-sided dice, and use that instead. No more streaks, because there are only so many of each combination in the deck.

Now, this is a very niche item. It addresses only the subset of board game players who are involved enough to try variants, and then only fans of those games that use two six-sided dice (which does include a lot of mass market games like Monopoly and Parcheesi, but not all that many games overall). On account of this, I suppose, a dice deck is hardly among the standard accessories you can just go out and buy (but yes, I do know about the cards that come in the Traders and Barbarians expansion for The Settlers of Catan).

This is actually a little silly in the world of the 21st century. Even something with a very small audience can be published print-on-demand, because nobody has to stock any inventory of it. The only serious cost keeping it from happening is the up-front development effort. So, hey, great project for someone who’s looking for something to do anyway, right?

Tomorrow: designing the best possible version of something that nobody sensible would spend that much time on anyway.

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