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Absolute Perfection in Game Making & when a little “Letting Go” is maybe a little OK

By Shari Spiro

Let it go. Let it be. Chill out. Be cool. Hang loose. Take it easy. No matter how you say it – it means the same thing. You should not literally  sweat ALL of the small stuff, especially when it comes to certain aspects of tabletop game manufacturing.  Yes – your game should and can be perfect.  But maybe not perfect perfect.  Maybe something won’t actually be absolutely perfect in the end – and that is when I am saying – maybe its time to let that one small thing – go.  As long as it is truly small – and doesn’t mess up the game or the game play – as long as everything is still stellar otherwise – maybe that one thing – well maybe you should not obsess over it if it is good enough and not absolutely perfect. Sometimes things come up – things that no one can control – like events that delay shipments. The flooding in Houston for example – a terrible tragedy, everyone agrees – until they find out that trucking will be delayed because of it and their game may be 3-7  days late arriving in the warehouse.  Seriously – in cases like that – what else can you do except let it go and trust that things will be OK in the end?

Thats all I am saying here.  I am not trying to get out of making a perfect game for anyone – or make excuses – I am just speaking from experience and sharing my observances.

Remember before you got married or engaged or started dating, you had this notion of the perfect person for you? Then you found them and for a week or a few months, or maybe even a year or two, they were perfect. Then one morning you woke up to the toothpaste cap missing, the towels crooked, the toast burnt, the dishes unwashed, THEM unwashed, and you realized this is not my beautiful car, this is not my beautiful wife (to paraphrase the TALKING HEADS) and you had to decide… live with imperfection, be human, be accepting and be a true partner – and work at the relationship – or leave because of the imperfection(s) of your partner.

Remember that song from Frozen “Let It Go, Let It Go”?

(THAT IS A RHETORICAL QUESTION OF COURSE). Besides the great musical hook, why was that song so popular?

Because it resonates on some level with truth for people. Letting go is a good thing, even if you are a frozen ice witch type of person. Well, especially if you are that.

I cannot tell you how many times I have had to realize WHEN to let it go during the growth of my tabletop game manufacturing / publishing companies (AdMagic and Breaking Games of course). Sometimes you have to just stand back and let the people you hire take the ball and run with it and accept slight deviations from YOUR initial vision of “perfection” because reality is not perfect… it is complicated and messy and generally it develops differently than you thought because you can neither be an expert in EVERY area, nor can you control EVERY thing.

Hence the title of this blog. GAME DESIGNERS! You crazy, brilliant, wonderful, frustrating perfectionists! You need to hand over your art to your tabletop game manufacturing company and then LET GO (a little)! So don’t let it ALL go – really – you still have to stay involved – but sometimes obsessing over really excruciatingly small details (although not something I consider a bad trait as the details are VERY important – details are EVERYTHING in what I do) – but maybe just one of those details can be slightly different that your original vision or a slight delay can be absorbed into the overall time frame without causing a major emotional earthquake.  How you deal with the unexpected is part of how you deal with life in general.  Sometimes just going with the flow is the only way left to go that makes any sense.

Trust the people you have hired to make your card or tabletop game and let them do their jobs. Try not to hound them constantly about that one detail, and while you are at it – try not to beat yourself up or obsess over slight change or slight imperfections that no one really notices but you. That’s all I am saying here.

Learn when and how to let it go.

A friend of mine who has also been my bookkeeper for years always said “Let Go Let God.” I never got that saying really – as I felt had to control “everything”. I never let go. Then one day – it was after one of the first trade shows that I DIDN’T attend – I realized things went fine without me there. I had let go a little. So I tried a bit more. That is not to say that mistakes were not ever made – they were – and usually by others I had delegated to, but little by little I learned to trust people to learn to do their jobs and was able to let go more and that is how our company began to grow.

Let go and grow. Maybe you grow as a person. Maybe you grow your game because you allow a bigger team to do the work and you steer it more than micro-managing it.

Breaking Games Tabletop Game Manufacturing Gen Con Booth

Breaking Games Gen Con Booth

Yes, you still have to be diligent, you still have to figure out the details – but have a little more fun. It is your dream after all – you should try to enjoy it. Designers – you HAVE to realize that if your game gets huge you are going to HAVE to depend on others and you may have to even compromise just a little.

Learn how to play nice, not just at the game table but in life.

Be nice to your customer service people, your tabletop game manufacturing company, and your project manager. Yes I am talking about us. People like me and my team. Believe in them and trust them a bit. If they know what they are doing they will be honest with you – and sometimes honesty means asking – does that really warrant holding up production or re making that entire thing?  These are tough questions and sometimes the answer is decidedly yes.  But – once in a while – the answer is – no – leave it as it is – it will be absolutely fine like that – it will work out well.  It will keep the schedule – it will be a good product.  Maybe not exactly to the hundredth degree what you were thinking but very close. Designers, your game can become a huge hit but if the end result has a tiny difference from your original plan, well, maybe sometimes its right to just let it go a little. If it doesn’t affect game play and it is basically fine – that is all I am saying. Things will be fine. Someone I work with and who I appreciate very much told me that, and I believe it.

In tabletop game manufacturing, all people are different but one thing is always the same…

Either clients come off to others as nice in general or they come off as not nice in general. In the past five years I find myself being far more patient and kind (in general) on the phone and in person than I ever was before.  (email is hard but I try really hard to rewrite several times so as not to accidentally offend anyone). With people I have to deal with in life now – people I hire to do things for me and people I meet, I really do try to be kinder and I try much harder not to accidentally or intentionally send someone to a bad place mentally.  I am not saying I am perfect at this BTW – I still have moments where I am not as nice as I probably could have been – moments where I forget or stress takes over.   Moments where people call me out on this even.  But I remember more each day to thank people and tell them I appreciate them. It’s a work that’s always in progress.

After years of being in the tabletop game manufacturing business and after experiencing both the feeling of being treated with respect by some of my biggest clients and treated questionalbly by some of my smallest clients, I find it ironic that those who grow the largest seem to be consistently nice and respectful even when something does not go exactly as they had planned.  I actually think there is a simple and direct correlation there – learn how to work with people and grow. Be demanding and not quite as respectful as you could be and grow less – or more slowly, or worse, not at all.

I could be totally wrong here, but isn’t it worth a try?  Say something nice to someone who is trying to do a job for you today. And maybe the universe will smile on you and that job will come out even better than you anticipated.

– Shari

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