Bronchitis and Game Chef (or not)
I did not Game Chef this year. I wanted to, and thought I might, but then this whole bronchitis/hives/low potassium/dissertation thing happened and I was like, yeah, maybe not. And so I didn't. No one in the McFarland household did, although my stepdaughter at least came up with an idea. From what I've seen on G+, a lot of people were really taken with the theme and ingredients, though, and there look to be a number of fun entries to come out of it, which is awesome.
One of the things I've been musing on since I decided not to do Game Chef this year, though, is how high the bar to entry actually is for making room in game design for new designers. I mean, on the face of it, it's simple. Anyone can design a game, any time. But in reality, game design is a time sink. You need free time to think, to plan, to come up with mock-ups, to play, to write. You need stability and space and a way to find at least an hour every few days to yourself when you're not so exhausted that you can't see straight. If I were working a regular 40-hr week, I don't know if I could do it. If I were still seriously poor, I'm pretty sure I couldn't do it. If I were still a single parent, I don't think I could do it. If I had more serious or ongoing health issues on top of any of that, I definitely couldn't do it. There just aren't enough spoons.
There are a lot of assumptions that go into our game design communities, and one of them is that you have the time to carve out of your life and fashion into a game. If we were to make a list of demographics who have that time and energy, I think we'd find that a lot of people who might otherwise be interested do not have the real world support and stability to engage. For that matter, they may need to know that eventually something tangible could come from this endeavor in order to justify it. For the fun of it may not be enough to let them focus on something that doesn't necessarily assist in the rest of their lives.
I am very fortunate in my life and situation. I was not always so fortunate, though, and so I look at people who are in the situation I was in a few years ago, and I wonder how I could help broaden the game community to those people. I try to do it by being visible in my community and working with games, teaching others to play and design and incorporate gaming into their professional lives, and finding ways that games and game design can be made accessible by those who are hesitant to commit scarce resources to an endeavor that may take investment on their parts. I also do it by paying a fair rate to freelancers in my own business, and encouraging others to do so as well. Lastly, I try to lift up people whose voices and ideas might otherwise be drowned out. It's not much, but it's something. That's the game I play.