My thoughts have been skirting around the idea (note: I’m just rambling here...) that that some of my hobby projects like “COG”, “LH” and TDOMF would benefit hugely from opening them up to input from others. I say “skirting around the idea” because I am not completely comfortable with it. I guess, in a sense, I’m not a particularly open person either (which probably explains a lot about the content of this blog!).
I remember a sad incident from my childhood – while I was in primary school, I wrote a “ghost story”. I took several middle pages from a copy book and taped them together to form a little book. On the last page I had done up this elaborate skeleton drawing and the story was pretty much written around the drawing. Now you can imagine the effort a six year old puts into something like this. I had it my school bag, proud as punch. But after the lunch break, I found that some of the other boys had taken it out, drawn all over it and destroying it in the most mocking way they could. They were waiting for me to find it at which point they started to tease me about it, making fun of my writing.
It’s amazing that I can still conjure that memory when I think about the idea of allowing others in. These days I’m a professional software engineer, working on a good team. I have no problem collaborating and sharing ideas about the project. But when I talk about my personal hobby projects, like TDOMF or LH, I don’t talk. They are mine and I don’t share. I don’t think it’s just a childhood memory that stops me. I think it’s a number of personal reasons. First is self-confidence, opening up a piece of work for others to collaborate in, requires that others want to collaborate with you (anyone remember the GCG website?). The second is, I haven’t met or found anyone online or otherwise I would want to share my projects with. And lastly, they are hobby projects. I’m doing them for myself, at my own pace and for the simple pleasure of working on something. Bringing others into it, means delgating, sharing responsibilities, planning… bleurg!
But also, part of the issue for me, is the mental or artistic ownership of the project. I have a “vision” of what I want and I work towards that. The vision may change or move around but I’m always fairly clear on what I want (which may end up being different to what others want). The best way to express that vision to others (so they know what I want) is to bring it about myself, trying to explain it will lead to miscomunication. It’s certainly the case for TDOMF (which is easier to talk about as it’s software). I want to have certainly features implemented and certain polish to it before I give it a version 1.0. Once it hits there, I may consider looking for help with it. The same goes for LH, my Fudge roleplaying project. I have a vision of what I want and until I get close enough to it, I’m not particularly enamoured of inviting others to help me. Take my Reboot RPG, hopefully it’ll appear in a little while as a PDF. I don’t think I’d mind if others expanded or radically changed it after that.
Yet, COG is another Fudge roleplaying project of mine and the vision I had for that is sort of distributed or modular in a way. I have several ideas and components and I want to make a coherent game out of it. I don’t think I’d have too much of a problem exposing it to others and even trying to do something with it (if people liked what they saw). Maybe that’s the trick to it, to share a distributed vision with a group of people who you respect and work towards it. The only obstacle is, I haven’t met a whole lot of people that I respect in a sense that I would work well with them (or vice versa). (I now think of the small disaster Specky went through).
My own friends who I roleplay with have all done their own pet RPG projects. For one, Dark Obsidian, I submitted some fiction to but I didn’t collaborate with the author on it. My friends all have different tastes, particularly in roleplaying. That’s why we play well together but probably unlikely to work well together because we wouldn’t get over some of the fundamentals of game design.
My other hobbies, drawing and writing really are very much single-person activities except when you want to show them off. Maybe that’s it, I’m closet perfectionist – I don’t want to share my projects until they are perfect (close to my initial vision)!