the next big thing

This was too hot - um, too long for twitter and then I remembered I have a blog for this exact purpose! A friend gave me a piece of advice about writing that's been really helpful to keep in mind: the thing you're making right now doesn't have to be the next Big Important Thing. It doesn't have to be your masterpiece, it doesn't have to change the world, it doesn't even have to shout out a message.

I've been putting a lot of unfair pressure on myself while writing Date or Die. Part of it is because I have super bad OCD! But another part is that I was putting so much weight onto both Date or Die and myself that it could never, ever live up to the expectations I wanted it to - which is why I didn't write a word of it for months.

I'd sit down to write, look at my page, and my thoughts would start again. You're going to fuck this up. This is important. Other queer people are counting on you to make this perfect. Do you think [game studio] will ever hire you if you put something anything less than perfect out there? Why even try?

I can't make something perfect. Nobody can.

I'm happy about Date or Die's diverse cast, which contains a lot of characters not usually seen in games at all, let alone as love interests. But I just made these characters this way because I wanted to, not to fulfill some imaginary Diversity Quota so I could feel good about myself. Telling a story about unconventional love isn't really effective if all the characters are straight white people, right?

But people are excited about Date or Die - I mean, that's good, obviously! But it's also scary, because it means I can let people down. Now add a generous helping of scrupulosity-based OCD combined with a passion for social rights issues on top of that. It wrecked me. It still kinda wrecks me! It's frightening.

I started treating this like it had to be The Thing. The Queer Dating Sim. Every word, every character trait, every choice I made had to be perfect.

Like I said, that's impossible. One game can't be everything for everyone.

There's a nonbinary character in Date or Die whose feelings about gender come largely from my own. I hope some people will be able to relate to this character as well, but I know even other nonbinary people might be upset or angry about how they're written. And it's hard for me to accept, but... that's okay, I think. I never want to write anything hurtful, and I really try my best to make sure I don't do that. But even though I might share a gender label or even something like autism or OCD with someone else, our experiences can still be completely different. I can't tell every single experience and represent every type of person in one character, or one game, or ever.

I mean, ask a room full of ladies who like video games how they felt about Bayonetta. You'll get a different response from all of them.

This post is getting away from me a little but WHATEVER. The point is: I had to go back and think about why I wanted to make Date or Die in the first place. Not what I thought everyone else wanted from Date or Die. I wanted to tell a story about love. I wanted to make a cast of compelling, engaging characters for players to interact with. I don't want to make The Citizen Kane Of Dating Sims! I don't want to make a big queer manifesto in the form of a dating sim. I don't even want it to be regarded as an Important piece of Queer Media. I just want to tell a story I believe in, with characters that interest me.

I have to keep reminding myself that's enough reason to keep writing. It's hard. But it's not fair to me to hold myself to these impossibly high standards that I'd never use to judge anyone else.

I'll make missteps. That's hard to accept, too - that for as much as I try to walk carefully, I'll still step on someone's toes, because that's just how humans work. But it's more important to try to move forward than to stay in one place forever. I have to trust myself to do the best I can, which is scary. And it's a little scary to share these fears, but maybe sharing can help someone else, which is the best thing I can hope for.

I don't have to make the next big thing. I don't have to produce a perfectly polished diamond. You don't either. I've always found rough geodes more beautiful anyway.