A question I often get when discussing board game design, and particularly my own games, is how I feel about the games that I’ve designed; whether I still enjoy playing them, are they precious to me, etc. I often don’t know how to respond. I hold my games as something that is important to me, a product of my effort and expression. But, I hold different designs differently. Colorfield, which is the furthest along in production, is a game I’ve played at least a hundred times through various playtesting, demoing, and pitching interactions and presentations. I can confidently say that I’ve played Colorfield more than I’ve played any other game I own. The saturation of experience that I’ve had with Colorfield has developed in me a kind of callous tenderness towards it. It’s hard to describe, but while I do love the game, and it’s a piece and part of me, an extension of my creative expression and sweat equity, I hold it differently than I used to. It was once my baby, entirely mine. Now, it’s grown into an adult with its own character. It interacts with people without me, and is experienced in a way over which I have no control.

A decent parallel would be the love I have for my 18 month old daughter. She is precious and beautiful and is in this intimate process of becoming. And, she is entirely mine. One day, she will grow up and have her own experiences and opinions and tastes and abilities and accomplishments and failures that have little to do with me or her mother. One day she will offer the world something unique, be it expertise or insight or empathy. But, now, she is small and cute and flimsy, a bundle of smiles and tears and budding self-awareness. Her experience of and interaction with the world around her is still mitigated and, to some extent controlled, by her mother and me. She is ours, we are hers. Our love for her is vast and complex, and carries with it our understanding of the responsibility that we own to protect and nurture and invest our time and effort into her growing up. Some day, she will be her own, aware and in tune with her own existential worldview. She will have skills and experiences that will make the world better. She will be something unique and grounded, with her own family and responsibilities. But for now, she’s our precious little toddler, learning not to touch the oven when it’s hot, or what peanut butter tastes like. We love her, and, I imagine, we love her differently than we will love her when she is 20 or 30 or 50.

To an entirely different extent, of course, I also love Colorfield. But, I once loved it because it was mine, it was a part of me. I now love it as a child grown up, out in the world doing things on its own. I’m proud of the time and effort I put into it, but as it has changed and developed into something different than it was, I no longer feel like it’s my baby. It’s its own thing, free to interact with and affect other people: free to offer the world something of its own. And, that’s okay. I’ve playtested games from designers who have been reluctant to accept, or even defensive against, constructive criticism of their games. I probably reacted once in a similar way with Colorfield. But, as it grew and changed, as others took stock in it, my grip on it loosened and loosened. Now, it’s no longer entirely mine, and that’s okay. I love it and will always love it, but it’s not mine to hold and protect and develop any more. Hopefully it does some good out there, on its own.