Betting on People and Giant Robots

A long time ago, longer than I care to think about, I went to my first Dexcon (or maybe Dreamation) and went to my first of what would eventually become the Indie Round Tables, which would in turn lead tot he creation of Metatopia. It was kind of awesome.

One of the things that people talked about was what they were working on at the time, and the social contract at the time was that if you brought it up now, you could expect that people would ask after it when the next convention rolled around. I, for example, mentioned my eternally-in-a-drawer “Faith and Credit” idea, which was perhaps ill-advised given its status.

One guy who talked about his idea – a game of violent criminal action – was this very dapper gentleman whose name I would eventually come to know was Russell Collins. He was very detailed in the breakdown of his game, with exceptional clarity regarding what he was looking to accomplish, what he was doing, and what wasn’t working.

Russell’s playtests were a regular fixture at subsequent Dexcons & Dreamations, and at the Roundtables he’d talk about his progress (or lack thereof) with the same level of detail. Until one day he stopped. And the thing wasn’t he didn’t stop out of any kind of laziness, he stopped because he had pursued this idea with all due diligence and had decided it was not going to work.

If you’ve ever had to stop doing something you’ve put a lot of work into, you have some idea of how hard that has to be. Even setting aside the sunk cost fallacy, there’s the sheer amount of your identity that gets wrapped up in this stuff. And I admit, this worried me – Russell’s a cool guy, and it would be easy to just throw up your hands and give up on the whole idea of making a game in the face of that.

So I was delighted when I saw Russell at metatopia. I fear I may have embarrassed him a little bit at one of the panels by calling him out as someone who really understands how to judge their own work fairly, and when I asked him what he was working on now he said something to the effect of “Teenagers in giant robots fighting with emotional baggage”, which sounded great, and I was curious what would come of it.

And the answer is – A Kickstarter. Russell is happy enough with this new game – Tears of a Machine – that he launched a kickstarter to make it happen. I admit, i almost missed it – a bunch of cool people were excited about it, but it wasn’t until it had been going a while that I actually looked at the creator and went, “OH!” (I am not always super smart.)

In any case, all of this is obviously a pitch for you to look at the kickstarter and see if it tickles your fancy. It might, it might not. But that’s not why I tell this story. See, this is ultimately a smallish hobby, made of people, and the more time I spend in it, the more interested I am in the people than the things. Betting on a game is a crapshoot, but betting on a person is an educated choice.

And you bet your ass I put a bet on Russell.

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