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Article - 'When Motivation Runs Dry' by Mateui

An item about Game Design posted on Jan 14, 2004


Learn what motivation is, what causes a lack of it, (in a game creation sense), and learn about ways in how to cure the lack of motivation.


When Motivation Runs Dry:
By: Mateui

Urgh! I don’t know what to do!!

Have you ever felt like the game or project you were working on seemed pointless? Were you beginning to hate all those commands you had to do that were just so senseless and repetitive? Did you feel like you just couldn’t take it anymore?

If you answered “Yes” to any one of those questions, then you may have already suffered with the ailment: The lack of motivation.

But what is it exactly? What causes it, in the game creation sense? How can you conquer it?

Sit back and read. All the answers to those questions will follow.

What is Motivation?

Before we can begin to tackle the problem head on, we need to properly define what motivation is. Don’t worry, I already took the initiative, and have found a good enough definition for us. ^_^!

n : the psychological feature that arouses an organism to action; the reason for the action. (To provide with an incentive; move to action; impel.)

In simpler terms, it’s like a desire to accomplish or do something. When you’re motivated, you feel like you can complete the tasks ahead and do them happily. When you’re not motivated, you feel the opposite – everything seems like a mundane task.

Ok. So now we know the technical terms – but still – it’s more important to find out some ways in how a lack of motivation can be caused, and the effects this could bring.

Lack of Motivation: Cause and Effect

Diminishing your motivation can be caused in many ways. To make the following list more organized and easier to follow, I have placed the causes and effects in different sections/times of a game’s development (Because we are applying this in a gaming sense.)

During Game Design Stage:
This stage in the game development process is when everything is being brainstormed, and written on paper/computer, stored in some way. An immense amount of info is usually compiled – ranging from Character Design, to Storyline, to World Info and History, and so on.

There’s just a lot to do in this stage, and many times, lack of motivation starts here and hits hard, causing many different reactions depending on the person affected.

- There’s just too much time, effort, and energy to go into this stage of the process.
- You may be criticized by others on some part of your design (story/characters/world/etc..) that you may begin to get discouraged.
- While writing/planning a specific part of your design, you may take on the notion that your game is too weak or flawed to even get past the design stage.

- Becoming discouraged, the person designing stops what they’re doing, and does not feel like continuing further.
- The troublesome part of the design process (story/characters/etc..) gets dropped for fear of criticism and remarks.
- The whole Game Design Process in the Game Development Stage gets skipped altogether for fear of lack of motivation.

If you read that last effect, you may be wondering what it all means.. Because it doesn’t make sense, you say. Well, think of it this way: Some people have a fear of failure (perfectionists, for example), and due to this fear, if they don’t do something 100% perfect, they decide not to do it at all. This is exactly like the people who skip the stages during the design stage.

Most often, some people do this because they just know or are scared that they’ll lose their motivation while planning, so instead, they skip this stage, hoping that they’ll elude the lack of motivation. Most times – the opposite happens, they get hit harder with the lack of motivation, and because of not planning ahead, they set their game up for a failure.

(NOTE: Some people have a skill of being able to just throw themselves into making the game without first planning. Hey, if it works for you, then do what you please. But don’t forget – planning will make a solid game.)

During Art/Music Stage:
This stage is optional for most games. It only applies if you plan on doing your own custom graphics.

- You begin to feel like your art/tiles/panoramas/music are insufficient and/or ugly, compared to other artwork.
- You don’t know what to create anymore
- You begin to realize that at the rate that you’re creating your artwork, you’ll probably finish your project in a couple of months/years.

- The artwork/music is stopped, becoming delayed further
- All of the artwork/music is ditched/deleted

During the Coding Stage:
This stage is the time where any coding may be done to further the game. Most times, lack of motivation strikes here, because coding can become rather tedious and repetitive, and likely not as enthralling as something else like art or music.

- The coding becomes really repetitive to you
- You do not know how to code a specific event or system for your game
- You do a lot of coding, and, by accident, it gets deleted.

- The programming/coding is stopped for a time
- You give up on the coding
- You quickly, but inefficiently finish the coding, but this causes some extra problems in your game, such as lag.

Lack of Motivation: Cures

We now know some causes and effects of the lack of motivation. We will now explore several methods to cure the lack of motivation.

One widely used method today is just stopping the task at hand, and waiting a few hours, or till the next day to continue it. While you’re not doing the task, you may receive inspiration, or more ideas to make the task turn out even better.

Switching tasks may also be advantageous. If you’re getting bored with coding, why not switch to doing art/tiles/etc. Just try not to switch too much – and keep in mind what side of the brain you are using (Remember Stevester’s past articles on psychology to get what I mean. But I’ll explain it in short anyways). Basically, some tasks use one side of the brain, and other tasks use the other side of the brain. If you do one task for a long time, and then try to switch to the other side of your brain, you may not work as well.

If you’re stuck on a part of doing something, getting opinions and suggestions from other members may be useful. They may provide you with some interesting thought, and it could help you greatly.

Finally, if you’re clean out of motivation, you may want to stop your project for awhile – but start a newer, less demanding project. For example, if you’re getting stuck on something in your story, you may want to start a new project – a project that puts less emphasis on story, and more on something else, for instance, like an arcade game. While you’re working on your newer project, you may get some motivation back, and you can continue to work on your original project first.

If you try this idea, keep in mind that your main focus should still be on your first project. Remember that you’re just creating this side project to get motivation back.


Well, that is all for now. I now that there are probably a lot of other causes/effects/and cures, but it is just not possible to cover everything. I hope that this article has helped you. BAI! ^_^!