Ayden discusses why failing is winning, and why it is important to keep moving forward even when the maths is really hard.

The other day I spent three hours trying to fix the maths in my game. Essentially I was having some issues with the event cards and needed to make sure there wasn’t any repetition of them. This involved a LOT of maths. Now I’m not great at maths. In fact, I’m pretty damn bad at it. I’m so bad, that when covering a year 7  (11-year-olds) maths class at the school I work at, I had to phone my wife (who is a maths teacher) during a lesson and get her to explain to me what the hell this textbook was on about. The look on those kids’ faces…

Anyway, three hours later and after another small maths lesson from my wife (something to do with triangular numbers?) the maths in my game was fixed… Or so I thought. I then spent another hour putting together the event cards for the twentieth time in the last four months. I cut them all out, set up my game and was ready to playtest version 435 of my game (not actual version number, although sometimes it feels like it). I started playing the game, excited to see how fantastic everything was going to be. I turned over the event card and did what it said before continuing to the next stage. All was going perfectly. I got to the event cards again and turned another one over. What did I find? The same card as before!

Ok so my initial thought was a string of expletives and I do admit that I was quite annoyed. I mean who wouldn’t be? The last four hours had been wasted, right? Wrong… and a little bit right. But mainly wrong.

Before I explain why it wasn’t a waste of time let me tell you about a buddy of mine. His name is Will Smith, you may know him. So my mate Will does these YouTube videos right, and I recently watched one of his motivation videos, again whilst at school with some students. In this video, he was encouraging failure. He was saying that the more we fail, the more we learn and that the more we learn the more we succeed (I’ll link the video).

So if I had only watched that video then I would see this failure as a learning experience. However, there has been someone else who has been inspiring me recently and he’s from the board game community as well. A guy called Gabe Barrett. Gabe hosts a podcast aimed at game designers (here’s a link to Gabe’s site as well) and it is nothing less than fantastic. Anyway, Gabe talks a lot about celebrating the small wins and this is now something I try to do.

You may be thinking “why is this guy going on about Will Smith and some dude called Gabe”. Let me explain. My maths was a failure. But it is a failure I have learnt from. As well as this been a failure it was also a win. It was a win because if I had not noticed my mistake I could well have sent this game out to playtesters at some point with the error still there. This would have wasted a lot of other people’s time. If the error had gotten past them I could have ended up publishing a game that is actually broken. But I didn’t do those things. I won by noticing my own mistake, I won by learning from it, and I won by fixing it early enough and not giving up. A few days after this I had a few people play my game. It went really well and didn’t break for them. Win.

What have your small wins been recently, and what you do to stay positive when your games just aren’t doing what you want them to do? Let me know on Twitter or Facebook. Links to both are at the bottom of the page.