The Next Big Thing.
So here we go again. I’m about to release my Next Big Thing, a new mobile game called RobotGladi8tor. For all you word purists out there who are about to get all snarky about my replacing letters with numbers, let me just respond thusly: yo mama. Also, there wasn’t room beneath the little game icon to fit “Robot Gladiator” and the main character is called “number 8”. Granted, I added that detail after I realized I’d need to abbreviate the name and wanted to fake some sort of narrative reason for it, but that’s just between you and me and that rock over there.
With this game I have been either amazingly lucky or miraculously blessed, depending upon your particular religious worldview and/or belief in leprechauns. I started the game in early December and finished it at the end of January. Granted, I cannibalized a lot of models and environments from previous projects, but that’s still, even to me, a spookily fast turnaround. And still, amazingly, the game turned out even better than I had anticipated. For you creative types out there (and I assume that’s most of you) that is an all-too-uncommon occurrence.
Furthermore, when I attempted to refresh my previous contacts at Apple, I had no expectation that they would 1) remember me, or 2) like what they remembered, even if they did. After all, they see tens of thousands (probably hundreds of thousands) of apps per year. Dream:scape, while successful for a first-time game by some no-name schmoe from flyover country, was certainly no Angry Birds. It was loaded with glitches, crashed for a lot of people, and had virtually no traditional gameplay. But not only did the Apple people remember me and the game, the new guy in charge of games for the AppStore, who I had never spoken to before, had played Dream:scape and was looking forward to checking out the follow-up!
Let me put that in perspective: that’s a bit like approaching J. K. Rowling at a book signing and having her fondly remember your name as the author of that Alternate Universe Potter fan-fiction you wrote six years ago. Seriously.
So, long story short, after nearly a week of agonized waiting, my contacts at Apple suggested that I release RobotGladi8tor on Thursday, February 16th (Thursdays being the days they update their featured apps on the AppStore). This is no guarantee of anything– for probable legal reasons, they never officially admit whether any given app will be featured or not. But it’s either a very good sign or they’re having a lot of mean-spirited fun playing with me, which is probably unlikely (but certainly not impossible).
And does this mean that I am sure to experience wild success with the sales of this game? No, not in the least.
If there is one thing I have learned over the past few years, it’s that failure is always, always an option. I know a lot of you are big believers in Positive Thinking, be it good vibrations, the Force, the Secret, Karma, or good old fashioned name-it-and-claim-it prosperity theology, but I have increasingly come to believe that failure is not just always an option, but can up and squash even the most earnest and persistently upbeat ambitions. That sounds really negative (or cynical, and yes, I’ve been accused of needing a few weeks’ vacation at the old Cynic Clinic) until you realize that failure isn’t inherently negative. What’s negative is how we might choose to react to failure.
Wow. That sounded pretty Tony Robbins-esque, didn’t it? Next up, I’ll be asking us all to measure our Personal Potential Matrix and tape pictures of Lamborghinis to our bathroom mirrors for daily motivation.
“Dammit, I got toothpaste on my ground effects..”
But just because something is cheesy doesn’t mean it isn’t necessarily true. It just means it’s so obviously, patently true that we’ve all grown used to ignoring it, and have probably made an unconscious pact not to remind each other of it.
Thing is, failure IS always an option. If one never fails, one is probably not attempting anything particularly difficult. All the while I was making RobotGladi8tor, I was telling myself that failure is always– always— only one mistake or miscalculation away. I know this is true for the very simple reason that I have failed. “Ruins of Camelot”, my last book, is currently a world-class failure. It isn’t that the story is no good– I still believe that it is possibly my best work. It isn’t that I promoted it poorly, or neglected its packaging, or failed to submit it to as many blogs and review sites as I could. It failed because– and this is the truly important thing– no one can control every circumstance regarding their success. No matter how talented one is, or how hard they work, or how perseverant they are, they simply cannot control the innumerable external circumstances that influence their potential success. I made a great book, packaged it with extreme care, promoted it tirelessly, and it tanked. It happens. Failure is always an option.
Failure can be very beneficial in the larger scheme of things. Realizing that, like “Ruins of Camelot”, RobotGaldi8tor could fail spectacularly, I found myself constantly sifting through the progressing game with an eye toward anything that might become its Achilles’ Heel. I slaved over the tiniest problems and glitches, knowing that any of them could be the fatal flaw. And even still, the game could fail. I might have missed something. I probably missed something. But hopefully it won’t be a fatal something.
I really want to point out that this isn’t negativity. It’s pragmatism. As much as many of best friends will hate to hear this, I have tried the positive thinking approach– I truly, firmly believed that “Ruins of Camelot” (and others) would be huge, dramatic successes. It didn’t work. By contrast, pragmatically calculating the odds of failure and working vigilantly to reduce them at every step may also not work, but I am confident that it at least improves my statistical odds.
I think the problem might be the movies. Movies and popular culture have created the idea that if one simply tries hard enough, is pure enough of heart, and (most importantly) feels a deep sense of cosmic destiny about their creative endeavors, then God and the Universe owe it to them to make those endeavors a wild success. If movies represented reality, The Karate Kid most likely would have gone home with a third place ribbon, a modestly boosted sense of self respect, and maybe a cracked rib or two.
“Karate may not be your thing. Ever consider writing fan-fiction?”
Movies play God with destiny in some wildly un-lifelike ways. The thing is, in real life, sometimes people who try really, really hard just end up bitter and resentful with a life that didn’t hold up its end of the bargain. In real life, even pure of heart people sometimes fail because of bad timing, or because the market wasn’t right, or because their ideas really just weren’t all that great. In real life, everyone feels a deep sense of cosmic destiny about their creative endeavors. If that was a sure-fire key to success, no one would ever fail.
So yeah, I suppose I am a cynic. But that doesn’t mean I don’t believe there isn’t a meaning behind it all. I do actually believe that sometimes– sometimes– destiny steps into the mix. I happen to believe that destiny is just another word for God, and I do think that God chooses sometimes to get actively involved. One never knows when or how, and I don’t think it is fair to assume that He always will just because we ask Him to (or, at least, to assume that He’ll get involved in the way that we want Him to), but I do believe it happens. I’ve seen it too many times in my own life to doubt it. I could tell you stories (maybe someday I will; they really are pretty amazing) but I think many of you have similar stories of your own and know what I am talking about.
So next Thursday, here we go again. My Next Big Thing finally comes out. Last time, with “Ruins of Camelot”, I thought it was going to be huge. I was prepared for it to be a massive success. This time… well, I am not assuming it’s going to be huge, but I am not assuming it’s going to be a failure either. I am trying not to hope too much, but trying not to lie to myself either. I just want to be able to provide for my people. I just want to be able to keep making stuff. It’s what I was made for.
Here’s hoping that RobotGladi8tor succeeds– that people buy it, and like it, and give it good reviews. Here’s hoping that all my painstaking efforts to avoid the always-possible failure pay off, that my vigilance resulted in my finding most or all of those potential fatal issues. Here’s hoping it provides for me and my family for awhile, and paves the way for a new project, maybe another book this time.
I would say “here’s hoping that God gets involved and doesn’t just leave all of these things to random chance”, but I am confident that that, at least, has already happened.