How do I manage my thoughts around this project?
August 3, 2019 9:35 PM   Subscribe

Hi, AskMe. :) I've been involved in a side project for the past while which is finally starting to come to fruition in a big way, and I'm trying to figure out how to handle my feelings about it. Any advice would be welcome. Warning, a bit long.

For the longest time I've wanted to enjoy complex computer games, on the level of my sighted piers, but this is fairly difficult being totally blind. I've been working on making a particularly in-depth beast of a game accessible for the past while, though not doing any of the big coding/modding myself. It's finally starting to gel together and I'm trying to figure out how to handle this, in several senses.

On the one hand I'm eager to finally be able to play, which is what I really wanted all along. It's not perfect, but it's to a point where I can enjoy it in a meaningful way and share it with a few friends who I hope will appreciate such things. I'm ambivalentt about whether I want to share it with a larger blind gaming community or wait until it's further along, perhaps. I've had some previous bad experiences where I shared things with them too soon, and was bombarded with a ton of questions I wasn't prepared for. I'm the type to get really into a thing for a while, milk it for all the joy I can, and burn out badly if I'm not careful.

At the same time, I'm delighted beyond measure with where things are at the moment and wish I could gush about it to more people. THis may partially be because my actual work life lately has mostly been idling and waiting on a client, so something like this where I can see actual progress being made on a regular basis thrills me.

Finally, I should say that there's quite literally nothing like this playable for the blind, so that colors my excitement in a big way. It is hard to express just how much… Passion, for lack of a better word, there would be in the audio gaming community if I were to share this in the right places. I feel like I'm in possession of a particularly juicy secret, and a part of me is loathe to let it go. At the same time, I feel a little like I'll burst if I don't :)

Any advice on how to handle this, both in a practical sense and in the larger philosophical one would be greatly appreciated. Thanks so much, all.
posted by Alensin to Grab Bag (5 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Congratulations! Is there a way you can do a limited beta? Perhaps targeting a more experienced part of the community that will be able to figure out more things on their own? That will let you share the excitement while getting a manageable number of questions.
posted by metahawk at 9:59 PM on August 3, 2019 [2 favorites]

I like the idea of a limited beta. And I also totally understand the anxiety around releasing work that you feel passionately about. Regular folks are often terrible about giving feedback. Some people jump right in to criticism, others give vague pats on the head because they don't understand the work, and others, like you said, just bombard you with their issues - especially if they are also passionate about it but unschooled in giving feedback.

Given that you are pioneering here, I wonder if you can find an advocate/mentor in the gaming community who has experience with this kind of project launching or who can connect you with folks who have done rounds of share, test, feedback in gaming that could help you develop a framework for sharing this that tells people what to expect from your game and gives them a very specific feedback protocol that you're looking for.

I think you are right that just sharing it with a wide community will not result in the kind of response or feedback that would be valuable to you. Cultivate a small group. Again, if you can find someone who is from the gaming community but who has experience in this area, they could probably help you devise a system so that your first round of user feedback is a good experience.
posted by amanda at 7:31 AM on August 4, 2019 [1 favorite]

I worked at a startup where we had a product that was a beautiful solution to a vexing problem in network management (don’t judge, we all have our thing). I was contractually obligated to keep my mouth shut for over a year while watching IT friends and acquaintances bang their heads on their desks trying to grapple with a problem I knew no longer existed.

I channeled a lot of my energy into making sure our product really was going to be a world class gift to networking professionals. I didn’t want the fact of the achievement (i.e the solution to the problem) to get buried under a poor or even moderate execution. I wanted our great solution to be backed by a great experience.

I also wanted it to be a surprise. The longer something is rumored to exist the more outlandish the expectations get. I didn’t want the release to be a disappointment because people had envisioned an impossible product in their heads. I guess you could say I poured my energy into making the perfect unveiling.

I did still occasionally gush about the product, but I did it to non-technical friends with no industry connection who were just happy to know I was doing something I loved. I also wasn’t above the occasional double entendre when talking to people in industry — never a hint as to the product, just something that would be read very differently after the release.

One suggestion I have that might help you pass the time is to write up a white paper about what you’re doing. The target audience should be others who want to follow in your footsteps. It should cover the general issues you’ve faced and take its examples from this particular effort. In the long run a guide on to how to make complex games accessible could turn out to be more important than this individual game, and right now you have all the context to do it well.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 7:39 AM on August 4, 2019 [5 favorites]

Hey I love talking about gaming and issues of accessibility and inclusion. So feel free to MeMail me if you just want gush, I won’t blab :)

Also: sure, closed beta is good, as is working on the pitch/white paper/ hey maybe even shop for academic collaborators and you might be able to help with a scholarly article! That could help the methods you’ve worked on have even more impact on gaming/blind gaming in the long run.
posted by SaltySalticid at 1:12 PM on August 4, 2019 [2 favorites]

re this bit: I've had some previous bad experiences where I shared things with them too soon, and was bombarded with a ton of questions I wasn't prepared for. I'm the type to get really into a thing for a while, milk it for all the joy I can, and burn out badly if I'm not careful.

What if you got a remote, part-time collaborator on board who could help you manage the FAQ + support aspect of a beta test? Feel free to me-mail me if you want any pointers in this direction. :) Sounds like a wonderful and important project.

As a side note I wonder if the people behind ELIA (a new type of Braille alphabet) might be interesting to look to as you think about how to roll it out to the wider community.
posted by wowenthusiast at 8:26 AM on August 6, 2019

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