If We Could Snap Our Fingers (+Peers Poll)

Feb 7, 2014

“If you could snap your fingers and have your game made, would you want to do so? Do you find value in the process and constraints of making?”

This was one of the prompts that I asked recently on @HobbyGameDev.

There’s sometimes an impression among people just getting into game creation that the videogame first exists entirely in the creator’s mind. In this model of game making, the work of development is thought of as simply needing to find an easy way to get it out of the mind and into the computer.

However experienced creators that have finished multiple game projects – many of whom chimed in with replies that I’ve included below – tend to see it otherwise. The creative process isn’t merely a method to bring into existence something we already know everything about ahead of time. Rather, the process itself is an important part of the creative activity in a way that has some unpredictable and often exciting influences on the end result.

As I mentioned in my GDC Microtalk a few years ago, constraints often introduce novel ideas to our projects that we wouldn’t have thought up otherwise.

There is pride in overcoming challenges. There is more feeling of ownership for something that we put in a substantial amount of work and time into growing and shaping. People’s responses reflect these. What I want to highlight today though is that it’s not only a matter of hard work being its own reward. As Gareth Wilcock (@Gazza_N) put it, “…game design is iteration, and no design document survives contact with reality…” In the realm of videogame creation the work of building and implementation is intimately intertwined with creative idea development.

Here for a new Twitter Community response are many of the replies from other developers. Included, of course, are some alternative interpretations in good fun (including using it as a way to predict the future, avoid financial constraints, be free to focus on just one favorite aspect of game making, or in an effort to accelerate learning) and some other points or observation added for further consideration:

Alex J T Gorman @AlexJTGorman: If I don’t stare at my textures for the hours it takes making them I don’t notice what’s awful about them, I need time.

James Casella @Zenjamind: What I would want to do is instantly get it to a presentable state, then polish it for 12 weeks to the deadline.

ian @ianmart1n: I’d want a limited number of snaps to solve singular bugs/issues. improves workflow but has a layer of strategy and chance

C-Bear @cbear_wallis: Making something is about commitment…if you aren’t willing to do that then how good would your game be?

David Queener @davidqueener: Depends on the design in question, but then I’d cheat and release at 2.0.

That One Fruckert @Fruckert: Depends on what you mean by “snap your fingers and have it made”. If by people, yes, because I’d still be involved… if it’s a hypothetical machine that can take abstract ideas and turn them into a game, definitely not. It’s less personal.

Elviss Strazdins @estrazdins: As I am working on it for two years, I am getting so tired, that I would even allow some magic to finish it.

Ian Richard @McTeddyGames: Heck yes, I’d snap my fingers. I love the process and constraints can be good… but I’d be a moron to pass up that chance.

Nate Parker @gamesophist: There is value in the process as you can see implications and how to improve the design. It is a learning experience.

Mark G @markdoesnttweet: Getting stuck and figuring the problem out is half the fun. One of my best moments was solving a collision detection bug.

Kyle Shankin @kshankin: if I could snap my fingers and instantly learn how to do something new….that might be a more viable option

Gareth Wilcock @Gazza_N: Since game design is iteration, and no design document survives contact with reality, it would take a lot of finger snaps.

Elijah Whitehouse @Defective14: Nope. Half the fun is figuring what works, what doesn’t, and what’s worth pursuing or adding in later on.

Joshua Waring @Joshhua5: If it was just made for me, it wouldn’t feel like my game with my own personality integrated.

Tifu @TifuBlackmoth: I enjoy coding, but if I could just magic up an awesome 3D model or character sprite, I’d probably do that :F

Mike Desjardins @ZeroLogics: I started making games a few months ago. If I could snap my fingers I’d have learned nothing. Waste of a super power, haha.

Alistair O’Brien @PixelReverie: If I were to snap my fingers and make a game, it would likely be horrible. The process is what evolves and creates the game.

SGB @SportsGameBlog: Seeing the results after putting so much effort into it is a great feeling

Joshua Furlong @Furlong92: It’s always the little things that show us how big things have become later down the line.

Adrian Schuurmans @GoAus: Snap fingers & instantly have a success? Ya, probably would. Why? Cause then I could make what I want without financial constraints! Honestly,the joy for me is not in the programming (though that’s fun too!), it’s in the creation of ideas and seeing them in action

Gryphon Chirp Saga @kawaburd: I would not. Much as I want the exposure of a finished product, I’m really in it for the learning, skill and experience.

Luke M. @JetstarForever: The design I started out with evolved throughout development. It’s an entirely different beast now. Love it!

Kelley Gray @MadBartender: Very true about the process. A year in and things are so different than when we started.

CGOApps @CGOApps: Great question, and, no, but if I could snap my fingers to gain some drawing skills… that would be tempting. Enjoyment for me comes from problem solving and carrying that knowledge forward, whether it’s reuse of code or more general.

James A. Henley @WorkAsDesigned: Iteration is the father of quality. Unless I get to keep on snapping my fingers, I’d have to pass. =)

Colton Hornstein @ColtonHornstein: There’s a huge difference between a game being “made” and being “finished”. If I could have it made then tweak it.. hell yeah.

Adam Prack @Adam_Creations: No way, but I wouldn’t mind snapping my fingers to get the funding!

Pietro Polsinelli @ppolsinelli: Troubles will start when the Genie starts asking for details – how exactly made?

Metaldemon @MeTaLDeMoN1: as a programmer. I like options. Different ways of doing things. But I can only snap my fingers with one hand! D:

Jez Hammond @Jez_Hammond: As my last release was 2011, yes I would enjoy working on updates right now instead of this mission.

sorceress @_sorceress: It might be nice to snap fingers and get to see our finished game for reference purposes. See how we did stuff!

Ash Chambers @AshleyHJC: TBH if that was the case, wouldn’t you be ordering it, rather than making it? Haha

Roger Miller @dj_roeeze: It’s in the making. It finally step back and say ‘look at what I have created!’

Shenmue Whisperer @bigdipperart: If there was a machine to read my brain, my imaginations, thoughts, visualizations, sound, and compiled them into a game, yes.


(1) how many games have you started? (2) how many games have you finished? (3) what role(s) do you focus on?

While we’re on the subject of the Twitter community, I did a bit of informal polling lately to get a sense of who else is out there tinkering alongside us. My prompt this time: “Developers! Quick tweet survey: (1) how many games have you started? (2) how many games have you finished? (3) what role(s) do you focus on?”

What I want to reinforce here is that no matter what your experience level – working on your first game, or quite a bit further along – you and I are a part of something much bigger and in the same boat as a lot of other good people.

If looking for some new online development friends, or just peers to keep up with, perhaps connect with some developers here with a similar area of interest:

Zephilinox @Zephilinox: 6 started. 0 finished. Little of everything.

bagus santoso @ghen92: (1) I started about 3 games, (2) game I finish probably just 1, quite busy with college. (3) programming

Michael Meier @uexilon: Started 3, finished 1, 1 in progress (while learning more about Unity), will be switched to a different game engine.

Ben-omial Expansion @ben_townshend: 1) three 2) one 3) programming

Freddy Estrada @fredyestca: I have one “almost finished” project. Any advise ? I’ve been finishing it 2 months

Zulli @_zulli: 1-10373817282738 and still counting 2- 5 3- programming

Stina @TamTeamStina: (1) One, (2) One https://appsto.re/us/Z6aFH.i [FlowerPowerHD, free for iOS], (3) My focus is art/graphics.

Robrecht @RobrechtJ: (1) countless (2) not a lot (3) not enough focus, see answers 1 and 2

Adam Mowery @1amowery: 1) 12 2) 1 3) everything but music

Alex Frêne @Drakulo: (1) => 12; (2) => 9 (2 canceled, 1 delayed); (3) => Developer / Game Designer

Brian Simpson @BrianS198: I’ve started 4-5 (Four extra for sfx / music), finished 2 (And the four involving sound), and usually composition.

Aaron Fothergill @ZwilnikSF: 1) Approx 100, 2) Approx 94, 3) Coder/Game Designer/Producer

Javier Rodriguez @J4vyRdz: (1)- 21 (2)- 3 (3)- Programmer, Design, 3D Artist

Jake @theMcAxl: Started 4 games, Finished 1. I write, assist with general design, sfx and music. All over @Lon_Mon_Games

Justin Ng @justafolio: 6, 2, Art & Design

Christian Geese @chgeese: 1) A lot. 2) very few. 3) everything.

Darren Daley @Darren_D_Daley: 1) 8 2) 2 3) programming and design

David Whittaker @rundavidrun: For @webOSdev, I made QuadWord, and now it’s ported over to Android! I also have Robot Maze in the GooglePlay market.

Metaldemon @MeTaLDeMoN1: (1) Too many, I have a folder full of old projects I wont dare enter. (2) 6.. I think. (3) I focus on development.

X’erron (Spencer L) @GamesByXerron: (1) 10+ (2) 4 (3) Most often: design, art & programming~ Sometimes: sound engineering and music composition.

Alfonz @alfonzm: 1) 9 2) 5 (3 Ludum Dare games!) 3) Programming, design

Brandon @codecanuck: I’m a developer, so that’s usually the role I focus on. Programming and design.

Morloc @L4DRedemption: Started 1, finished 1, all roles \o/

Robin Hayes @BonzaiRob: (1) 7-ish and (2) 1 Finishing them is the hardest part… (3) started doing music and art, gradually moved to code

x1r0 @darkxiro: (1) 9 (2) 9 (3)coding; all games are very small and not published (for learning gamedev/tools (unity, html5, php) purpose only)

Brandon @codecanuck: I’ve started two or three outside of game jams. I have one completed game jam game (out of two jams attended.)

Antonio @Thanar: Started: a lot, let say, one a month. Finish: the one which deserved it. about 5 so far. Roles: Game design and programmer.

Software Alchemy @softwarealcheme: Started 2 and finished 1 (Cyber Pest Control 3D Free for Android). Mainly graphics, rigging and animating characters and modeling assets.

Julien Bertozzi @Lomelin_Lmln: 1 — 1 soon. — programming

Spectre Kelevra @SpectreKelevra: 5 – 0 – 2D Art, Animation, Modelling, Concept and Design.

Luigi Semplicino @Shamano_: 3 / 2 / arts + gameplay programmer.

Retro Dungeon Games @LNorwegians: (1) 11 (2) 7 (3) 3d artist at the moment.

Chris & Dustin @GhostCrabGames: Started 5+, finished 1, programming and game design

Rob’ot @Rob_Kian: 4, 1 @ 95% — all of them

DemiGoth @DemiGoth: 1) One 2) None but getting close 3) Working concept first then art & sound – full one-man project

Lucas @lucasdnd: (1) 3 games. (2) 2 games (working on one). (3) coding and project management.

Ethan Davis @Ethan_Dav1s: 44 s 26 f and long range

John Szymanski @Cr2CrStudios: (1) Around 30 or so (2) About 4 (the last 4 I started, though! ) (3) Programming and design

harrison yogert @profyogert: More then I can count, 0, lead everything aside from art

Ian Richard @McTeddyGames: (1) Way more than I can count… (2) Slightly more than I can count. (3) I focus on design… but usually I code it too.

Graviteam @graviteam: (1) So many… (2) ten (3) battalion commander simulator

mildmojo✈ @mildmojo: 1) 15-20ish? 2) 8ish, using the game jam definition of “finished” 3) design, coding

Chase Leonard @ChaseTheSwift: Writer/producer/director. I have started writing 14 stories. Finished 1 story. Started some concept work on 3 games.

barelyconcealed @barelyconcealed: 1) 5 (ish) 2) 2 3)writing, twine development

Micaela Holmes @myCaelieCakes: (1) If memory serves, 6? (2) 3 and a half (3) my forte is environment and props, but I have modeled and rigged characters

Gryphon Chirp Saga @kawaburd: Started? I think 6 if you only count things that made it off of just paper. Finished? 0. Hoping to change that soon though.

CrashScreen @CrashScreen: Do people that are never satisfied count? 4, 0, programming/mechanic design.

this_is_ridiculous @ArtemVeselovsky: (1) 4 started, (2) 1 released, (3) engine and game mechanics development.

Vincent H. @vincenth69: Got a bunch of concepts, started half a dozen, none finished. I prefer game design, but as a one-man team, have to code too.

Nathan @RealmRPGer: 1) Probably 100 (it’s been a hobby since I was ten). 2) Four, that I can recall. 3) Programmer and designer in equal measure.

WataCoso @wataCoso: 8 started, 2 finished. Programming and drawing.

Of course, I unfortunately can’t consistently summarize everything here on the main blog that I do with the Twitter account. Nearly every day on Twitter I dig up an older entry from the archive and post it with a brief excerpt, for people that may have missed it or wouldn’t mind a reminder. Recently I bounced a question around about which animation software people are choosing to use (where/when applicable) for their projects. Yesterday I sent out a ping for people’s game screenshots and links, to retweet a few. If you’re interested in these sorts of things – and maybe more importantly, becoming an active part of it all – check out @HobbyGameDev on Twitter.

(If you’re completely new to Twitter, or have been putting off creating an account due to not being sure who to follow to get started, the lists above and in earlier Twitter Community posts could certainly be a handy starting point to surround yourself from day one with other active developers!)



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