I love working on small games. My definition of a small game is one that can be developed in less than a year, preferably in under nine months. Larger games used to be more impressive to me before I entered the workforce. However, after being at Filament Games for as long as I have, I can say with confidence that I’m really glad to be working on the littler projects. They are quick, simple, focused, and I grow as a designer more because of them.
The top reason is that I learn from my failures faster. The more ways you can fail at something, the more ways you learn how not to do it! Working on multiple small projects throughout a year has offered me the chance to try and fail in a large number of ways. I’ve experienced different ways the scope of a project can get out of control, dealing with clients who present a variety of challenges, good and bad communication flows between teammates, right and wrong ways to write a GDD, designs that just didn’t pan out . . . the list goes on. I would never have reached this point in my career if I hadn’t been given tons of chances to perfect my approach to each aspect of game design.
The small game size gives me the opportunity to try my hand at multiple game genres. I’ve made time management games, questing games, different kinds of puzzle games, strategy games, a card game, simulations, games for toddlers and games for college students, science games, animal games, and many more. Where else can you experience such variety in a short amount of time? Getting to design a completely new game every few months is incredibly refreshing. I find new strengths and skills in myself that I otherwise would never have gotten to explore.
One of the biggest reasons that I enjoy smaller games is that the team size is smaller and I get more control as a designer. I get to think about the whole game and jam with a tight-knit group of experts to make the best product. It’s much easier to communicate with smaller teams and everyone has a massive amount of agency in their area. Smaller games appeal more to devs who like wearing multiple hats and contributing to a large percentage of a game’s development.
Having a job where I’m in charge of many smaller projects decreases the turnaround time between making a mistake, learning from it, and trying something new. I frequently have opportunities to reflect on the development, come up with a new plan, and implement it right away. Learning through experience is the best way to get better at something, and I consider myself lucky to have the chance to do this every year.