Why a blog? Why Design Space?

Hold that thought. We’ll get there. First, a note on passion.

Everybody has a passion. A kind of unquenchable drive that they thirst toward endlessly; a frothy drink that they slurp up with foam that never vanishes. It’s a natural high gained from the pursuit of coruscating ideals that is impossible to replicate.

The leading psychological principle that was believed to govern life for years was Sigmund Freud’s principle that humans take actions which lead to overall pleasure and avoid overall pain. Passion is neither: it is the ambitious ideal of pleasure meshed with the stubborn struggle of pain.

The outfielder of a little league team sits on the bench after the game and wipes dirt from his white pants, watching clouds travel across the sky and vowing to peruse his big-league dreams. A white, middle-aged woman writes vocabulary words on a run-down chalkboard and, smiling, stoops down to help little Xavier understand the silent h, not because she was forced into it, but because it’s what she’s always wanted to do. A grandfather opens up a box to show his grandson a torn jacket with patches and dust-covered metals placed carefully across its pockets, then inexplicably begins to cry.

Nothing moves us more, nor causes us to dwell more, than what we have been and what we now want to be. It is that moment when we are caught in passion that it all fades into the background. For that one, ephemeral moment, as a tiny bubble sent from Father Time finishes its dance around the edge of a pin, we are precisely where we want to be.

My passion is design. Each challenge is my regular season game, each idea without form a malleable student, each completed project a single piece of wood to lie across a lengthy suspension bridge.

I have always been this way.

When I was four, I was writing stories. I couldn’t even write yet, so instead I would relay my words to my mother and she would write them out, compiling expansive volumes of priceless nonsense.

When I was seven, my dream job was a game tester at Nintendo. I contacted them endlessly, trying to see if they needed any assistants to playtest and revise their games.

When I was eight, my brother and I bought our first starter decks of Pokémon cards. He reached for the rulebook, and I shook my head. “I want to see if I can figure it out first by looking at the cards.”

When I was nine, bored by the prospects of defined sports, I began to invent games in my backyard. Every week, when my friends came over, we would play a new backyard game I designed. We played sprocketball, to burnboarding, and everything between. When they went home, they would show their friends and play that game for a week. Then, the next week, I would show off a new game, and the process would repeat.

When I was ten, I wanted to try my hand at designing a card game. I worked on it for months, and ultimately (as would be expected at ten) it was a failure. However, it was a good learning experience as I figured out many things to not do.

When I was eleven, my brother and I began to play Magic. Within four months, I began creating cards. Within six months, I had found online groups of people who also made their own cards. Within a year, my friends and I were drafting my own (roughly) designed sets.

When I was twelve, I stood in line to see Randy Buehler at the Seattle Odyssey pre-release. He was a member of Magic R&D, and I had two questions for him. First, I asked him why the Mirari was the set symbol. He told me it was because it was important to the set. Then, I asked him “How do you get hired by Wizards?” He smiled and responded. “Well, you have to earn a college degree and apply,” was the first half of his answer. My heart sunk. A college degree? But that’s going to take forever! “Or,” he continued, “we hire people who have shown success on the Pro Tour level.” The Pro Tour? That I can do. I guess I’m just going to have to play on the Pro Tour then…

When I was thirteen, I weighed my options and put the Pro Tour on hold so I could win scholarship money in the JSS system.  I compromised by vowing to put my extra time into honing my card design on forums and learning through feedback.

When I was sixteen, I started college. I didn’t find my classes too strenuous and found myself with plenty of extra time to focus on my Magic goals by both continuing to work on my design and competitive Magic. In under six months I qualified for my first Pro Tour. I finally began to feel like I was getting somewhere.

When I was nineteen, I decided to design another Magic set – but to do it right this time, using all the knowledge I had learned over the past eight years. After six months of hard work, I invited a bunch of friends over and we drafted what I had poured endless hours into. Afterwards, I wrote 10,000 words on the process. It became clear to me how far I had come – and even so, how much I felt was still out there to learn. It showed me how much design is a field that always has a beginning, but never has clear end.

Today, I am twenty. My design fire still ferociously burns and crackles from the same kindling that started it when I was four. The thread of design and determination has run through my life, and it’s clear to me that design is something I am going to always be doing in one form or another. It’s just who I am.

That doesn’t mean I am a perfect designer. On the contrary, design is something you can never truly master. It’s something you learn more about every time you try. I believe even the Babe Ruth’s of Magic design (such as Aaron Forsythe, we’ll say) are still learning every day in some capacity or another. I try my best to progress by constantly working on improving and taking all the feedback I receive to heart. Am I a “good designer”? That’s difficult to quantify… and perhaps it’s not my role to do so.

So, back to the question: why a blog? Why Design Space?

The answer to these kind of questions are never as clear-cut as one might hope, but the best answer is that this blog is the result of several spectrums of life shining through one prism and coalescing into one form.

As you delve deeper and deeper into design, it slowly becomes a part of you. It’s said that architects see the world through a lens of 90 degree angles and symmetry. Well, as a game designer, you begin to see the world through a lens of rules and win conditions. Suddenly each goal accomplished is a small victory; every task a projection of your design theory.

As a result, the more I began to intensely design Magic, the more I began to play Magic through the lens of a designer. My deck design ability increased as I saw the interlocking pieces weave together both in Constructed and Limited. I began to see each card for what it was on a design level. My way of approaching Magic changed, and many of my StarCityGames.com articles morphed into a new kind of analysis.

After the dust from working on a set and its results had settled and the playtesting development of a game Jon Loucks and I were playtesting for Skaff Elias had completed its alpha phase, a new design challenge cropped up: The Great Designer Search 2. This was it. This was my chance.

Well, apparently, it wasn’t.

I spent as much time as I had crafting my essay. Then, when the design test came out, I spent almost the whole day working on it. I over thought and over researched too many of the questions and ended up just under the cutoff. I switched off of multiple correct answers. Even more embarrassing to myself is the fact that, despite all of the time I put into the test, I completely threw it away by forgetting Squadron Hawk flies! Even though it turns out that several others made the same mistake, it didn’t help any. I had nobody to blame but myself.

Something eerie and oddly unlike me happened after that: I fell into a strange trance that wouldn’t break.

I don’t want to call it a depression; it was something different. The French might call it ennui. I just wasn’t… there. It was as though my mind and body were disconnected. I was doing things, but my mind was elsewhere.

One. Two. Three. Four days rolled by. I couldn’t pay attention in class. I made a couple embarrassing blunders on mafia night, and I spent a lot of time ruminating. I knew something was wrong, but I couldn’t put my finger on what. I can deal with losing. I can deal with things not going as planned. I do both all the time; and moreover, I typically respond very well in adverse situations. Why couldn’t I deal with this?

I believe everything happens for a reason, and I don’t say that blindly. I can look back at any negative event of my life and see why it was important overall. Sometimes it’s to grow. Sometimes it’s because it opened up opportunities. Sometimes it’s just because it was actually a benefit and I didn’t see it at the time. Whenever I fall down, I always figure out what my next direction is and keep moving. But with this, there didn’t seem to be one. I knew that it would be important in the long run, but I didn’t know why.

Then, Sunday night, everything came together.

I was playing Cribbage. The game of Cribbage I’m generally okay with, but there are a couple of arbitrary rules I really dislike about the game – but that’s for another blog post. What’s important is one of them came up. I started thinking about why that was a problem, and how I could talk a lot about the principle behind why that is a bad element to game design.

Suddenly, everything clicked. The room bent outward, something inside released, and the shadow lingering over my shoulder disappeared into light.

In my articles, I had been starting to get concerned. I had been beginning to project my “design mind” into my articles a little too much. When one of my articles was rejected by Ted because it was way too heavy on design and wouldn’t interest the average reader (a decision, in retrospect, I agree with and appreciate), it was a wakeup call. The average reader wanted to know how to win a PTQ, not discuss game design I knew I had to move design out of my articles. But if I couldn’t talk about it there, where else?

At the same time, I realized why I was feeling the way I was. It wasn’t because I had been eliminated. It wasn’t because I felt I had failed myself. It was because I no longer had had a consistent source of material to sate my design fire which, for years, had burned steadily. In other words, my passion was lacking direction. I needed to give it a new source of timber.

I needed a space to talk about design. A design space.

Design Space.

The name was perfect. I tried out some other ones, but none of them felt so right on so many levels. (Hence the unfortunate “blog” at the end of the URL.) I registered the URL and quickly began work on the site.

I never had a blog before because I never had a reason: My Magic articles allowed me to talk about what I felt was important in Magic, my school newspaper articles allowed me to talk about what I felt was important in our world, and Facebook and Twitter allowed me to talk about issues that didn’t fit in either on a smaller scale. However, I was missing an in-between platform.

That’s what Design Space is. That’s what Design Space is going to be.

I don’t talk about myself outside of Magic much in my articles. As you might have noticed, here it’s going to be a little different. The way I design and my life experiences are so intertwined that it’s going to be stronger if I show you where I’m coming from and why. In that sense, it makes the design material on here even stronger than what I would have to streamline elsewhere.

I wouldn’t have it any other way. What’s a blog if you don’t get some voyeurism anyway?

I can’t promise updates every day. I have to be careful to not get burned out on writing between Starcity, the school newspaper, and essays for my last quarter of college. But whenever I have something to say about design, it’ll be on here. I look forward to writing it and sharing my thoughts with you

Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this article, leave a comment and/or tell your friends to come check it out. I appreciate your support!

Talk to you soon,


Post to Twitter