Sharing Interesting Things

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One thing I did this Christmas was to gift some people various games that deserved their attention as they were:

  • Indie games that were original or interesting.
  • Early access games that deserved support – and were usually Indie games as well.
  • Games that broke the mold or redid things in smart ways.

The reasons for this may seem obvious, but to be obvious:

  • I want to support Indie games so that the games industry continues to innovate. There’s fantastic stuff out there.
  • I want to support Early Access so games can evolve with proper feedback. I know what good feedback can do.
  • It’s fun to blow people’s minds, so they think outside of the box and experience new things.

I want to strongly encourage this behavior because there’s enough sameness out there, enough watered-down media. If you’ve got something good, share it – and a gift is a great way to share it. Hey, if nothing else, people feel obligated to try it.

Besides the obvious benefits of sharing and so on, remember this includes giving people cold, hard cash. That dev probably needs every cent spent, and you can pay a few extra cents to help out.

Steven Savage

Jojo’s Bizarre Aesthetic

(This column is posted at and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

Aesthetic, that artistic and thematic sense of creative work, is vital to things like writing, art, and video games. Sadly we forget this fact as we’re deep into code or plot outlines or arguments about Pantone. To help bring us home to this importance, I’d like to talk about musical jokes and psychic powers.

Specifically, I want to discuss Jojo’s Bizzare Adventure, often referred to as “JJBA.” JJBA is a continuing manga and anime series that helped me understand the importance of aesthetics. If you’re familiar with Jojo, you’re nodding, if not, read on.

Summing up JJBA is difficult, but it starts with fighting vampires, then becomes a generation adventure with psychic powers. Most characters are musical references, the art looks like Tom of Finland saw Cirque Du Solei, and elaborate outfits abound. It is in every way “its own thing.”

To say it has continuity or worldbuilding would be off – the author clearly and joyfully incorporates whatever works. What it has, however, is a theme, a feel – an aesthetic. The series in all its forms is about theme and feeling first.

When I saw a discussion about the aesthetics-first approach of JJBA, it got me thinking of other places aesthetics were important.

Games require aesthetics. Two of the foundational “Forged in the Dark” RPGs, “Blades in the Dark” and “Scum and Villainy,” contain information on “example media” to understand the settings. My friend Ewen, an indie game developer, also focuses heavily on aesthetics and outright gives thematic ideas in some of his works like a D&D parody and High School weirdness. Getting the feel of a game is necessary to play it – and make it.

After looking at the idea that JJBA is “aesthetic first,” after thinking over these games, I realized any creative work needs an aesthetic. Including yours.

After this realization, I asked myself what my aesthetic is for my current fictional work, A School of Many Futures. Set in a world where a fantasy planet evolved into the space age, it’s a place of technology, sorcery, and internet-using gods. Thinking of it aesthetically helped me understand it better and made my writing better. When you know what something should “feel” like, you can create it easier.

For instance, I realized that the setting was one where the normal contained the weird (in a world of magic anti-counterfeiting is challenging), and the strange contained the normal (gods send email). Just this small realization helped the world come to life further in my latest edits.

So I want to challenge you to find the aesthetic of your current works – fiction or not. Here are a few ideas I’ve gotten from various sources:

  • Are there any books, comics, or films that have a similar aesthetic?
  • What music fits your setting? Can you assemble a playlist?
  • Are there any significant artistic rules? In JJBA, most characters dress strangely, and in my setting colorful robes are commonplace.
  • Are there any emotional or intellectual elements that are prominent?
  • List five outstanding aesthetic rules of your current work to see if you can quantify the “feel” of what you’re doing.
  • If your work was adapted into other formats, what would not change, and what would be essential to avoid changing?

So I challenge you to find your aesthetic. Go on, explore it, write it down, share it. It’s a new way to look at your work. It certainly helped me with my own, helping me find a kind of intellectual-emotional guide.

Besides, who knows, finding your aesthetic might inspire you to further greatness. After all, if I told you a major international comic and anime sensation was about musical jokes and buff guys fighting with psychic doubles, would you believe me?

Steven Savage

Write Every Day? Maybe . . .

(This column is posted at and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

You’ve probably heard of the advice that a writer should write every day. I disagree with that – I feel writers have to find their own pace – but it works for me and seems to work for a majority of authors I know. But, let me clarify that though it works for me, how it works for me wasn’t what I expected . . .

In trying to write every day, I found myself under strain to keep up on my various projects. Much of what I do involves writing, and thus writing every day was hard, as I tried to keep up on the many things I wrote.

You probably see where this is going, but to clarify – I tried to write on everything each day if possible.

Eventually I asked myself, why try to keep up on every project every day? It was tiresome, reduced focus, and the context switching was exhausting. Why, I asked, did I try to cover so much at one time.

Yeah, again, you see where this is going. I took the idea of writing every day and used it to touch every project each day.

What I’ve been trying recently is to focus on writing each day, but to deep dive on one of my projects. This could, in some cases, be three or four hours of writing if I’m in the mood. But, the goal each day is to write on something – but not necessarily the same thing each day.

This has been a revelation to me – though for you it may seem obvious. I was diluting my focus each day, getting less done with more stress. So far, I’ve gotten a lot more done and had a lot less stress.

There are a few insights I wanted to share:

  • This deep dive applies to just about anything from writing – writing, editing, formatting.
  • I find a “focus per day” works well, but the same things each day might get boring. You may need a break or have to focus on something else. At least you’ll do so after you’ve accomplished something.
  • This write-each-day-on-different-things works very well with goal setting as you can create much more solid goals per day – perhaps set goals for both days and weeks.
  • This approach develops discipline of focus as opposed to discipline for juggling.
  • It’s a good way to find if you’ve got too much to do. I already learned I was juggling too much.

I hope this insight helps you. It certainly has helped me – and you may just see more out of me now (or if less, be assured I’m productive in other areas).

Steven Savage