I went searching and I stumbled across The Forge.
These two ideas combined to feel so empowering to me. I could design games! Games that told the stories I wanted. Games that were mine to share as I saw fit.
The Forge also offered a structured environment to think through play experiences, apply specific critical lenses, and share what approaches worked or failed.
I don't know that I would have ever done ground-breaking game design work without its influence on me in that nascent period.
I wasn't part of the industry. I was an indie.
The demo was key! It was how you got out of the trap of comparing your game to things like D&D. "You know what, why don't we just try out a quick demo? Let me rope in another person or two!"
I could focus on designing the things that I cared about, and connecting with the audience that would care about them.
I wouldn't call The Forge a community. But I think it was a hub—one that communities and lasting bonds could emerge from.
When I think about The Forge, I'm often more accurately thinking about the post-Forge network. I'd characterize my work as post-Forge.
Conversations could be long-form. Audiences could be circled in on an intentional basis. There was space to have conversations on their own terms.
I want to feel like I have colleagues and we are honing our craft together. I want to feel like we have a dedicated space for intentional, generative conversations.
But some stuff was really valuable! I wrote about it here:
You can make the games you want to play. You can publish them diy on your own terms. But you need to know your craft, and you only get there with reflection, critique, and dialogue. That's why this space exists.
What could your peers offer you that would best help you hone your craft?
What do you want your game design network to be like?
What kinds of conversations empower you as a designer?
My desire was to look back at the whole endeavor and think about how it helped me grow as a designer, and what I want to carry forward from it into new spaces. But not to erase problems!