One key factor I’ve found in every game I’ve enjoyed is a sense of progress. As time passes, the player becomes stronger, better equipped, more resourceful, more capable, and just plain better.
There is one game I can think of with an exception. In the mobile game Sword & Sworcery, your character actually loses total health points through the adventure, due to increased exhaustion. It’s an interesting twist, but even though your character, the Scythian, becomes weaker and more easily defeated, she still progresses in other ways such as learning songs, unlocking new areas of the map, and defeating powerful triangles (no joke).
Without progress, I imagine a game would get dull quickly, since you'd just be doing the same thing over and over with little change. It’s like getting stuck in a grind.
Progress is the evidence that our efforts produce results.
Ok, we’ve talked about games, now back to the Bat Cave, umm, I mean, creativity!
What does progress look like for the creative? It’s a steady shift toward improvement. It could be getting better at a skill, like painting or playing piano. It may be gaining further understanding of how something works, such as a circuitboard, or building a connection with another creative person of influence. It might be learning more about a problem, such as why a town’s water source has become contaminated.
Anything that allows you more opportunity to practice creativity is progress.
But here’s the rub (is it just me, or are we both thinking of a delicious dry-rub on some tender barbecue meats right now? Oh, it’s just me, right) progress can be slow. Sometimes it can feel like you’ve put in many, many hours into a particular creative pursuit, like balloon animals, and you still only know how to make a wiener dog. All the while, the bunny remains hopelessly out of your grasp (in a very real sense).
Yes, it can be frustrating when progress is slow and you feel no better today than yesterday or even last week, but I’ve found as long as you stick to a goal with determination, you will eventually get there. It’s only when you stop trying that progress (and that elusive bunny balloon) becomes unobtainable. There is something valuable I've learned about progress:
Slow progress beats no progress every time.
Much like the Scythian from Sword & Sworcery, we are faced with setbacks and weakness, such as sickness or the effects of aging, but that doesn’t mean we can’t continue to make creative progress. I urge you, press onward and, at last, that bunny of progress will be yours. Then you can move on to something like this. That may be a very high bar to reach for. Hey, just take it one step (or balloon) at a time.
Hey Creatives, have you been frustrated by a lack of progress? What was your response? Let us know in the comments below.