How to successfully fail a personal project

I've always enjoyed creating things. I get a lot of pleasure from starting something new and building on top of it until I can sit back and enjoy the result. It doesn't really matter whether it's drawing, cooking, painting, building with legos, coding, filming or my day job as long as I get to make things.

A few weeks ago I was working on a game called Campfire. A short role playing game set in a forest with a simple objective consisting of picking stuff up and lighting a fire before reaching the end. It was fun to work on until it just stopped being fun. I gather this is quite common with personal projects. I started out making the game confident that I would finish it but after a couple of weeks of intense coding I put the project on hold.

To be honest when personal projects go "on hold" it usually means they won't be revisited. The problem with Campfire was that the concept started to sound boring and like it wouldn't be worth it for the amount of work it would've required. It was a simple idea that got burdened with all sorts of aspirations and would've probably taken the rest of this year to finish. While it would be nice to share a finished game I didn't want to put myself through something I didn't feel like doing. After consideration I gave up and took a break from game development for a bit.

I felt like a failure afterwards.

For a couple days I couldn't shake the feeling of being bad at everything and how I wasted my time on yet another unfinished game. I was in a bad mood and felt like creative work just isn't for me. I was considering giving up on game development altogether.

I've been working as a web developer for over 5 years now. After creating dozens of websites I've noticed one thing in common with every project: Finishing a huge project—while satisfying—is usually incredibly underwhelming while the process of designing and coding is the most rewarding and fun part.

After a few days of feeling defeated I was able to look at Campfire with a fresh perspective and remind myself how much fun I had working on the project. How much fun the process was and how little in mattered that I didn't finished it.

Success is all about framing: I wasn't successful in making a game but at least I successfully failed to make one.

I learned many new things I set out to learn, I refreshed my knowledge of Lua (the programming language), I studied pathfinding algorithms and came closer to understanding what is a good idea for a game as a solo developer. I think next time I'll be less ambitious and more appreciative, prepared and ready to take on a game project.