On Game Design and the “Wall of Awful”

by Derek Turner

I recently came across a concept in my various travels on YouTube that I immediately recognized in my own life: a “Wall of Awful”. It is a concept created by ADHD coach Brendan Mahan to explain the overwhelmingly negative feelings of failure, self-doubt, and paralysis that come from small failures or struggles along the way – the “bricks” in the Wall that soon enough stretches high and wide and becomes seemingly insurmountable.

Even though it was designed with ADHD in mind, I think the concept of the Wall of Awful can apply to anyone, and I often find myself referring to my own Wall of Awful in various areas of my life. (Please know that I am in no way attempting to minimize the experience of people with ADHD who experience this Wall of Awful by applying it to everyone – I just think it’s a really useful construct for anyone to know.)

A Wall of Awful can include anything: finances; housework; renovations; cleaning; relationships; professional obligations; errands; lists of things to watch or play; emotional responses; writing; or even game design, which is what I’ve been thinking about lately.

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