Thursday, December 24, 2009

STOP DRIVING AND FLYING THE MACHINE, a n00b in the industry: take 1

So here I am, a n00b in the game industry, with a world available to me, and I thought it would be informative to relate the trials and tribulations I face as I face them. For the majority of you who don't know me, I am the figurehead of indecision. Or maybe I'm not? (Sorry, bad jokes may appear in this column.) But right now I am choosing between Tigerstyle games or Digital Chocolate. And I don't mean where to work, because I work for both right now, but which I prefer.

Let's start with a little background. I have been dipping my toes in game development for fourteen years now. I can't say I dove headfirst, because much of my childhood was spent riding my bike, reading every Star Wars novel until Phantom Menace demolished the extended universe, and focusing on schoolwork. My parents encouraged me to do well and try new activities, and so sitting down in front of a computer for twelve hours at a time always seemed wasteful of my existence.

But I knew early on, even before I was allowed to play games (I never owned a console until college), that games were this powerful outlet for art and entertainment that I wanted to be a part of. I wanted to create games that everyone would recognize and love. Entertainment. And I am still happy to find the entertainment out there. From Don't Shit Your Pants to Far-Cry 2, the player is in it for the thrill, however low and dirty. And I point out those games because they do exactly what a game should do. They have an interesting game mechanic that is well-executed and entertaining. But now that the wonderful realities of the world have appeared since college, I am stepping back and looking at my path.

What do I want from game development? At Digital Chocolate I have been enjoying the perks of a large business that tends to my needs. Even as a contractor, I am taken care of, and after the day is done, I can come home and eat dinner comfortably in my nice little apartment. I can play some PC games, do some reading, and just generally be a responsible adult with a good income. (Good income is a relative thing for someone just out of college and living in a cheap part of town.) But is contracting for a large company fulfilling for me? I cannot say for sure. I love having weekends to go out and hike and bike and see family and friends. The comfort of being able to eat a nice meal. And I'm not trying to brag, I am just stating the simple fact that, like my father before me, I am a jedi. No wait, like my father before me, working at a large company brings flexibility to one's lifestyle.

But these perks are offset by the fact that Digital Chocolate is a business. They make games to make games to make money. And that's exactly what they should be doing. Make games so you can make money to make more games. And I got a job with them! They acknowledged that I am good enough to help them make money! And I'm proud of that. I want to make people money. I really want to support the efforts of others.

But what is my goal? Because while I create art assets for Digital Chocolate, I have been lucky enough to work on Spider: The Secret of Bryce Manor. Tigerstyle games has been this wonderful garage development experience. I helped make Spider while living in my parent's house seeking out a real job to pay bills. Because Spider is one game. A labor of love by a group of people who deeply care about what we do. And so I heard the term just recently by the designer, that Tigerstyle is a lifestyle company. Spider was made because the guys had a great idea and wanted to make it a reality, not because anyone thought it would make millions. We hoped it would, but regardless, we wanted to make the game to make something awesome, not just for profit. (More specifically, David and Randy had to make the game.) That's powerful, is it not? That you need to do something because you are passionate about creation. And that is art to me. Sacrifice. Putting in that time and effort. Blood, sweat, and tears. That's what makes something a piece of art versus a product.

So right now I debate between art and product. I love art, and it takes sacrifice. Am I willing to sacrifice and strike out fully on the rocky indie development road, or do I keep this steady position that I might live a life beyond these completely unimportant games?

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