Personal Development

In response to some gentle prodding from friends, I’m starting a series of articles (†) about my thoughts regarding game design and game development. If you’ll excuse the difference in tone + topic, this first article is personal: About me and my journey making games; How I got from point A to point B. Writing my own narrative feels narcissistic, so I’ll leave the story about Pong in my childhood for the footnotes (††).

I make Games. I made my first computer game on an Apple IIe in high school: A “Skytrain simulator”. It was terrible. I kept making games on computers, but never once in my teens and twenties did I think of myself as a game developer.

I ran a BBS where I met awesome people who also made games. I hosted Joust tournaments and LAN parties.

The first time I self-published was a game on my own BBS. It was flawed and a user coded a terminal-side pathfinding bot that solved it. After the web arrived I ported some of my BBS games into web-games. Gates Motel had a moderate amount of success as an assassin-themed web-game with a few thousand users, some of them paying a yearly fee. I still felt like an imposter because it was inspired by Murder Motel, a popular BBS game by Sean D. Wagle (or Sheldon Pasciak? BBS “door” games were often re-worked and credit gets fuzzy, my apologies). I say inspired by, but mine was a different game (not a clone) of the same genre. I should have been more proud of it.

I had a foolish angry-young-man phase. I worked as a semi-angry games journalist at Electric Playground, where Victor Lucas (who is still doing great at what he does, kudos to him) wondered aloud a few times why I wasn’t applying for game-dev positions at EA, Radical, Relic, etc. as my friends were.

I met amazing and notable game-related celebrities. I could drop names but that would be false-pandering. I’m a terrible social animal and I’m sure only a few of them remember me, or worse I may have rubbed them the wrong way. Semi-angry journalist isn’t a good personality trait and it still pops up now and then.

After that, I tried to be a regular joe in regular jobs. I worked in a bank. I did web-design. None of that worked. It wasn’t me.

When I came back to games, the imposter syndrome was gone.

I had absorbed a lot of knowledge about the games industry and the related disciplines: From spending time in so many game studios as a journalist, plus just hanging out with friends in their work-environments. I finally took a AAA game-dev job and shipped a game with my name in the credits as a “mission designer”. I’m comfortable and confident making games. I can dip my hands into each part of game development and not do a disastrous job of it.

I’m 47. Damn I was slow to realize this: I should have been publishing more of my games all along.

I try to share more of my work now, though I’ll admit I still publish far less than I produce. I may be a slow learner, but I’m there. I’m discerning. I know my tastes. When I cook up something appetizing enough, I will share the results.

Currently I’m working on COOPERRATA, a co-op shooter for up to 5 players. I also have a couple of temporarily shelved projects: Obscuron I intend to rework as a room-scale VR game, whenever I can afford / get my hands on my own Vive (or Rift + Touch controllers). Awareon may stay shelved since it’s too big (it could consume me).

My next posting will be less about me and more about games, I promise. ;)

(†) I’m filing these articles under my COOPERRATA dev blog because it just feels right to do so, even though these are not directly development notes.

(††) I played Pong when I was 4 years old in the year that it was released, in a grocery store. I migrated from the arcades to consoles to computer games. At 18 during a Dodgeball incident I mashed up my right-hand and I have a slight disability as a result. I find it difficult / painful to use the bumpers on modern game controllers, so I don’t play console games as much anymore.

(Feel free to comment via Rog's G+ post: personal-development)