Go to any gaming site and you'll see a couple hopeful souls that want to break into the gaming biz. I don't want to say 'hope be gone with you' just yet (I'll leave that to the happy campers at Gamasutra in bit :P). It takes a lot out of you to get what you want - whatever it may be. Not to mention some of that inspiration builds some great communities all across the board (like this one?).
I can't say I'd ever want to make a retail game. I lack the drive, talent and I would be a little scared to after reading some stories (wait for it..) But, If someone were to ask me what game I'd like to make I'd say "what makes a game". No, not in the same vain as Little Big Planet.
Alright, check this out!: how about game where you take the mechanics of the latest Grand Theif Auto title, even the nitty-gritty atmosphere of the underbelly world, but center the characters at a game company trying to make a deadline? Eh? Eh...? Maybe I should just stick to Neptune...
That's just an idea I got after reading and listening to the men and women who sweat months to bring some of our favorite games to us to spend hours a week playing for pure enjoyment.
That said, I don't think most fans still believe in the "play games all day" thing when they think of working at a game company. If anyone did, they might want to take the time to read through this article from Gamasutra:
Yes, I know, not the most lively place to talk about games, but the news director of the site, Leigh Alexander, kind of tells why:
"...the fact is that the game industry is actually quite a deceptively-stressful place, and fresh-faced younguns with dreams of "playing video games all day" are in for it. And there are some difficulties that are not exaggerations: unfortunately, there are major-title studios where an 80-hour week isnít a melodramatic legend, but a light schedule. And when that game ships? A sea of arbitrary, tepid reviews from an apparently-jaded reviews corps, and endless forum threads stuffed with one-liners from an audience comfortable contributing only "failget" to the discussion."
That's only the surface. The article veers into several topics on why the gaming industry is or at least can be a gloomy place. Work isn't always fun, much less one in an industry like gaming, but one has to think how things go down sometimes.
The article itself touches on three points that might contribute to the circle;
"This is one of the reasons for the industryís high burnout and turnover rates, and it means the developers that work their way up at these studios are either the most determined or the most stubborn Ė but not necessarily the most creative or the most fulfilled".
"The average end user might not have any idea how games are made, but they may, on some level, be reacting to a thread of unhappiness on the creatorís side when they respond with constant negativity or dissatisfaction. Or not. Games media and developers alike know that gamers couldnít give a damn."
Gamers and the Media:
"They want big explosions and they wanted them yesterday. Give it to them simply and immediately and they complain itís too shallow or slapshod; take your time and they whine itís too slow and too overwrought. They are a distractible breed, easily confused, and thus the success of a title has less to do with how hard developers worked on it and more to do with how good marketing teams are at manipulating them."
"Core gamers are demanding, entitled, obnoxious, sexist forum trolls. Of course, thatís not entirely true, and itís probably not even a small part of the picture. But it sure seems like a sufficient summary sometimes from the view of a games journalist, whoís tasked with navigating the gap between an unhappy developer culture and a consumer culture that seems equally toxic."
I should probably take this personal, but I have agree - a lot of us are assholes, and sometimes for no reason other than just to be one. Plain and simple. However, even the author has a reason for this that even us jaded gamers might overlook sometimes:
"Like it or not, though, consumer hostility points to important facts: the audience isnít being served well by the products it buys or by the media tasked with addressing it. Just as many developers are thrown young and underqualified into a pressure cooker, so are many writers."
The Evil Overlords:
"Of course, all three parties Ė developers, gamers and consumers Ė can glance in the general direction of "up the ladder" to the industryís investor-driven corporate side."
"Itís the Men In Suits, after all, who make the decision to treat their studio staff as expendable. Theyíre the ones who determine that itís time to clamp their lips shut when the media wants information, who manipulate an often young and inexperienced press corps with shameless ease."
"The culture of secrecy and opportunism was born at the top among the publishing execs Ė but even then, "blame our dark corporate overlords" is too simple and largely misplaced. Executives have a job to do, too. In fact, a CEO has only one: add value for shareholders. And as irrelevant as that objective seems at a glance to everyone else in the industry ecosystem, itís actually crucial Ė unhappy gamers are jerks, unhappy games media are lazy and unprofessional, and unhappy developers make crappy games. But unhappy investors mean a company canít survive."
Yikes! It doesn't seem way cool to make games now. Wait, I don't want to generalize here. There are some folks out there in the industry that would say they are "happy" being at the spot they're in, and I sure as hell have no right to take that title away from them. If there weren't people up to the task to help create these games doing who knows what for who knows how long, I wouldn't be here. YOU wouldn't be here. Maybe even this site wouldn't be here. No, no, these people don't deserve anything less than the utmost respect from me. I'll never meet any of them, but in some small way whenever I talk about a game with others that they "should really check out" I'd liked to think of it as saying "thanks! It may not be a game that pleases your boss when they see the overall score at Metacritic, but, thanks!".
If you read the comments under the article you'll see that the unfortunate tales don't stop here. One commenter, Joel Payne, shares his two decades of working in the industry. He tells some grim events that he has seen. One part made me feel one those mixed emotions of sadness and anger when he mentions that a friend and gaming vet took his own life on his birthday "because nobody would listen to his brilliance". That has to sting in anyone that would hope gaming wouldn't and shouldn't go down this path. Ever.
He goes on to say, "...through it all I always remembered something Chuck Jones told me.. 'Joel, the entertainment industry is 90% pain and suffering and 10% pleasure, Just make sure the pleasure shows in your work and you'll be fine.' He was right."
Don't let us tell you about Chuck Jones! Here he is:
In response to someone who contemplated the thought of leaving the industry because of all the stress, Mr. Joel Payne comes back and tells her, "You don't need to leave the industry to be happy, you just have to start your own company like I did and do things right. The game industry should be about fun and getting creative people like yourself to enjoy the birthing process of the dreams.".