If there’s one pet hate that I have concerning games (aside from those obnoxious troglodytes that plague multiplayer servers for just about any title you care to mention) it’s the idea of making things competitive. Now, I know that this statement alone will cause a lot of people to froth at the mouth and go for my jugular (well, not really, but it’s an interesting mental image), but the fact remains that I cannot — or rather, will not — reconcile myself with the sort of people whose sole ambition is to bastardise something that has brought me countless hours of undistilled joy and goof-aroundery by dragging it into that abysmal realm of Serious Business™.
I understand some of the reasons behind competitive gaming and I know that a lot of people throw their weight behind it, so I generally keep my views on the low-down. After all, it’s kinda obnoxious to butt in on an enthused discussion about Counter-Strike tournaments and act as the eponymous wet blanket. But that still doesn’t change the fact that my views differ from theirs.
And with that, I give consideration to the art and business of game development.
I have, in the past, made the mistake of being too serious about devving. I once decided to start work on a grindalicious RPG thing starring a kitty cat (because everything is better with kitties) featuring repetitive, simplistic combat — I did a bit of research on similar titles, reasoned that there was a “magic formula” that could maximise player involvement and minimise dev effort, and set about making this golden game system. Then I abandoned the project because I realised that I HATED those sort of games, no matter how popular they may be. To this day, the incomplete project sits forlornly on my hard drive, a malformed beast-child which I will never dare show to anybody else.
When I think of this game (which, in a fit of inspiration, I happened to name “KittyRPG”), I tend to wonder if there are any game developers out there today who don’t enjoy their jobs, or have “sold their souls” so that they could be involved in a title that would earn them fame or buckazoids. I’m sure that there are many such people. I see a lot of cheap, uninspired clones and gimmicks on the market today, and I tend to imagine sad, tired teams being whipped along by publishers and PR for an audience that laps up repetition and conservative play. I see people who have lost touch with their hobby and replaced it with something that they take far, far too clinically instead.
I know that a lot of new devs start out thinking, “Gee willikers, I wanna be a professional game developer some day!” But should that really be every aspiring dev’s goal? Is there truly any shame in remaining a humble hobbyist who throws out the occasional freeware for a small group of friends? Do we really need to turn something that we love into something heartless instead? Why can’t we tinker with odd projects on the side instead of turning our joy into that dirty, pallid concept of a career?
I’ve heard time and time again that success and happiness don’t go hand in hand, and I think that this consideration needs to be applied to game development as well. I’ve recently mucked about with a few entries for Game.Dev’s comp 20. Two of them were complete pieces of rubbish. The other one was a little more serious, but still a prime example of me dicking around. I had a horrendous amount of fun with all of them, and most importantly I didn’t care whether they were “proper” or not. They were pure acts of self-indulgence which greatly refreshed my game development spirit. I didn’t have a goal. I didn’t have standards or pressure. I was just doing what I’ve loved doing since I was ten years old, and that was making stuff do other stuff on a computer screen that entertained and satisfied me.
And that’s the keyword here. “Me”. That’s what all of you should be thinking about when you make games (not me, I mean. Like, you). Yes, the responsible dev in you should be thinking about the player, but I still think that it’s a good idea to hold onto that selfish part of you that’s just doing things for yourself. Be your own number one player, and make things just for the fun of it. If you really want to get into a career, then make sure that you’re careful about it: never let the weight of the “job” make you lose sight of what you love.
Because there’s a time for all of us. A time to indulge. A time to put things into perspective. A time to remember just how cool making games can be. A time to throw up our hands, shout “SCREW IT!” and develop something with lots of ninjas and lasers.
If you haven’t had that time in a while, make that time now. You most certainly won’t regret it.