Editor’s note: Obviously, I have my bias. But I really do think that Bitmob promotes the same rough-and-tumble attitude that many indie developers do. Paul feels the same way, even though he has no aspirations to write. He wants to do something much more important: make games. -James
It is a sentiment that I’m sure many other Bitmobbers can relate to: I’ve wanted to make a career out of creating games since I was a child. As I grew older, my interest in many of my other childhood dalliances waned (soccer, karate, picking my nose, et cetera). Even when I wasn’t actively playing games, the subject of game-making still held my attention.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve found that I will always enjoy playing video games to some degree: the ins and outs, no matter what — I enjoy learning about the creative processes behind their production.
I finally began realizing my goal several years when I was just out of high school. After visiting and researching several schools with video game programs across the country, I settled on The Art Institute of Washington. I wasn’t sure exactly what I would find myself doing out of school, but I’m a pretty sharp guy. I was confident that the educational process would work its magic, and that I’d find something that I was both good at and qualified for by the time I was done.
For all the preparation and learning that my first 18 months of college put me through, I knew I wouldn’t really have a clue what part of game development I wanted to focus on — or if the career path I’d chosen was even a proper fit for me — until I got my hands dirty. So when I was given an assignment to create an actual game for the very first time, I took it quite seriously. It became all-consuming. I wanted to come up with a novel idea that would distinguish my work from the other students’: something I could look at and honestly say I’d given my all on.
The resulting game, a top-down puzzler entitled Quantum Void (imagine a 2D Portal with a retro theme, and you’re pretty much there), took roughly 25-30 hours to finish, contains three levels, and can easily be beaten in less than ten minutes. The response from my classmates was overwhelmingly positive, but it wasn’t the smash hit with my professor that I hoped it would be (I received a B for the project, as well as my final grade). Nevertheless, I walked away from it with the peace of mind that I had indeed chosen the right career path. I had slaved over my game, but I had enjoyed every second of working on it.
Despite the new-found confidence I had after finishing my first game, I also suspected that The Art Institute of Washington was no longer where I wanted to pursue my goal. Two years, 88 credits, and lord knows how much cabbage later, I decided to move down to Atlanta, Georgia and transfer to The Savannah College of Art and Design’s game development program. It’s a much more well-rounded degree compared to my previous attempt where the concentration was primarily on 3D modeling.
Why the change? After finishing Quantum Void, I realized I don’t want to be a visual artist, or a programmer, or a scriptwriter — I want to do everything. Creative control over every part of the game is important to me, and having a helping hand in someone else’s vision just isn’t enough. My suspicion is that if I worked in some entry-level position at a large company, I’d grow to loathe my work quickly. And if that means creating significantly smaller projects that reach a smaller audience (as opposed to being one of 200 people toiling away on a multi-million dollar game) then so be it.
And that’s where Bitmob comes in. So many of the articles I read every day reinforce my independent spirit. I’m not alone — other people like me appreciate the ingenuity employed by small groups of designers and programmers that working on threadbare budgets. Sure, I enjoy Modern Warfare 2 or Metal Gear Solid 4 as much as the next guy. But I’m also certain that innovation comes from relatively tiny production — games like Flower or Braid or Passage. These certainly aren’t games that have reinvented cinematic presentation or revolutionized audio-visual fidelity. The technology necessary to create games like these has existed for years (in Passage’s case, even decades), but they’ve pushed the envelope of game play mechanics and redefined the parameters of what a “gaming” is.
Likewise, I’ve found over the past few months that the Bitmob community has a knack for exploring the limits of traditional game journalism by asking so many of the same questions that I find myself asking. And as a prospective designer, this gives me hope as well.
Bitmob community, I implore you: keep talking. As both a gamer and a designer-in-training, I’m happy to keep listening.