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Hi I'm Sarah and I'm a game developer. Except I have literally no idea what I'm doing. Absolutely not a clue. Read on to find up how I ended up in this unusual predicament. Will I succeed in developing an indie game? This could be entertaining...

Sarah Wallace, Blogger

March 19, 2014

7 Min Read

One month ago, if you'd said to me, 'in a month's time you'll be an indie games developer,' I would have laughed and perhaps bought you a Coke in the next round so you could sober up. Now, I am the one who feels like they’ve had a few too many. Apparently, ‘indie game developer’ is going to be my next job title.

You're perhaps thinking, 'Aha! She's some kind of semi pro gamer who pre-orders the latest titles and has a whole army of cuddly toy game characters in her car,' or, 'She's learnt coding in her spare time and has an enviable portfolio of languages up her sleeve, ready to whip out and turn into a masterpiece of a game.' Well, sheepishly, I can admit to neither of these things.

That said, when I was younger games were a big part of my life. I loved nothing more than going round to my best friend's house to play Spyro the Dragon, Crash Bandicoot or Tomb Raider on her Playstation one (yep, the original one that slightly reassembles a rectangular Star trek ship, kind of). My next door neighbour had a Sega Megadrive and my sister and I used to invade her house everyday to play Sonic or the Lion King (until her parents got fed up and unplugged it). Even my cousin had an N64 and we all used to battle it out in a heated round of Golden Eye or Mario Kart, or my sister and I would offer strategic advice during the 'Castlevania phase'. I absolutely loved games. I was a staunch fan of Playstation magazine and revelled in reeling off all the big game titles, even if I'd never played them. It was bordering on obsessional. The only problem was, I wasn't allowed a games console. My parents had a PC and the closest experience to gaming my sister and I ever got was downloading the Tomb Raider II demo and playing it on repeat, much to the annoyance of our parents. You see, they didn't agree with games; they thought they were violent- and a complete waste of time.

And this is what I began to grow to believe. And games were something I began to shun. As I grew older I seldom played them, save for Christmas family get-togethers when a younger cousin would insist on everybody playing Wii or I when I felt like embarrassing myself by shooting an own goal playing FIFA with my boyfriend and his mates. The time for gaming was also waning when school got more serious with homework, then exams; then came uni and finally I was spat out unwittingly into the world of work.

My journey through the 'real world' of employment has been an interesting one. I guess it's no wonder that I would end up doing something else 'wacky' sooner or later. I graduated in Modern Languages and all I wanted to do was speak French and German; the idea of making money came very much second. I launched myself into a incongruous string of jobs; I became a recruitment consultant, a festival steward, a children's French holiday camp leader, a copy writer, a bakery assistant and finally, a circus performer, all in the space of about two years.

So now I am a self-employed circus performer/ French and German tutor and, weirdly, it seems to work. At least I feel like I'm creating something to make someone else smile, some way or another. My boyfriend, James, also quit his day job at The Creative Assembly on the day I handed in my resignation letter, to launch his own graphics software company and join me in the world of self-employment (which is a WHOLE different blog post!).

It's had it's ups and downs, tears and laughter but self-employment has taught us one important thing; to be adaptable, as you never know what sort of work will next drift your way. And during the last two years I've worked as a voice-over artist, a puppeteer, a translator in addition to my 'normal' job. James has turned his hand to video editing, logo designing, website making...basically, if it pays the bills and we're capable (and willing!), we'll take it on.

And so James' client work has finally come to an end and he has a fully functioning, multifaceted games engine now sitting around, collecting pixel dust. We've always said it would be nice to develop a game together in a whimsical, 'what if' kind of way. Now the ‘one day’, all of a sudden, turns out to be now. James has the time to develop and I have the time to help him. Now, this is an incredibly daunting task: I am a complete, total and utter 'newb'. Understanding terms like 'asset', 'environment mapping,' and 'render' will be a challenge (although always up for a linguistic challenge!) but learning to code? That just seems an impossible feat.

That said, there are many different aspects involved in creating a game; story writing, artwork, music, voice acting, testing and then of course, the scary/dreaded marketing and promotion. It's definitely not all just about writing line upon line of code. Maybe I stand a chance? It’s a leap of faith, but I'm willing to make a good go of it, at least.

My archaic once-belief that games are a waste of time was short-lived. Games are like books, films, plays, music; anything that has a genre. There's something for everybody and the notion that games are 'violent' or 'a waste of time' is like condemning every book or film. The games I've played recently have been historically educational, beautiful, witty, down-right ludicrous, the list goes on...ultimately a breath of fresh air away from the constraints of the 'real world’.

So here I go, head first into the world of indie game development. It's really very daunting and I have so much to learn; but my first experiences have been really heartening. Shortly after our decision to work together, we created a Twitter account and are so overwhelmed with the amount of positivity and support out there from game developers for other game developers. There really is a community and it’s like we’ve been invited in for a cup of tea. Even offered biscuits. And good conversation, to boot! For someone with no prior game industry experience, I wouldn’t imagine feeling welcomed, let alone with open arms. It’s a refreshingly positive world to have stepped into.

To be continued...


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