It's been 10 years since I loaded up my little Chevy Prizm with everything I owned and drove from Nowhere, Wisconsin to sunny SoCal to live the game design dream. Eyes wide, innocence still (mostly) intact, I had gotten my shot as a game designer on Major League Baseball 2K5 and was about to join THE MOST EXCITING INDUSTRY EVER.
Like you all, I love games. LOVE THEM. And it was that passion that made me (and I'm assuming most of you) want to get involved in the business in the first place.
10 years, however, brings with it a lot of experience, perspective, and wisdom. And one of the very hardest realizations I came to soon learn was that this industry was really no different than any other - the name of the game is to make money. It was shocking for a small town midwesterner like myself to realize that not everyone involved in game dev process had love for the game.....instead, the game was a means to the greens. How naive, I know.
Once I'd peeked behind the wizard's curtain, I'd began to wonder if there was hope out there for those that DID have love for the game. Those that had the gold, made the rules and often those ideals were in direct conflict with those that had love for the industry.
Then came the indie movement.
For better or for worse, with good intentions or not, developers flocked to become independent. It was a gold rush for some, an opportunity to more freely explore one's creative avenues for others. At the very least, it gave voice to those that had something to say.......if you had an idea for a game, you could go ahead and make it yourself. An intriguing prospect, right?!?! Why not?
But it's not always that simple. 10 years removed from my trek across the country, I, like I'm sure many of you, are married with kids. There are bills to pay, kids to raise, and a delicate work / life balance that needs constant monitoring. The idea of going independent is thrilling on the surface and scary as hell in reality (as has been well documented). My right brain yearns for less corporate influenced development decisions. My left brain plays images and sound clips from my wife and kids.
Money is a great influencer......"Everyone has a price!" I was once told. This is true, obviously. I wouldn't work for free and neither would you. Still, I don't believe that the VERY BEST in the industry, or any industry for that matter, are driven by money first and foremost. The greats, the Michael Jordans and Derek Jeters, loved the game first before the fame and fortune.
I've always had tremendous, TREMENDOUS respect and admiration for those that HAVE gone independent with true intentions....those that have put the love first with faith that the money will follow. The idealist in me feels there's REAL success to be had in that. "Success" with those priorities in reverse feels empty.
And so I sit here today, 10 years later, reflecting on the industry and wondering what I'll do, what YOU'LL do, what we'll all do. Will we take the easy path? The sure money? The tried and true ideas? Or will we take take that road less traveled....not knowing where the money may come from next.....because all you've got is an idea and a dream.
It's a question worth pondering, I think, if you've got love for what you do in any line of work in life.
Godspeed to all of you devs out there fighting the good fight.