What happens when making games is no longer fun for the developer?
This is a question all videogame designers and developers have struggled with over the years, and for me it was the deciding factor in me creating my own game design company, Awaken Games.
I wanted, and let’s face it, needed a break from the corporate world of game development.
Like a lot of game designers these days, I got into making videogames because I have a crazy imagination and I wanted to see what I could bring to life.
But dealing with the corporate bureaucracy in game development is often a nightmare for creative people, for often decisions are made based on expediency and corporate profit, and less on what is right for the product and its consumers.
This was highlighted once again when I read the departure letter that Minecraft’s Notch wrote to his staff in the public.
It was sad to read what he wrote, for I’m a big fan of what he has created, while at the same time I really respected his honesty and candor in his departure letter.
Not every game developer, when they leave the industry are so open and honest with their feelings, but over the years I have heard from many colleagues and super talented individuals who have left our industry for other pastures for the same reason.
They love developing video games, but just got sick and tired of how crazy it can get.
Some of my most joyous moments are just hanging out with my development team and coming up with crazy ideas for the products we are working on, and working out the technical details of how to get things to work. While at the same time my greatest nightmares have been in dealing with inexperienced producers, corporate execs and marketing departments who haven’t a clue of what you’re trying to accomplish.
The final straw for me personally was when I was meeting with one of the owners of a game studio I was working for at the time, when he looked at me from across his desk and said with all honesty in his heart “It’s not our job to make good games!”
I felt at that moment that somebody just punched me in the heart, for that’s why got into videogame development and why I pour my heart into every game design I produce. For someone to think of game development in that way, not only disrespects their customers, both the publisher and the game buying public alike, but also totally disrespects all the hard work that not only I put in to the games I make but the entire team who spend countless hours devoted to the cause of making a great game.
We all want in our hearts to make a game as successful as Minecraft has become, but few of us want to deal with the politics and the headaches that will come with creating a successful product. And yes it will come!
I have often told people in the industry that it can be just as bad for a team to make a great game as it does for a bad one, for success can really bring out the worst in some people and in some companies.
They lose perspective on what got them to that point in the first place, which is often a small group of passionate people working together to create something totally awesome.
But when that awesomeness comes it often comes with unexpected consequences, something Notch over at Mojang has run into.
You either become part of the corporate culture of high level success, or we burn out and move on.
I’ve always loved the aspect of designing video games and working out all those little fine details that make product works successfully, but I’ve never been one to embrace or relish in the same that sometimes follows.
It’s never been about that for me, and in many ways, because I haven’t embraced that success at the corporate level I opened up the window for more than a few people to take advantage of that.
There has been one of the few individuals who take credit for my work, plagiarize my work and even gotten employed by large game development studios by passing off my work as their own, but sometimes that’s the price we pay for anonymity.
I don’t spend my time standing on a soapbox talking about how great I am or how great some of the games I’ve developed have become. I am happiest when I’m sitting at my computer or my drafting table coming up with the next wacky game design that pops into my head or someone needs my help with.
But others chase fame and glory for their accomplishments, and some for the accomplishments of others, but for professionals like me, Notch and others who just want to make something fun, that the world you can have with our blessing!