Why I Don't Trust Game Designers That Go To The Gym

A wry and facetious look at the odd duality of people who craft fun for a living and then spend money to attend a place (as I see it) completely bereft of the concept.


When I was little, excercise meant taking our bikes into the forest and reenacting the Death Star trench run from Star Wars (contrary to popular opinion, playing as Porkins was a lot of fun - getting to scream and yell and jump off your bike before it hits a tree ...).  It meant walking for miles along an old railway track, stopping to climb trees or tie rope swings to overhangs or explore little dirt paths.  At the very least, it meant a trip to the park to climb, run, jump - freeform activity with no restrictions, no strict goals, and nothing to clog up our heads as we played and relaxed.


Now I'm an adult, and I find myself tethered to a desk for 8 hours a day, my exercise regime has fallen by the wayside.  The concept of the game developer as an overweight, unhealthy nerd is one we need to dispell, and our minds - our most important commodity - require a healthy body to stay healthy in themselves.  Yet the common solution is to go the gym - a dry, dull place in which people pay money to run on the spot, and pedal bikes that go nowhere, all with the same fixed goal of achieveing a perfectly formed body that looks like everyone else's.  We work our pecs, or our delts, or our glutes, all based on a fixed template of human appearance that takes little account of the majesty of human individuality.

This might be a common complaint about the modern world and its cardboard-cut-out population, but where it really hits me hard is that I design games for a living (or, at least, I aspire to - I design games for grades right now).  The reason my exercise is sacrificed, the reason I don't have the time to ride bikes or walk old train tracks is that I'm busy crafting whole worlds full of imaginitive fun and frolics for others.

So when I see game designers "hitting the gym", I have to ask - where is the fun?  Where, in your world, is the emergence you strive to create in fantasy worlds during work hours?  Where, in your life, is the agency you so desperately struggle to create for your game testers?  Where is that sense of purpose, of self-orientated goals, that you so lovingly pour into your games?

Of course I'm aware of the facetious nature of this argument - there's emergence in any exercise, there's self-orientated goals in the number of weight crunches you can do, or the amount of time you can pedal your infernal machines, and there's agency in seeing the change in your physique and feeling the burn in your chest - but these are plain, simple responses.  If this were a game world, you would (I would hope) laud the repetitious nature of your activity, the old-school simplicity of a numerical counter as goal, or the lack of individuality in the nature of your goals.

Overall, attending a gym - to me - smacks of that one aspect of modern life that should be absent from anyone in any creative art: conformity.  The idea that we should be healthy and fit is ideal - a healthy mind can only live on a healthy body, and that can't be maintained with 8 hours a day spent at your desk.  However, I've got more time for a game designer who climbs rocks or mountains, runs up hills, or goes paintballing, or even just runs a few laps around the block, than I do for someone who pays money rides a bike to nowhere.

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