This Developer's Life: Mailbag

What do you do on a week that wasn't mind bogglingly exciting??? Answer mail...

This Developer’s Life: Mailbag

Dear Reader:

This week I’ve had to attend to real work rather than a fey existence of being fabulous, so let’s talk a little bit about work as a developer.  Actually scratch that… I’ve got a better idea: let’s dig around in the mailbag!

This column appears to be a lot more popular amongst college students then the industry (or perhaps it’s just that college students have a lot more time to write me a lot more mail).  The first question I’ve got for you today I thought was rather dignified:

Dear Mr. Portnow,

I’m going to Collins College.  I want to be a game designer.  I have lots of questions to ask, but if I had to ask one I’d ask “What do you look for most in a game designer?”

Introspection.  I know it sounds a little high falootin’ but, especially for novice designers, the first thing I look for is self reflection.  We’re in the business of crafting experiences, in order to do that effectively you have to be able to really examine the experiences you’ve had, free from bias or conceit.  This ability will also give you a much greater propensity for letting your ideas go, which is a key skill on any design team.

After that, I’d make sure you’re not a git.

Q: Why aren’t there more gay video game heroes?

A: Because most of the business is insecure in their masculinity…

(anyone who emails me with the name of a title containing an openly gay protagonist get’s a mention in next week’s article and free pass to something that’s probably free anyway…)

Q: Do game designers really get to do all the fun stuff you go around writing about???

A: No.

Q: Do you really check this email address?

A: Yes

Q: I’m a girl getting into the industry.  I want to make hardcore games.  I like guns and  blood.  Will people be accepting of me?

A: I guess I really shouldn’t answer this one by asking for your number…

Honestly, most of the girls I talk to in this industry say they get hit on a lot, but usually in a very respectful way (passes at you are much more likely to be mind numbingly awkward than really repugnant in this industry).  If you can deal with that then you should be fine, I don’t think anyone will dismiss your ideas because of your gender.  We’re actually a pretty tolerant industry, despite not being as diverse as we might hope to be.

In general I encourage women who want to join the “hardcore” side of the industry.  The more perspectives we have the better.  After all, if making games is about crafting experiences, new viewpoints are always welcome.

Oh, and the female population in the industry is growing at an astonishing rate, even in the most hardcore of companies you won’t by any means be alone.

Q:  What game influenced you the most?

A: That’s impossible to answer.  Maybe Magic: the Gathering because the quotes on the cards got me to pick up Shakespeare for the first time.

Q:  I’m studying at Guildhall to be a level designer.  What should I be playing?

Portal, Braid, Call of Duty 4/Halflife 2 (for how to incorporate cinematic/storytelling moments into level design)

For multiplayer levels you should look to Goldeneye, Team Fortress and the competitive Starcraft maps they play in Korea.

You should also visit Vegas and Disneyland.

Q: I’m doing my thesis on the effect of music in games on the music industry of the future, can you give me a quote.

A: I don’t think you got the right guy, but alright, I’ll give it a shot.

“The music industry has been trying to fight the digital age for the last ten years. As they learnt first with radio, then with video, innovation simply further expands the audience for music.  Music is an innate, human thing - every culture has it, every culture enjoys it - games just allow more people to actively participate in it.

Games are currently introducing a new generation to music of the past and creating a generation of musicians for the future.”

Q: Why do you suck so much?

A:  Because I’m bad at life and terrible at everything I do.  Hope you’re enjoying living in your mom’s basement…

Well it looks like the mailbag’s empty (that’s a total lie, but I’m a lazy sack and don’t want to write any more), but send in your questions and I’ll try to answer them on the next slow week.  You can always reach me at [email protected]

Oh, and tune in next week for my adventures at SakuraCon (which I’m being dragged to against my wildest protests [ostensibly…])

[To get the latest 'This developers life' go to the blog section of]

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