Making fun games is not ‘all fun and games’

I just finished Blood, Sweat and Pixels by Jason Schreier. It tells the real stories behind some of the biggest games of the past few years, such as Destiny and The Witcher 3. Turns out making games isn’t always fun.

As a life-long gamer I can, at times, be oblivious to the hard work that goes into game development. I’ll admit that I only recently started watching the credits scroll (rather than skipping/turning off) when I finish a game, but to read about the struggle that developers go through to get one of these things out the door was actually quite touching.

I won’t recite what’s in the book (you should simply go read it – stellar job, Jason) but instead share a great sadness that game developers have to go through hell and back for such little reward. We give little recognition to the thousands of individuals that continuously sacrifice their health and social life to make these interactive experiences for us ungrateful buggers. As I finished the last few pages of Blood, Sweat and Pixels, I thought about the dozens upon dozens of games I play and never finish. Some level designer or environmental artist spent 3+ years absolutely dedicated to a piece a work that I picked up and said “meh” to. A tough realisation to make peace with.

There are a few celebrity game makers like Hideo Kojima and Todd Howard that must surely give hope to burgeoning young developers, but the truth is that game design is largely a thankless endeavour. I’d love an IMDB-equivalent for games that documents the journey of each developer as they move from game to game, and show where they learnt their craft, but even this won’t be enough to honour these guys and gals.

I wish there was a way for me to say “thanks” and “good job” in meaningful way. I’m sure all they’d request of me is to enjoy their work, but I want to tell some of these developers that they make my life better, and that I hope the industry evolves around them, and not the greedy shareholders pushing for a Q4 release date.

Go read this book if you care about games.

Best wishes y’all.

Sean

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