Dear Game Dev,
Are we, video game players, asking too much from you as developers? When we cry and whine and complain in the comments about your game (which maybe hasn’t even been released yet), a game that you spent the last 2-5 years of your life working on, do you think you kids have no idea what we’ve been through?
As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve recently waded into the world of amateur game making. Naturally, this has significantly changed the way that I look at the games and game development in particular. I’ve come to the following riveting conclusion:
Developing games is fucking hard.
It’s not even like I’m working on No Man’s Sky or you know something that takes actual programming knowledge. As a way to learn the program and language, I’m making a basic STG or shmup.
At first things are easy, you get the sprite and object moving according to button presses. Success. You set up basic weapons systems, a life counter, collision detection. Victory.
You finally get an assembly line working for power ups. Things are going great. At first. Then you get more ambitious, adding more and more complicated weapons. The variables in your player object (the controllable character) start to stack up, alarms on alarms, and so many Booleans you don’t know what’s true anymore.
Again, I’m making an incredibly basic game, which in comparison to any AAA or even indie project is what assigned high school poetry is to Shelley.
I can’t imagine what it’s like to code along with a 500 man team, with a publisher deadline breathing down your neck, and entitled gamer’s on your back. One arm is pulled by investors (play it safe). The other by the consumer (give us something new but not too experimental or we’ll hate you). Oh and don’t forget that crumpled mess in your chest, remnants of a heart and soul, that wants to make something special.
Bungie’s next foray into the AAA gaming space has recently dropped a new piece of marketing. The response has been luke warm, with many questioning whether this game is doing anything new or is just Halo (developer flagship) + MMO (some previously unexplored genre).
You’ve seen this particular narrative before: The self-entitled gamer requesting developers provide some enigmatic, indescribable “new.”
Red Dead Redemption went through it. Watch Dogs is undergoing a similar comments discourse right now as well.
It’s not enough that Bungie has provided what looks like a refined FPS RPG experience. It’s not enough that Bungie has built incredibly impressive matchmaking technology that is so good at what it does it will go completely unnoticed and be taken for granted.
I wasn’t personally made that excited by the trailer, but I also know better than to completely dismiss a game from a seasoned and talented dev team on the basis of some unplayable media.
This unearned self-entitlement is problematic because it relegates video games solely to a product, not a form of personal and artistic expression. It’s also disconcerting as the complaints come from a position of silver platter reflectee, eschewing status as criticism.
I’m not talking about representational concerns that actually matter, but the consumerist gimmie gimmie.
I know you that you’re suffering, game dev, eyes burning as you code one last line so you can rush off and microwave some take-out. I’ve heard the horror stories of you working under dubious labor conditions, 16 hour days, the need for an in-studio team psychologist, the stressed friendships and marriages.
It’s ironic that such pleasure points, creations primarily focused on fun, are produced from such misery.
Maybe this doesn’t bother you that much, game dev, since come September we’ll see those very whiners logged in, their currently playing tab displaying Destiny.
Does that mean when your next game comes out and it happens to be the next Ride to Hell
I’m not going to tell you your game is mess? Of course not. How would you grow as a creator?
Sure, I expect a lot from you, you are the expert after all, and I do want that “something new” no one is able to properly describe. However, I’ll will at times consider game development from the paraphrased perspective that French film director Patrice Leconte’s has on movie making: “Any movie that gets made is a miracle.”
I think something similar could be said about your own work, regardless of how flawed it may be or how much room from improvement there is, making games is fucking hard.
Anyway, I should really get back to explaining why Infinite has ruined the Bioshock series.
But before I do, I’d like to say thank you.