Devlog #3: People Make Games

Much of my life was spent in school doing STEM- filling my brain with science, math, and analytics. Long days spent in chemistry labs, long nights practicing physics problems (which were particularly awful).

What did it mean when I decided to become a game developer- an artist? Did it mean I should forgo my past to focus on my changing future?

In a way it felt shameful. Like I was betraying who I had always been to run away with the alluring promise of a life of game design.

My past and making games

I believe a person’s life experiences should be at the forefront of their creativity. But putting yourself in the things you work on can be incredibly difficult, and the nuances of it are often so deep that they can’t (shouldn’t?) be fully understood, even to yourself.

When I decided to finally take on designing games, the task of creating something authentic in this way felt colossus. Up to this point, daily work had been to solve problems with clearly defined edges. But with creative expression, success felt much less clear.

I had spent the last 8 years hyper-focused on higher education, and it meant I hadn’t had the time to know myself well enough to create from an authentic place. And so discovering more about myself became imperative. To understand my relationship to what I was passionate about, I needed to define some common things in my own terms.

Defining success in more certain terms

A game developer creates games that express their identity through being vulnerable.

  • Art: A creative expression that triggers an emotional response.
  • Artist: A person who creates art.
  • Game Developer: An artist that creates games.
  • Vulnerable: Opening yourself up as a means of understanding your identity.
  • Identity: The unique way we perceive and present ourselves, built from the experiences we’ve accumulated.
  • Video Game: Art in a digital medium that is structured around play.
  • Play: Agency in a defined space to take actions that can have consequences on you and the space.

Although these definitions seem simplistic, going through this process was very helpful in establishing what my relationship to games and development is.

Why expression in games is important

Binding of Isaac. 2011. PC. Nicalis. Steam

People can like a game’s big ideas, but they tend to fall in love with the details. Weird character interactions, oddly specific design choices, a bold stylistic soundtrack, etc. These things come from a vision- a vision shared between and executed by people.

Popular indie games show it easily- do you think the Binding of Isaac’s creator was pulling from generic horror references when he created enemies with such visceral and religiously-charged style? Do you think ConcernedApe doesn’t find peace in the deliberate and relaxing pace of building a farm in Stardew Valley?

Why some games aren’t expressive

The best games are made when people express their honest intents. And in an age where the majority of devs are packed into offices working on other people’s microtransaction-filled products, this can be easy to lose sight of.

Games come in all sorts of weird and wonderful shapes and forms, but behind each one are people, and that’s worth remembering!

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