Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Becoming a Game Designer

When I was a kid, I was determined to become a game designer.

Actually, when I was a kid I was determined to become a paleontologist, because that's the people who study dinosaurs.

Actually, I'm pretty sure I just straight-up wanted to become a dinosaur when I was a kid.

Anyway, around the time I had the capacity to understand careers, I decided I wanted to make video games for a living. I never thought it would actually happen, and it still might not. But still, it feels less like a pipe dream than it did 15 years ago, or even two years ago.

When I first decided to make a game, I found a notebook and just started writing, drawing, and just generally creating a world and a story. I worked hard on it for a while,  then I got distracted by other things and kind of left the idea by the wayside.

Later, I pirated a copy of RPG Maker 95 and started building stuff in there as well. Nothing good, mind you, but I got familiar with the system, then dropped it as, once again, I got distracted by something else.

It wasn't ADD or anything, it's just part of being a kid, I think.

Later, as I got more familiar with programming and what that entails and started realizing that video games were changing dramatically, becoming 3D and all, I just kind of accepted that maybe video games were not going to be my career. I didn't know what else I would be, but becoming a part of the video game industry seemed unachievable, so I turned my back on the idea.

Funny enough, though, I don't think that dream ever really left me. It simply waited under the surface, affecting my interests in subtle ways.

For instance, in 2004 I got into Dungeons & Dragons, and quickly fell into the Dungeon Master role: I was to create interactive scenarios and guide players through a story of my design. What is game development if not that? I even pulled from some of my old game ideas in the two full campaigns I ran.

I also kept getting involved in the games industry, even though I never expected to be a creator myself. I got a job at Gamestop, kept up with trends, and eventually ended up at Fangamer. I would listen closely during talks and panels about game design, interactive storytelling, and the possibilities that games represent in the realms of entertainment, education, and art.

And then I got more familiar with indie developers, and eventually learned about games like To the Moon, a game which was created with RPG Maker, a tool I'd dismissed as amateur, yet told one of the most touching, compelling stories I've yet experienced in a video game.

All this to say that I think I never stopped wanting to be a game developer. I've learned a lot and come a long way, so lately I've been trying my hand at it again. It's no longer a question of commitment; I'm pouring myself into this project, and I'm going to see it through. Now I just need to see if I actually have a talent for this.

I have a good feeling about that.

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