I have a hard time explaining to people what I do. Not just as an intern here in Seattle, but my chosen career path and the video game industry as a whole. Talking with relatives, rental agents or hairdressers, I find it increasingly difficult to explain what it is that game developers do.
In short, they make games.
Think about that for a second. It doesn’t sound right, does it? Fifty years ago, it would sound ridiculous to make a living making games and it is not surprising that even now, there’s still some form of prejudice lurking outside the fortified walls of the gaming industry. Take one look at how video games and the people who play them are portrayed in pop culture. To many, we are not much more than people that are good with computers idling their lives away in front of a screen.
In last week’s installment, I said I was given the task of making a nightclub and I was being vague on purpose. Saying ‘I am building a very exotic nightclub,’ sounds far more stylish than ‘I am putting together clown colored building blocks to give me an idea of how big a nightclub should be.’
To me and to a select group of people, this sounds just as exciting. It is amazing when building blocks are put together the right way, you can walk about and, with marginal use of imagination, know how it will feel when it is properly built, textured and lit with that cool soundtrack playing in the background. It is equally amazing if you move one block just a bit to the side, it can all come crashing down, taking your hopes and dreams with it.
Still, if I said that to someone who doesn’t play video games, it would sound very strange and boring. Anyone who works in the video game industry, must have experienced this at least once: that strange, puzzled look on people’s faces when you explain what it is that you do, as if they are expecting you to follow that with ‘as a hobby, of course, I make money with a sensible profession like accounting or dentistry.’ People also try to sympathize and say things like ‘oh, I used to play those as a kid,’ but nothing hurts the pride of a prospective industry professional more than hearing ‘I didn’t know people still made those’ kinds of comments.
To be honest, it is not their fault. There are a lot of people out there who never played video games, would never want to and live perfectly great lives. Luckily for me, none of them are reading this right now (except for you Mom)!
So for anyone who wonders what goes into game development – it is a mixture of everything: part science, part art, part technology, part storytelling, part business, part cinematography, part animation, part music, blending into something that is fun. Meanwhile, for anyone who wonders what I do, I work on my projects, ask questions and learn from my mistakes, just like any other intern. The only major difference is that my project is a virtual nightclub where people can have drinks or kill each other.
How cool is that?