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Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Gushing About: Game Dev Story

     This here is a fun little app that taught me a thing or two about what it's like running a game company. You start small and grow big, you have setbacks and unexpected booms, you choose how to spend hard earned money, you see your work compared to others, you keep up with popular platforms, and you face difficult human situations like replacing a friend with someone who can help the company thrive.

       It's the simulation of the  blood, sweat, and tears that goes  into game development. This is Game Dev Story.

     I played through this thing multiple times under the name of Yotes Team. I tried making games similar to ones I loved during the era of each parody console. I also tried making games similar is description to ones I planned on really making one day. I got warm feelings watching my little group of friends  grow into a huge company in a big office raking in the millions and spending thousands of dollars on ads like it was nothing.

      I can't pinpoint exactly when I started playing Game Dev Story. I think it was during my senior year of high school because I wanted to be a Technical Director back then and put myself in the coder's shoes when playing. This game was also the first time I considered what it would be like having a leadership position in games. What if I was in charge of a whole game studio? Could I ever grow something to be as big as Nintendo? Would I survive my first ten years in business? Will my game ideas be any good? It was the first time I ever considered those possibilities that I'm diving head-first into today.

     Game Dev Story let me live out a game development fantasy that I only thought of almost subconsciously when bored or drawing. I practically experienced people playing my game at a E3, learned how it's impossible to get perfect 10's from every reviewer, and understood why so many real-life companies made the decisions that they did.

     My biggest memorable experience from this game was when I realized there was a human element in the business I never thought of before. What do you do if you start making games with one friend on art and another on music, hire two more two more people to help with each, then need to do layoffs because competition is outdoing your last release.

    Do you fire your old friends and keep the talent you need to make a comeback, or fire the newcomers and figure another way out with your buddies? You have to also consider how even mentioning the problem will stir up negative feelings as people start fearing unemployment and get hostile. Nothing brings out survival instincts like flipping the income switch. 

     I never even considered such ethical issues in the gaming industry before playing this game. It also got me thinking harder about who I pick to go on this journey with me. That's when I realized I needed to meet people with a specific passion that matched the fire in my heart. I was willing to learn and improve on whatever I needed to in order to make games. It was less about money and more about the art. Those are the kind of people I should pick from the start. Folks willing to grow and learn, not live paycheck to paycheck and slacking at the earliest opportunity because they'd rather have a different career (or not have to work at all).

I had a frenzy like this last month.
     This kind of game would be great in the hands of a middle schooler. It gives a peek into what the games industry is like and could teach development concepts and give pseudo-experiences to someone interested in how the big picture works.

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