When I was wide eyed, naive and full of hope around 8 years ago, I was talked into a college course on Computer Games Development. I had actually visited the college to view an open day regarding an IT practitioners course, which in hindsight would have probably been a smarter decision, though I’m still glad I didn’t do it.
As this is the ‘Why it Sucks’ version, I’ll have to leave out the glorious details of my two year course for another time and simply utilise it as an introduction into why I tried the hobby of computer games development… and why it sucks.
Everyone seems to go into computer games development (from here on in referred to as ‘games dev’ to save time) with the intention and belief that they can create this fantastical triple A blockbuster with an open world sandbox style and sprawling beautiful 4k landscapes. The harsh reality is, if you’re working alone you’re going to produce a game akin to a 1990’s JRPG or a side scroller from the Atari era… If you manage to make anything at all.
Before I go into why, I want to clarify that the game in your head that you can’t make because it’s too technically difficult, probably still sucks. Going back to my college course temporarily, one of our modules at the time was games story development, for which we had to design a game around the title ‘The Arena’ if I remember correctly, though part of me also thinks it may have been ‘The Door’. Regardless, I remember very little from that module with the exception of the pitch of one of my classmates. His game pitch is to this day still one of the most entertainingly bemusing concepts I have ever sat through.
Picture this… You’re a boxer (ok), in rural Japan (umm…) your first fight isn’t for a few weeks, and game time is the same as real time (of course). In order to get the funds together to start your boxing career you have to take on other jobs like hairdressing or gardening (…) You’ll only have one match every few weeks, so between then you’ll just be eating, drinking and doing other day jobs.
That was an actual games pitch for an actual game, we had no limitations other than it has to be linked to the title of ‘The Arena’ (or maybe ‘The Door’) and that’s what he came up with! A Japanese boxing / hairdresser simulator where you have to eat enough food that you don’t drop down a weight category. Now imagine games dev was a simple hobby that any halfwit could undertake… Can you not see the horrendous gaming landscape unfurling in front of you! Be grateful it takes 20+ people to make most decent games. It gives 19 people the chance to question the insanity of the first guy.
So back to why it sucks! I started games dev at college and continued off and on pretty much until now, in fact it’s the last hobby I was working on before switching to blog writing (expect an article on why blog writing sucks soon). I have yet to make a game of any kind. If it’s simple enough to make yourself it’s been done a thousand times. You see these people who make Minecraft maps for a living and dedicate 6 hours a day to it for MONTHS. What is wrong with you!?! Just stop, it is not a legacy worth leaving behind, seriously take up drugs or start a basement fight club, anything is less tragic than punching imaginary blocks 6+ hours a day for the best part of a year.
For me though here is the real kicker, the part that has caused me to give up on games dev time and time again. I think I have some good (semi sane) ideas for games, I think I could come up with some half decent game mechanics and although my programming isn’t great, I could definitely come up with some decent combat algorithms if it was that sort of game… What I cannot do and refuse to even try to do, is create ‘assets’.
‘Asset’s’ being anything from players to buildings to weapons etc etc… I HATE 2D and 3D modelling. I can’t do it, how many programmers are there out there who are also artists? Surely it’s like expecting someone to be both a champion gymnast and world’s strongest man (the muscles would get you stuck in the hoops). Any hobby that requires me to form a team of other people who I then have to rely on completely for the project to have any semblance of success can fuck right off because other people are almost as shit as me.
To be good at games design you need to have the following traits.
- The patience of a saint
- Be boring enough that you don’t accidentally create a Japanese closeted homosexual simulator (more of a dig at the guy who made the pitch than the notion that male hairdressers are closeted homosexuals, but if you want to read it in a Bernard Manning voice go ahead).
- Enough artistic ability to create your own assets, or social ability to convince someone else to do it for you.
- The forethought to understand the limitations of what a small team or solo developer can accomplish.
- The ability to read the previous four points and still think this seems like a good idea.
Or you can make a Flappy Bird clone with Donald Trump’s head as the bird, pump it full of adverts call it Flappy Trump and stick it on the Play Store… You’ll be able to retire within a month.