I Like to PLAY Games, NOT Design Them! - Oni no Tenshi Blog - www.GameInformer.com
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I Like to PLAY Games, NOT Design Them!

A lot of people ask me "Oni, if you like games so much, why don't you design them?  After all, you've got to have a great idea and want to make it real!"


To this, I have to reply, "No. Not in a million years."

I may be willing to give feedback into what works and what needs improvement (or to be scrapped altogether), but I'm not a tech-ie person.  I don't like C++ nor do I want to understand how to write controller code. 

As far as graphics, I can draw, but then again, my chibi doodles are generally not up to the standards of quality that I would expect from a present-day game, not even one of indie design.  And to be honest, I would rather NEVER make a game, then be known for making one that makes people go into convulsions and eventually a boredom-coma if they're forced to play it.

I stink at flash, and I generally can't even animate an image by taking post-its and drawing a little stick figure running around and exploding when you flip through the pages.

So to be honest, when people look at my creative writing and they say, "Wow, you should make that a game!" or hear my suggestions about where something could be improved or even the premise for what makes a game good, I have to stop them before they invariably say, "Well, YOU should make that game!"

So, to clarify, I love games, and I enjoy immersive stories as well as intuitive game design.  I am willing to provide feedback, backstory, and support if asked, because I am good at ideas, even if my execution in programming is abysmal.


However, I am getting somewhat tired when others seem to think that my desire to play games and to enjoy them or constructively critique them is somehow expressing a hidden desire to become a game-dev person.  Now this is not a dig at the GIO community, but largely something I tend to encounter with friends or those in casual acquaintance.  When a person generally likes games and merely says as such, they are considered a "gamer", and yet if you're like me and talk about games not only in a critical context but also in regards to how they relate to other larger issues as well as our society, suddenly people turn their heads to the side and say "Wow, you seem to be so knowledgeable about this stuff, so have you ever thought of going into game design?"

It's not like it's sarcastic, like when your parents say, "Are you *SURE* you really want to major in THAT?"

Liking games =/= wanting to MAKE them

My husband didn't understand this very large distinction when we first met (remember, though, he was only 15 or so).  When I asked him if he had thought about what he wanted to do career-wise, he said he wanted to make video games.  Of course, after he figured out the sorts of things that would go into the majority of jobs in game design, he quickly decided to go with something that was more suited to his talents and temperament.  He has since understood that he loves to PLAY games, but designing them is a completely different kettle of fish.


Many people say that they want to "play games for a career" as a game tester.  I mean, doesn't it seem like an ideal job?  Being paid to do what you love best seems like a great thing, right?  Well, not so right. As far as being a "game tester,"I also have a friend of mine (C) who has done a large amount of game testing (mostly with EA).  She's done testing on Sims games as well as various other titles, and her current job is working on Facebook games (and it actually does pay something on the order of 17 bucks an hour).  The big problem is that most of these jobs are:

1) Temporary-once the game is ready to release, the job goes away (although you may get signed onto other projects

2) Have no benefits (if you need medical or dental benefits, you won't be getting them here)

3) Tend to be located in a large city (San Francisco or San Jose, among others) so there's either a commute or you have to live in a big city, either of which might not be ideal for you.

4) You don't really get to choose which game you get to test.  Yeah, from time to time, it might be a game you are really hot for, but most of the time, you're going to be playing and playing and playing a game that you may be lukewarm about until you want to put your head in the blender and turn it on if you have to look at one more pixel or hear that repetitive music ONE. MORE. TIME.

So choose wisely and do your research before you start looking at game testing opportunities, because it's a mixed bag, and sometimes it can be more trouble than it is worth.

And finally, I wanted to talk about the rigors of actually creating games.  I was very close to a small game-dev company that has since gone out of business, but employed a large number of my friends.  One of them described working there as "The most fun job you will ever hate."   The hours were grueling and the pay was not really proportionate to the amount of time put into the work.  Many of them kept running into severe problems with the publishers and the copyright holders for the games that they were making because everything they did that was actually new or interesting kept getting slapped down and denied or endlessly "revised" by people who had absolutely no understanding of game development/software limitations.  Plus they were forced to do a lot of "Leapfrog" games and other inane products just to stay in business.  Unfortunately, they were unable to actually get to the point of making enough money to do their own "make your own game" thing, which really saddened me, because all of the people I met there seemed to have such great ideas of their own.

Anyway, as far as I'm concerned, the game industry is a vicious and predatory industry indeed, so you can't underestimate it!  Even though we may idealize a life in making our own video game desires a reality, the practical truth of it is that it is hard and often thankless (and the worst of it is that you can get so far in a project only to have to cancel it before publication!).

I am sure that many of you feel similarly, but I'd be interested in how you all might have encountered this sort of situation (although I am sure that some of you desire to get into careers in gaming).

As far as I'm concerned, I'll be willing to stand on the sidelines and give input to those who would listen.  Besides, as far as I'm concerned, as long as I can get my thoughts out into the world, maybe just maybe, it will be heard by those who actually can make the changes that I would like to see in the industry and bring more quality games to the table for EVERYONE to enjoy!

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