A few blogs ago I mentioned a new series I was going to start. Well here it is - From Player to Professional - My Quest to Work in the Video Game Industry Vol. 1. Hopefully after reading the blog you'll understand the whole concept and still find it interesting.

My whole adult life I've been in the military. I've had a few menial jobs before that, but from the young age of 18 until present day age 38, I've been in the military. It's all I've ever done. It's all I really know. But as much as I love the pride that comes with wearing the uniform, there comes a day when all of us serving decide to (or are forced to) get out or retire. For some of us who joined at such a young age, a retirement around the age of 40 is very exciting, yet it's also a bit overwhelming because we have to find a civilian job...a second career. Many choose to take government service jobs or contractor positions doing similar work comparable to their military job. Others pursue an entirely different career path.

Ideally, this is what I plan to do.

There are three areas of the video game industry that really interest me - journalism, public relations, and development. I realize the positions have completely different pre-requisites and salaries, but with a military retirement check under my belt, the hope is I'll have the flexibility to pursue a career in whichever I decide and one that is more "fun" than "pays well".

Now, I'm not sitting here suggesting I'm already qualified for a PR job or journalism job, but let's be honest, the mechanics behind developing the games we love and adore is almost overwhelming. In the old days of developing games, you had a small team that did everything. From conception to production, this small team often developed the idea and spent late nights packaging the product and shipping it off to the retailers. Nowadays, this has evolved into a huge business and most employees in the development process are focalized on specific component of development - from artists to 3D modelers; programmers to level designers; to story writers to audio experts - they all are integral players in the process. I'm not quite sure where I'll fit in, I just know I'll fit somewhere.

Just so you understand my background. I've taken a few programming courses, so I know a wee bit. Enough to be dangerous. Not enough to even claim I know how to program. Although I can program some mean Visual Basic in MS Excel. I've also dabbled in modding just a little bit. Back in the day I created a couple of my own .wad files for Doom. I modded a few other games. In fact, a quick Rainbow Six modding story.

I was a wannabe modder and loved Rainbow Six. So, one of my first attempts at modding took this R6 map, I forget the name...Hacienda maybe...but it was a dark map with a rather nice estate. One team starts on the inside and one team starts on the outside a short distance away. Well, I thought the map had a balance issue, because the guys inside the house could take up sniping positions and quickly and rather effortlessly take out the guys approaching from the outside. My plan was to mod in a Hummer (pre-existing from a different level, all I had to do was mod it in and give it a track) to provide some cover. The thought was the assaulting team could hide behind the Hummer and safely approach the house. So I programmed it all up, tested it a couple of times and then hosted a server running this mod. I invited a bunch of people and quickly discovered for whatever reason and on more than one occasion the Hummer would drive right up to the house and on intermittently, while the assault team was shooting in the front window to make their dynamic entry, the Hummer was driving up and through the front window and running over the team members standing there. Apparently there was a randomness to the track that on some variations, caused the Hummer to run into (and clip through) the house. Argh. I was laughed at, ridiculed for a crappy mod and everyone left. I still remember this after all these years.


So, yeah...the extent of my modding career is short lived. There have been a few on/off attempts over the years, but nothing to brag about. I'm aware of some of the software used, both proprietary and not. Products like Maya and 3DS Max. I've experimented with the Far Cry and Crysis sandbox editor and a few others.

Okay, but back to the purpose of this blog series. I have roughly two years before I retire and I plan to learn as much as I can about video game development in that time. I've read plenty that says you need a college education...but I've also read a ton by the big names in the industry that says skill, talent and passion can overcome the expensive piece of paper or fancy letters behind your name. I'm inclined to believe them. I'm going to learn as much as I can, so regardless of what job interest I pursue, I have the knowledge and experience to back it up. I'm a firm believer in the saying, "those who want to, will."

I want to!

This weekly blog series isn't going to bore you with the details of each step I take, but what I will share with you (and hopefully not bore you with) all the different items I learn along the way that are what I consider blog worthy.

This week's episode is going to take a look at a concept that I've read in a book that I bought on the subject of video game development. I saw this book at Borders and passed over getting it a couple of times, but it really is a great book. Kind of pricey, but these days what book isn't. (I ended up getting the book BTW)

The book is titled Level Up: The Guide to Great Video Game Design and it's written by Scott Rogers.

Want to design and build cutting edge video games?  Not sure where to start?  Or just want to tweak the projects you're already working on? Then this is the book for you!

Written by leading video game expert Scott Rogers, who has designed the hits; Pac Man World, God of War, Maxim vs. army of Zin and SpongeBob Squarepants.  This book is full of Rogers' wit and imaginative style which demonstrates everything you need to know about designing great video games.

Level Up! has been written with all levels of game designers in mind.  From beginner level through to the more experienced game designer.

The book is fabulous, easy to read, informative and hilarious...as demonstrated by some of the author's little cartoon illustrations.

Well, the point of this blog isn't to advertise the book. It's about a concept the author discusses in the book. A concept I would like to discuss with you all and get your feedback.

The author asks the basic question, "What is a game?" and then he answers with, "A game is an activity that requires at least one player; has rules; and has a victory condition." He then asks, "What is a video game?" and answers that question with, "A video game is a game that is played on a video game screen."

It's an interesting concept and one that supports a different blog I was already working on. Sometimes we get so in the weeds over a game, we forget the very heart of what we're doing. We're playing a game. I dunno, that just struck me.

For so many years video games were perceived as child's play...something kids do. But looking at this definition of game, we've been engaged in gaming since the beginning of time. From the Biblical era of casting lots to the Roman days of cage fighting with lions, based on these basic criteria, they are games. Pirates throwing bones and cowboys playing poker, all games. Elderly fellows gathering in the park for a round of chess to knights competing in tournaments of jousting...all games.

So why is it since the beginning of time, grown men have competed in activities with at least one player governed by rules and with a victory condition, yet in our current culture games, or video games for that matter, aren't regarded as a similar and accepted activity.

The older generations judge us as wasting our time when we play video games yet they engage in gaming activity of their own. Bingo is a game after all. Gambling is game. Stick and ball sports are a game. Golf is a game. What makes video games less of a socially accepted activity? It shouldn't be and thankfully, I think the nation is finally coming to this realization. It's a slow process, but it's happening.

As gamer though, I find this concept intriguing on a different level. For one, the author makes no mention of fun. Fun is a difficult word to define.

fun

[fuhn]

-noun

1. Something that provides mirth or amusement: A picnic would be fun.

2. Enjoyment or playfulness: She's full of fun.

Please note www.dictionary.com actually lists that definition number 2 and example...that's not me...but I do think that's kind of funny. She's full of fun.

Are games fun? Is that a requirement that should be included in the definition of game?

Honestly I don't know if every game I play is fun, and don't know that it should be.  So, maybe the author is right. Maybe defining games and video games really is that easy.

Do you agree with the author or do you think there is more to a game than this?

I hope you've enjoyed the first part of this ongoing series and kind of got a feel for the direction I'm going to take. Stay tuned for the next part where I continuing the pursuit of career in the video game industry.