A few of us close to Siliconera have had the opportunity to work in game development. While this may sound like a dream come true, it’s not all fun and games. While we all love to criticize and pick apart our favourite (and not-so-favourite) games, there’s usually a huge amount of work that goes into any project, no matter how well or badly it turns out in the end. I’m sure everyone’s heard the horror stories from a lot of other developers, but this week, we’ll be telling some of our own, talking about both the good and the bad, and discussing how working in development affected our gaming habits. As always, we welcome questions and comments!
Script Editor, NIS America – Nick Doerr
Siliconera – Louise Yang
Siliconera – Ishaan Sahdev
Louise: Although I don’t currently work in the games industry, I’ve had a brief foray into it in the past. I worked QA at Take Two many years ago, which sounded like a good idea at the time — play games and get paid for it. Anyone who’s been in QA will tell you that it’s not as good as it seems. I mainly took the job just to get a feel for the industry and see if it’s a field I’d like to work in.
First of all, the environment is all sorts of awesome. Having co-workers who share my same interest in gaming is something I definitely enjoyed and took advantage of. Whenever a big game was about to come out, most of the office would be talking excitedly about it.
Unfortunately talking about games all day, testing a game all day, and then going home to play games eventually wore on me. It got to the point where the last thing I wanted to do was hold a controller when I got home from work. This was mostly because playing a game *I* wanted to was different than playing a game *someone else* wanted me to. It was then that I realized that I love games, but I love the fact that games are a hobby for me. I don’t feel bad when I stop playing something for weeks at a time, and there’s no one on my back about falling behind.
The main thing I took away from my brief stint in the industry is that I value my gaming time a lot more. On my free time, I only play games I want to and if it ever stops feeling fun and starts feeling frustrating, I just stop. I don’t feel guilty about it because no one is forcing me to beat a level. I’m not a completionist, so it’s a great feeling of freedom.
Nick: I’ll agree with Louise that if you think being a Game Tester is little more than playing games and getting paid, you’re in for a rude awakening. Software companies really demand a lot from testers, since they’re basically a new set of eyes on a script that translators and editors have worked on for months. See, your brain starts to trick your eyes into seeing words spelled correctly that aren’t, or words that aren’t even typed at all because in your mind, you know what you meant to type there. It’s complicated to explain. Not to mention testers need to do a lot of tedious things whilst playing a game, too. I’m not too confident I’d have the patience for it, really, so props to our and all other glorious testers who face these tasks.
As for myself, it’s great working in the industry. It’s been a lifelong goal and I’m absolutely thrilled I’ve finally been able to attain it. I’ve written for most of my life; a few novels, short stories, and even gaming blogs. I guess, coupled with my love for games, this was a sort of destined outcome. Might sound cheesy, but never give up on your dreams. They really can come true if you give it your best effort!
Does this alter my gaming habits or my outlook on games? Nope, not really. I might not play NIS titles as often in my free time, since I’ll be surrounded by them daily, but I still give ample time to my consoles when I’ve got nothing else to do. I’ve gained a deeper understanding to the business side of the industry and that’s special, but it isn’t what I’m focused on. I play games to have fun. It’s just that now I can have fun at work, too, with like-minded people who are an endless source of joy to be around. It might not be this way for everyone in the industry, but I really, really feel at home. I hope that feeling never changes!
Ishaan: I’ve worked on the development side in the past, although not in a way people might expect. I wasn’t at a huge publisher or anything; rather, I was a producer at a contract studio that did parts (or all of, depending on the project) the in game artwork for quite a few games people might have heard of. On the one hand, it was an incredible learning experience — I learnt what the role of a producer on different projects is and had to fill those shoes over two painstaking years. Because we were working for so many different clients, you also got to hear all kinds of neat stuff about their various projects and teams, some of which boggled the mind. It was pretty fascinating. And best of all, working on the development side really helps put things in perspective for when you move back over to the press side because you’ve seen first-hand the amount of work that goes into developing a game.
On the other hand, all of this came at the cost of (a) my health, (b) my hobbies and (c) my relationships. Depending on where you are, once you’re neck-deep working in games, you really don’t have time for much else. Lunches — and often dinners — consisted of unhealthy snacks that I could wolf down in ten minutes (most of the time, I’d eat at my desk while working) and I’d get home late at night almost everyday from work. Sometimes I wouldn’t get home for a week at a stretch. Weekends were spent either pulling overtime or catching up on sleep, which was why almost all of my gaming shifted entirely to DS.
While at work, the job was incredibly stressful, mostly because we were a contract company and negotiating with a client for more time or for revisions is never easy. Some companies were absolutely fantastic in this regard, but as you’d expect, the bigger the publisher, the more painful the arm-twisting. I don’t regret it one bit though. There’s a lot to learn about game development and I’m glad I could learn at least part of it.