I recently set a challenge for myself: start reading again. Don’t get me wrong, I read things all the time. I read street signs, news articles, forum threads, work reports, even receipts. But not novels for some reason. I used to read fiction all the time as a youngster. I consumed so many books I was often told to go play outside “for once.”
But as I went through university and was forced to read “their” books and as the internet became more of a thing for me, my reading habits died down. A lot. As someone who writes a lot, this is a bad thing. If you want to be a professional basketball player, you don’t just practice your layups all day; you have to watch pro games and analyze what you’re seeing. So, with that analogy in mind, I started a bookclub.
continue reading…(get it?)
A friend of mine got me a card game called Cthulu Gloom for my birthday a few months ago. I didn’t really get a chance to play it until recently, partly because it’s so much easier to pick up a new video game and learn the rules in a virtual environment than it is to actually read a pamphlet full of foreign-looking text and try to suss out how to play something you’ve never seen before.
Still, I took the time to play a few practice rounds on my own before sitting my co-worker down on our lunch break and forcing him to have fun with me. Having now taught the game to two more people, I’m beginning to realize what a huge advantage table top/card games can be when thinking about designing video games.
And now, for the not-so-encouraging part two of my experience at the talk by Bioware writers Sylvia Feketekuty and Luke Kristjanson. I find myself procrastinating on writing this just because I don’t want to face the crushing reality that is how hard it actually is to get a job as a writer for a video game company, according to some of the things these two writers had to say.
Firstly, and maybe most importantly, there was a discussion as to whether or not positions as full-time writers actually existed in big studios (which is pretty much a dream job, in my opinion). The impression I got was that, no, there aren’t really a lot of companies that will just hire you off-the-bat as a writer. It’s much more likely that you’ll have to work in some other faculty and then be asked (or volunteer) to write for the game you’re already working on. Already this demands a set of skills that veer away from the ones I already have: I can write, I can imagine stories, I can build characters, but designing, programming, play testing: these aren’t really anything I would call myself “skilled” at. I won’t lie, my heart fell a bit when I heard them talk about that sort of required multi-tasking ability. However, there was a good deal of talk about being a freelance writer and being hired on contract to write for a game in progress.
makers of Baldur’s Gate, Dragon Age, and Mass Effect
This afternoon, I went to an event at my local library where Bioware writers Sylvia Feketekuty and Luke Kristjanson were asked questions about the video game industry and how they got to where they are now. Before I get into everything that was talked about, I’d just like to point out how awesome it is that this kind of thing exists. The Writer in Residence there set it all up because of the new interest in video games that the library’s interactive section was creating. What’s more, even though the email I got notifying me of the even said that only 30 participants would be allowed to come, the place was overflowing with at least 60+ people. And the library let them stay! People were lining the walls, standing in the back, sitting on cushions; it was great.
As for what the writers had to say, there’s a lot to unpack. The talk started pretty innocuously with the writers talking about what games they used to play, what their first gaming system was, even what games they were good at as children. As I’ve read a number of articles with people in the gaming industry, this was pretty standard fare and I didn’t take much stock in it.
toss that shiz.
At the beginning of the year, I found out about a catalogue of free online courses that my library grants me access to. I inevitably landed on the “How to Get Started in Game Development” page and immediately signed up. Now, six weeks after my start date, I’m almost ready to write the final exam so I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on everything I’ve learned so far.
Some things were really encouraging, like learning about how easy it is to find development environments for smaller games, like iOS and Android games. Some things were really discouraging, such as learning about what it takes to make a triple A game like Mirror’s Edge and Call of Duty. The amount of time, energy and manpower involved with that kind of game development just seems so far beyond my scope at the moment. Add that to the fact that the only way to land jobs in those big game studios, according to a bunch of career advice columnists online, is to KNOW someone who already works there. Damn.
I’ve been looking into different Computer Science programs in my area, hoping to find something that’s accessible and that will (maybe) still let me work and make a decent wage. I really don’t know where to start.
There are a few programs that boast a focus on game development, something I’m obviously interested in, but I’m still flip-flopping on whether it’s a good idea or not. Even though I may seem to be a pillar of strength and self-confidence in my posts on this blog, I actually doubt myself a lot. I keep telling myself that I can wade through all this programming stuff on my own, that it’s all online and that I don’t need to pay some exorbitant amount of money (again) just to get a piece of paper that says “You learned stuff.”
But then I try to wade into yet another argument over whether or not beginners should try to learn C# over UnityScript. Or an article on all the steps you need to do to get a decent job in this industry. Or a podcast about how these big developers all started designing websites and text adventures when they were TEN EFFING YEARS OLD. Time to get real: I’m 26 this year and I have a wife and pets to take care of. I have bills. I have a job I need to be able to perform well at. I still need to replace my windshield cause it cracked two winters ago but I keep telling myself it’s fine because if I pay for a new one, I won’t be able to afford to take my lady out on date night. None of these things are going to mesh well with spending twelve hours a day on campus and even more time at home hunched over a textbook and my laptop.
“But still, I could do it.” This is what I keep telling myself. Maybe it’s what’s holding me back.
Sad face emoticon.