My friends know I’ve been struggling to write this article for months, struggling with the tone and the question: so I ask you, Why? It’s the most important question you can ask yourself, though asking it is never easy.
A recent Edge piece asked some creative directors and leads the question. Some give honestly insightful answer and are worth a read. Though this question extends to every member of a studio or aspiring developer, not just the creative directors of the world.
Please bear with me for two paragraphs of personal anecdote to help me discuss this issue.
From a young age I was making games, programming BASIC on C64 before the age of ten. At the same time my brother introduced me to roleplaying games. From those early days until adulthood I was passionately creating games, roleplaying systems, writing/directing plays to stage and drawing a web-comic in the early internet days all while earning money doing freelance photography, websites and just so much stuff.
An important personal question was raised in my late teens: If I wasn’t doing what I was passionate about and being my true self what was the point? This lead to separation from my family over disagreements, hard life choices, being broke for 8 years while working full time and putting myself through university, twice in two countries. Always struggling to break into the industry without compromise. Always broke, often living rough and using my holidays to sit exams or go to interviews. I was in debt when I broke into the industry and quickly got a Lead Programmer credit and since then a Lead Designer credit. I now work as a Designer / Programer. Though my time in the industry has been far from ideal with the last three years in three companies in three cities.
Now the amount I’ve created in the last few years as a full time employed developer is less than in the years where I was not. I use this personal story because my hunger to be in the industry diverted me away from why I wanted to be part of it. In my struggle to become part of the industry and do well, most of my energy is focused towards the industry and not my creations within it, and my situation is not unique. The realities of business can often pull us away from games, while they are required they are a means to an end not ends in themselves.
Too often in the grind of the daily job, the crunch of a project or just an eye on the next thing in the industry we lose sight of why we are pushing bits. Though field leaders one after another will espouse the virtue of direction, putting the why before the how. Just sample a few TED talks# or look at creatives you admire, they have purpose and drive beyond the daily grind.
Now why you make games could be to pay the bills, have difficult challenges, work with fun people, self expression, the desire to create or a million other motivations. The most important thing is that you know what you want to do and why.
Please take a moment to answer these anonymous questions, click here, about why you make games. I have a two follow-ups I want to write, one dealing with unlocking the power of your team and other people’s motivations but also about the responses I hope to get.
It’s not an easy question and for me it’s all about what sort of games do I want to spend my life making. Personally it all comes back to the stage for me, I want my audience to share an experience with me, be it political satire, dark comedy or whimsy. To make things that friends talk about over cocktails and coffee. To make things that matter.
# Look at a few of the top talks and publications across the field and the theme of motivation or why is core.