Everyday Developer

Everyday Developer
Game Development for the Damned and Delirious

Bradley Campbell | 15 Dec 2009 12:15
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This is terrible, but somehow this is still all we have. The youngsters among us often can't relay these troubles to their parents, since they're usually biased to view games as a distraction from schoolwork. And those in the working world can't exactly bring up their attempts at game design with their coworkers. Even other gamers aren't necessarily the best company; they're on the consumer end and might not care about how it all comes together. There are no therapists in independent game design. Even if you do make loads of good friends in a design community, any utterance of "I just got an idea" will still result in a chorus of skepticism and indifference.

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It's strange. Being a bedroom developer used to be considered a noble pursuit; something highly respectable, if not a little geeky. It meant you were one of the few who devoted time to working with a new medium of entertainment instead of watching the old ones grow stagnant. It meant taking the foundations of math and logic and making - of all things - art!

Whatever happened to that?

None of this is a new social phenomenon, of course. When the invention of the printing press made literacy more prevalent, the number of would-be novelists grew. And once Eastman Kodak invented 16mm film as a cost-effective alternative to the standard 35mm variety, it didn't take long for the amateur filmmaking community to exponentially grow in size. Each industry suffered big growing pains in the process.

The problem with the expansion of independent game development is that the innovative new software gives the power of game design to the individual, ignoring how much of game production is a group activity. Making a game requires more than just a coder. The first lesson any designer learns is just how little he or she can do on their own.

Indie game development forums teach the next important lesson to amateur designers: The internet may bring people together, but only at arm's length. Production teams formed online simply won't be as responsible as a team which meets in person once a week. There are software applications like Tortoise SVN that may make online collaboration easier, but that changes little in practice. No matter how many instant messaging windows you have open, you're still alone in front of your computer screen. If your art director is having trouble keeping up with school, or your debug lead has too many family commitments to juggle, you're on your own. Entire oceans might separate you.

The odds are stacked against us. Yet we continue on this maddening path, despite the consequences. After all, if there really is such a thing as an "everyday developer," it isn't someone who works in a multimedia lab, much less someone who gets paid for it. Everyday developers are people like us, fumbling through game design one command line at a time.

Bradley Campbell is a web designer and film student. He became entrenched in game design through experimentation and various debts of honor. Maybe someday he'll stop releasing tech demos and give out the full thing.

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