Last week, I made a delightfully heavy-handed pitch for my book as the perfect foundation for planning a career in video gaming. But what’s it actually like, behind the scenes, inside the world of making (and reviewing) video games? Well, sometimes it’s equal parts sweat shop and sanitarium, but mostly it’s a group of like-minded and furiously excitable folks intent on creating the next God of War. Or in my case, actually creating the first God of War, which neatly segues into my Monday anecdote about visiting Sony’s Santa Monica studios:
God of War was, and still is, one of the biggest and bloodiest romps through fantastical ancient Greece ever seen, but two months before the game shipped, the scene was one of grim determination and outright exhaustion. I’d been dropped in at the worst possible moment; to play through the game with a tester whose plethora of piercings and neon mohawk was in danger of giving me the Fear. As Programmers tweaked bugs, downed Redbull, and collapsed in various heaps, the God of God of War, David Jaffe, wasn’t oozing the steadfast assuredness that he musters throughout his numerous interviews and lectures these days. This was in his pre-luminary days, and he wasn’t sure his game was good enough.
The Pitch (above): Two dweebs on comfy chairs, inserting sound fx into games with the power of their minds.
The Reality: Years of hard work with a team you must gel with, followed by a 7.5 out of 10 review to really kick you when you’re down.
Let me be clear here; he thought he knew his game was bloody marvelous (indeed, bloody and marvelous for that matter), but he asked me what my thoughts on the game were, and whether it was “any good.” This was last-minute nerves to be sure; but he and his crew were so close to the project that they’d lost all objectivity. No one had slept properly for weeks, and Jaffe was worried about the reviews. Fortunately, he was a little more chipper when I left, and I’d like to think it was because of my enthusing about everything being brilliant – from the copulating mini-game to the cow costume – and the fact that GameSpot were also there, mouths agape at the sheer spectacle of the game. But it’s more likely he was glad to see the back of me; the last thing a three-year development process needs is some strategy guide nitwit stinking up the place, siphoning off testers at the time they’re most needed.
In conclusion, and to skillfully maneuver this story thread back into relevance; before you begin a career in video gaming, you need to know the risks you’re taking: This job is highly stressful, and you need to be able to manage stress properly. If you don’t know the benefits of rowing machines and/or Lisinopril, you will.
Next time: I recall the hilarious story of how I got my first writing gig about video games. Spoiler alert; it involves a “fanzine”; the 17th century equivalent of a Blog. It also involves pirates. Yes, really.
Just finished: The second edition of my Video Game Careers book.
Currently: Creating all manner of freakishly unspeakable beasts in Spore.
About to: Continue editing and tweaking my chapters on how to squeeze the most out of your mutant offspring in Spore.