There is a misconception I often see and hear when I meet anyone that is passionate about making games. Particularly people who are passionate about them, but aren’t making one. In interviews, whenever I ask these people if they would enjoy making videogames, the answer usually is: “Yeah, I’ve got this great idea for a videogame”. These are people who are trying to get into the industry, and would probably have the time of their lives participating in the mental orgy that involves making games, but they don’t think they’re making videogames unless it’s their game. This is bad. Especially in a growing industry like the colombian industry, where we need all the professionals we can get throughout all disciplines. And yet, some of them prefer doing freelance, or stay at jobs that are not as personally satisfying, because they are waiting for the chance to make a game. Their game.
Guys (and gals), on paper, everyone is a game designer. But the abyss between what seems like a good idea and a finished product, (which might suck) is enormous. Huge. Gargantuan. I learned this the hard way. Maybe your game really is the next big thing. But I would recommend collaborating in at least one project with similar characteristics to that of the game you are envisioning before even trying to go solo. The detail that has to go into a game is excruciating. It will keep you up at night, unforeseen issues will come from behind and make sweet love to you while you are still trying to figure out if you are liking it or not. I myself cannot look at a SCRUM board without clenching my ass. Don’t get me wrong: If you have an idea that you think is good, by all means make it happen. Do everything you must to make said game come true. I’m just saying that belonging to another gaming project first, is usually one of those things you must do.
I believe the “it’s my game or nothing” misconception is founded on another one: The game designer is the guy that decides what game will be made. Lies. If anything, the game designer is the person who has to hear the most ideas from the rest of his co-workers all day long. Years ago at the agency, I sometimes worked with our top chief creative. He is still probably the most respected agency creative in our nation. His ideas are brilliant. But that is not what made working with him so inspiring. He was like a hound. In meetings, he had this talent to detect every single idea that was worthy and put it on the table for discussion. They didn’t need to be his ideas. His job was to find the best idea, not come up with it. I still miss working with him.
This is for me the essence of the game designer: an idea finder. Quite different from “Yeah, I’ve got this great idea for a videogame”, isn’t it? Not everyone likes listening to people all day long. Even if the game is yours, even if you are paying everyone, you must listen and implement other people’s opinions. Dictators make shitty game designers. If you are passionate about games, try to contribute from the area you are most talented in. Be it music, narrative, programming, voice acting, business, or even playing. It doesn’t have to be your game. Making a game is so hard and challenging that any game will inspire you. I promise.
Please, find out first if being a game designer is the only way you can be a part of the gaming industry. Who knows. Maybe your princess is in another castle.