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You Should Make A Game
by Evan Jones on 08/01/12 02:52:00 pm   Expert Blogs   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

You may have heard that there exists an article that tells people they can't make games. We're not going to talk about that article. There are only two ways to respond to put-downs like that: we can choose to be cynical or positive. Cynicism never inspired anyone to do anything great, so let's choose the latter, okay? That being said, let's begin.

You should make a game!  Not "can," "should." I make games professionally and as a hobby, and I think that the world of gaming would be a better place if everyone made games. It's not just a fun experience for the creator - it's good for everyone.

There is someone reading this article right now who has never made a game before who would be incredibly good at it and go on to make games that many of us will love. But that person will never know how much fun making games would be, or how much raw aptitude he or she possesses, if he or she never tries to actually make a game. Encouraging everyone to try their hand at making games makes it more likely that humanity's undiscovered geniuses of game production will manifest themselves, and the world (read: you and I) will have better games to play as a result.

"But Evan!," you cry out. "What about all the bad games these people will create?" Here's an unintuitive leap: lots of bad games are a good thing. After all, it's incredibly common in every craft that a failed experiment often contains the seeds of its own improvement. I've spoken out emphatically against plagiarism, and I stand by every word of that post, but a bad game might nonetheless introduce new thoughts into the collective conversation about game creation - concepts that can be improved upon by their creators or others, clearing off the dirt to reveal the gem inside. Not every bad game will achieve this, of course, but we will get fewer games that do unless we encourage everyone to make games.

One consequence of being a part of a very new industry is that when I tell my friends and family that I make video games, many of them have absolutely no idea what this means - even the ones who play games. They know what the finished product looks like, but they don't know what goes into the process. If everyone were familiar with the language and techniques involved in creating games, they could develop a better understanding of how to deconstruct and critically evaluate the media they consume. This makes people more literate, more worldly, and more knowledgable about games in general, and this leads to more intelligent conversations about games and more discussions about what it's possible for games to do. Creators think about creative works in deeper and more insightful ways than consumers who do not create. 

Yes, I want people who have never made a game before tinkering around with Flash or Unity or Xcode, because these are people who will better understand the work involved with making a game.  

Yes, I want the bored high-schooler programming games on his calculator in class, because his experiments might encourage him to dream bigger. 

Yes, I want that twelve-year-old kid making her Final Fantasy-inspired throwback RPG, because she's thinking about what goes into making a game interesting. 

Yes, I want over a thousand people participating in every Ludum Dare, because in those thousand projects are great prototypes that could be developed into wonderful full games. 

Yes, I want every single person who plays games to make games! It's good for them, it's good for you and me, and it will make the future of gaming even brighter.

Evan Jones is a San Francisco-based game designer and programmer. 
It would make him very happy if you followed him on Twitter @chardish.


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Comments


Gerald Belman
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"You may have heard that there exists an article that tells people they can't make games."

I'm assuming your refering to: No, You Can't Make Video Games
by Aleksander Adamkiewicz

He was quite bitter about something - you could tell. I don't have a problem with encouraging people to do an honest inventory of their skills and knowledge before they undertake something as complicated as making a video game - but his "advice" was just downright unrealistic pessimism. Making a playable videogame is not comparable to being an astronaut - you are drastically underestimating astronauts if you think so. I would compare it more to any other kind of relatively complex software developement - which many(but not all) people have the capability to participate in.

"You should make a game!"

Agreed. Although I'm biased because I am a video game consumer.

Curtiss Murphy
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'Should' would be better served with 2 less letters. It's a 4-letter word ... in disguise.

Ardney Carter
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Sold!

Bart Stewart
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Loud....

Yama Habib
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you "does" make a game?

[User Banned]
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This user violated Gamasutra’s Comment Guidelines and has been banned.

Daniel Gooding
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Well it's August 1st. Don't see any reason why I can't do something silly by the end of the month.

I warn you though...... there will be many blocks, bouncy balls, and insane overuse of unnecessary particles.

Evan Jones
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I want to play it when you're done! Tweet it to me.

Simon Ludgate
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While I agree with your sentiment, I think you vastly underestimate the technical hurdles many people face when they pick up the goal of "I'll make a game." I'd love to make a game, but I can't even figure out how to do something as (seemingly) fundamentally basic as clicking and dragging on something, let alone have a different response based on where I drag it to.

Firstly, there's a huge initial barrier of entry for someone who doesn't even know what tools are available. Plus, many of those tools are only good for very specific things. It's like downloading Unity and looking at those three empty 3D view screens and thinking "OK, um, do how do I re-create Microsoft Hearts with this? Where's the button for creating a card? And how do I make it do something when I click it? Can I just click-and-drag the spade symbol onto the corners of the heart and click somewhere and type the number 9?"

Maybe there are resources out there, like easy to use tools or simple tutorials, but when I've looked they tend to be limited to very narrow, specific material, and their lessons are often not broad enough to be used in more general and creative ways.

Unfortunately, until making games becomes as intuitive as writing word documents, I think game creation will remain the domain of a small minority of experts.

Evan Jones
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Getting started with game development continues to get easier every year. More tools are being developed and released, game development libraries prevent developers from having to reinvent the wheel, modern hardware is getting good enough that creating simple games involves very few difficult technical challenges, and the game development community continues to release more and more tutorials.

Yes, there's still a barrier of entry, but that barrier is getting shorter and shorter.

Josh Bycer
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I agree with both of you, as someone who has been trying to break in by making a game, it is a pain in the but for first timers.

In the past I've tried to learn C++, Visual C and Actionscript 2.0 and 3.0. And not having a strong programming background has always hurt me. I can sit for hours on end and write up how mechanics should work and the logic behind them, but ask me to write the code and I'll give you a blank stare.

On the other hand, Evan is right. I wish that all the different development tools of today were around back when I was in school instead of trying to learn a language and apply that towards game design. Right now I've been learning Unity and Javascripting in my spare time and it's coming along slowly but surely. I made a simple 2d ship shooter game using video tutorials online.

I think another factor is how more colleges and schools today embrace game design and programming compared to 5 or 10 years ago. Back when I was in college, my college did not have any programs related to game design. But I recently spoke to one of my professors who told me that now my old college has a program dedicated to game design.

Axel Cholewa
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Eric Schwartz has written a nice piece concerning game creation tools: http://gamasutra.com/blogs/EricSchwarz/20120514/170336/Portal_2_a
nd_the_Dev_Tools_Evolution.php

In my oppinion, the fact that tools are often so unintuitive, limited or even bad makes it even more important to encourage people to make a game. To say it's hard to make a game, therefore not everyone should try (ok, I'm exaggerating Simon's statement) is a bit like saying it's hard to sing (and boy, it is!) so not everyone should.

The more people there are who want to make games, the better the tools will become. And if the tools are bad, and everyone will try to make a game, they will get at least some programming experience :) As Josh pointed out, that is only to their advantage if they want to become video game designers.

So yes, "You should make a game!".

Joe Wreschnig
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Unity. Flash. Flash with Flixel, or FlashPunk. Twine. Game Maker. Perlenspiel, recently featured here on Gamasutra. Stencyl, Construct, Codea, The Games Factory, Knytt Stories, WarioWare DIY, ZZT.

The kind of programming done by professional programmers - especially the kind of programming required of C++, but even the kind required by Java or ActionScript - is not a requirement to make a game. If you ran into a wall because of your tool choice, I really encourage you to pick a new tool and try again. If all else fails, paper and scissors and make a board game!

(And yeah, half that list came from Anna's book.)

Charles Geringer
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There are tools and tools.

for example: it is very hard to master UDK, or cry engine. but RPG maker and Mugen are surprisingly simple, and you do not need to master the tools for a simple game, just the basics and a bit of imagination can go a long way..

Not to mention homebrew card and tabletop games, which can be very entertaining both to the designer and to the player

Adam Bishop
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If you're interested in doing PC or console development (XBLIG) then Microsoft's XNA App Hub has a really informative tutorial complete with videos, already created art and sound, etc.

http://create.msdn.com/en-US/education/tutorial/2dgame/getting_st
arted

If you'd rather try your hand at Flash then Kongregate has a similarly simple and straightforward tutorial to help you get started on that front:

http://www.kongregate.com/labs/

There are a number of other useful tools, maybe if I can find some free time this evening I'll write up a blog post outlining the pros and cons of various introductory tools.

DongHa Lee
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I've been thinking a lot about this topic myself lately.

I've noticed that most other media/art forms have 3 different layers to them. First being the "consume" layer (listen to music, look at paintings, watch a movie, read a book, watch athletes, etc), second being the "play" layer (play an instrument, doodle a picture, make weird videos on youtube, write stuff on your own, play sports) and the third being the "craft" layer (basically learn and study the craft and art form to create and perform).

Video games seem to have this weird situation, where the consume layer actually intersects with the play layer and the craft layer is far away and hard to reach (due to requiring lots of different skillsets to learn).

I personally think that the "anybody can/should make games" viewpoint is actually about increasing that second layer. And like the article says, hopefully this may increase the public understanding of what it takes to make video games and appreciate more as a medium. If nobody "played" sports or music for fun, then I think it would be rather hard to really understand and appreciate other athletes or musicians.

The difficulty of entry argument is valid, but I think with the right "instruments" we should be able to get more people involved in this wonderful activity.

Thanks for the post.

Aleksander Adamkiewicz
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I think this is a very good analysis.

Devtools for games aren't as intuitive as to reach popular appeal yet.
I found the logic-brick system in BGE to be really good but incredibly limiting, Unity is mostly code/script-heavy and you absolutely need to be familiar with things like variables and functions.
Game-maker and create2 are close, but limited. Its easy to make something in them, but its hard to make something interesting.

Devtools for games are nowhere near as intuitive as for example amateur music-making software like garage band or amateur video-editing software, and certainly not as intuitive as having a camera and doing photography.

I think the barrier of entry is not nearly low enough to make this a viable hobby for people, yet.

But who knows, maybe in a few years apple will come out with iGame.

Nick Harris
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If I understand correctly you are saying that someone could listen to the music of a woodwind instrument (the "consume" layer), master the clarinet (the "play" layer), or invent an entirely unorthodox instrument that will require mastering even by someone already familiar with the clarinet, such as the Serpent* (the "craft" layer).

*see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serpent_(musical_instrument)

Yet, I feel that there are certain cases where all layers intersect and it is as much fun to craft as it is to watch others play, such as the Halo 3 Forge and the rich toolset of Little Big Planet. Clearly, transforming one game into another has been around for a long time with the modding community, however it now seems that even console titles are incorporating user generated content and flexible rule-sets that can be augmented by a "gentlemen's agreement" of those that are playing with meta-rules that the game alone cannot enforce without player consent.

As a non-profit hobbyist game developer, currently working on making more productive dev tools, it may be of interest to include this link to the escapist magazine forum when I still used to be a member:

http://www.escapistmagazine.com/forums/read/6.146453-221-Why-Your
-Game-Idea-Sucks?page=2#3347147

DongHa Lee
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@Nick I think I was talking more about how those 3 layers flow to become a process of becoming a higher level artist/performer (of course, not everybody can do this, but understanding this process is what makes people appreciate and understand more about higher-level artists)

I guess music (as well as video games) are a bit weird because they have a performance (player) part and a composition (developer) part. Both parts are sort of interconnected, because generally if you want to be a developer, you're usually a knowledgeable player as well.

With music it seems a bit smoother to hop over from performer to composer, so somebody who listens to rock music a lot (consume) decides to pick up and learn how to play a guitar for fun (play) gets better at it and naturally learns how to arrange different stuff to compose music of his own.

Whereas, video games being able to play video games well could help you a bit when designing games, but actually making that into a video game is way harder (at least I feel), and people still have this gap between playing a lot of video games (consume/play?) wanting to develop games for fun (play) to developing games at a high-quality level (craft).

So I think the point of view is that gap has become quite smaller in recent years, and we should strive to make it even smaller. Hopefully this way we can get more talent into our industry as well as more appreciation of our craft.

P.S. I don't think watching somebody play a video game is actually the right consuming layer (unless we're talking about becoming a professional starcraft player or something), because in order to really consume video games as a medium you got to play it for yourself. Which is why I said video games are a bit "weird" compared to other mediums.

Adam Bishop
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@Aleksander

Even if sound editing software is becoming more accessible, playing an instrument isn't any easier than it's been in the past. Sure, you can acquire a multitrack mixer and run it on a home PC very easily these days, but if you don't know how to play a few chords you're out of luck. So I don't think making games is really very far behind recording music in that regard.

Aleksander Adamkiewicz
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It seems I'm the favorite whipping-boy as of late.

Evan, I agree with what you wrote, unsurprisingly.

Nevertheless, sometimes a good dose of cynicism is healthy ;)

Curtiss Murphy
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Don't take it personally. In this 'golden age', game development has gotten easier, but ... it's still hard! And people need to hear that.

"Try stuff. Fail a lot, improve your skills, repeat until too excellent to ignore."

Bart Stewart
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Suggestion: gamify the making of games.

Not the abstracted process of making a product to sell that happens to be a game, but the actual technical generation of game functionality and content. For example: create a function used by N people in a project, get an achievement.

Participation increases when it's rewarded. So, game designers: what's a good reward structure that could make helping to create an actual game so much fun that lots more people would want to do it?

Joe Wreschnig
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WarioWare DIY was *very* close to this but suffered drastically because of Nintendo's (then) failure to understand anything on the Internet. It has a great teaching structure, assigning you "jobs" to finish a mostly-made game, and "techniques" to practice as a sort of puzzle. Sharing the resulting games is virtually impossible.

Christopher Plummer
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I find this article to be a bit silly and misleading, but maybe I'm misinterpreting it.

Trying to make a game on your own, without plagirizing someone else's work, goes beyond being a hobby and will probably never come close to your imagination. It doesn't matter if you are doing it in C++ or in the Little Big Planet game editor. I whole heartedly encourage people to take part in making a game, but I don't think that any hobbyist should go into it thinking that they are going to make a game.

Let me explain. Making a game requires a number of skill sets that cannot normally be found in one person, and even if they could the time needed to create something interesting would make it a multi-year commitment. Are we really going to advocate that everyone should devote years of their life toward making a game? Or that everyone should make clones of existing software just to understand the industry? I don't think (I hope) that isn't the intention. And if I'm correct, I think that more people would benefit from donating their time and hobbyist efforts to "Goodwill". A great example of this would be the SimTropolis community for Sim City IV (http://community.simtropolis.com/files/files/category/1-simcity-4
/). People contribute small and medium sized items for others to use sparking a cycle of sharing and creating making it so that everyone has a game that looks and feels very different from the original inspiration and continues to evolve in all sorts of directions.


Joe Wreschnig
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"Making a game requires a number of skill sets that cannot normally be found in one person"

What? I play probably one new game *PER DAY* that was made by one person. Ludum Dare produces *HUNDREDS* of games by one person and does so every 180 days.

Josh Todd
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Excellent post, I entirely agree. The same type of argument has been made for/against hobbyist music fans getting into music production with the lower barrier to entry in recent years. I feel the same way about that as I do about game design: JUST DO IT!

Jamie Lowes
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Great article. I read it a minute ago. And, by coincidence, I'm getting my non-games-making friend over this weekend to have a go at making games in Unity. Just to mess about and see what we make.

We'll no doubt make some lo-fi bunch of crap. But, somewhere in the middle of it will be a nice little molecule of gameplay that puts a smile on our faces.

We'll keep doing this, and one day we'll stumble upon something worth working up into a full, but modestly sized game.

It'll be ace. We'll have fun, and hopefully someone will play it and have fun too.

High five Evan Jones! :)

Roberta Davies
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I'm getting all choked up now. Way back around 1970, when I was 9 or 10, I dragged out a pile of posterboard and invented a board game in two afternoons. It was overcomplicated and, I'm sure, unbalanced and generally crappy. But it was my very own board game and it was playable (some friends came over and played it), and I was sure proud of it.

Professional artists encourage hobbyists to doodle and daub. Professional musicians encourage hobbyists to strum a few chords. Heck, professional magicians encourage hobbyists to learn how to vanish a coin and change one card to another. A great big active seething amateur class is only ever good for an art.

Kasan Wright
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I agree! All I have to say is, I'm working on it!:

http://profitmotivegame.com

-Kaz


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