In this fascinating feature
, Noah Falstein talks to many developers about their childhood beginnings in design and play to discover commonalities in their career development.
Falstein argues that all kids are natural game designers. Most who've made it their professional career likely first got their start creating and modifying games during their childhood years:
"With make-believe play, children may start with an established game, then often get caught up in the rules of play. 'That's not fair, you have to touch me with your hand, jabbing my coat with that stick doesn't count!' But I know from my own experience that some people show their interest in game design in more concrete terms.
When I was about 10 I saw the movie "Sink the Bismark", about the dramatic WWII events leading to the destruction of that German Battlecruiser. Not long after, I had made a game out of cardboard, marbles, and pennies and was happily playing it with friends and continuing to modify and refine it to keep them interested.
I know from personal conversations that I'm far from unique in this early interest in making games, and so set out to interview many other game developers about their own experiences."
Epic Games artist and level designer Josh Jay shares some of his early projects that preceded his work on titles such as Gears of War
and Unreal Tournament III
"In the third grade I made a rambling set of cardboard tubes and boxy rooms based on The Bernstein Bears and the Spooky Old Tree (one of my favorite books as a kid). I built the trunk that the bears crawl through, the stair case that the alligator bites in half, and the rest of the path that they run through to escape the tree (including the suit of armor that drops the axe in their path). I remember going crazy trying to get the path of the physical model to conform to what I saw in the illustrations and felt frustrated having to fudge it.
After a while, I got tired of making 3D cardboard sets and really got into writing the rules after getting hooked on the Choose Your Own Adventure and Pick-A-Path books and started writing my own with super simplistic fighting rules. I never finished a single one but I started about four or five different story games.
It wasn't long afterward that I discovered the D&D rule books at the public library in the fifth grade and got really super obsessed with that. I found that crossword puzzles made really neat dungeon maps. I started "porting" over my story game fighting rules into a more nonlinear game where players could wander all through the halls of the crossword puzzle and I told encounter stories through hand-painted acrylic and colored pencil comic strips."
You can now read the full feature
on kid's homemade games, which includes many more examples from the childhood portfolios of now professional game designers (no registration required, please feel free to link to this feature from other websites).