Behind all the pixels and polygons lies one hell of a long road!
How many times have you been gaming with your friends and thought, “Man, I could do this! Making a game would be awesome!” The inherent problem with this thought is (even among those considering game design on the college level) people often don’t realize what their getting themselves into. While the finished product (and subsequent media hype that goes with it) can be alluring to the young minds of graphic designers and programmers of today; often times the real horror stories of what goes on behind the scenes are left unknown.
We’re all aware of what a huge pop-culture icon Doom has become. In 1993, the game (created by id Software) literally helped define the first person shooter genre (or at the very least, took it to a new level). Over twenty years later, one of the men in charge of bringing the game to the masses (Creative Director Tom Hall) recently revealed just how hard it was to finally finish the SOB. “In the early days of id…we worked 14 to 16 hours a day, seven days a week, with little outside contact.” he said. Now, imagine the job you currently hold. Even if you love it, can you envision working weeks on end without getting a single day off? Hall states this was the norm with the creation of Doom. “Taking a weekend off was looked on with disdain. Playing fighting games, often on the Neo-Geo, was one of our few releases.” He recalls.
So you still wanna’ be in games, huh?
By no means am I intending to discourage anyone from chasing their dream of breaking into the game industry. I say CHASE THOSE DREAMS! However, I think it’s important to approach it with clear expectations. If you plan to leave college with a video game degree of some kind (meaning graphics design, programing, etc.), you should realize that your life is never going to be a typical 9-5. Most studios in gaming (as it is with film and television alike) expect you to deliver results. What that means is YOUR personal life is nowhere near as important as THEIR release date. Remember, game development has only gotten more hectic and stressful since the days of Doom and the early 90’s. I would recommend contacting some folks in your field (perhaps a few years ahead of you) that have experience doing what you one day hope to do. I suspect you’ll hear similar tales (depicting nights spent sleeping in the office in order to meet a deadline), along with others that might cast working in the game industry in a whole new light.
It’s easy to get lost in the excitement of a finished game or film and think, “I desperately want to be a part of that.” In this case however, it’s important to remember that it’s about the journey, not the destination. There really isn’t that much glamor that comes with toiling away at your computer for 15+ hours, trying to get that last texture map to work just right. It takes a certain kind of person (with a certain level of passion) to work in this industry.
Ask yourself, is that really me?