Making games is tough. This job, you will realize, is nothing like what it says on the brochure. No dials to turn, no tightening of graphics. Sure, we are not Ice Road Truckers — life could be worse — but the days are long, and the effort great, if you want to create those games we all dream about making. Triple A products do not materialize out of thin air. They take vast amounts of effort from varied and talented people; and no matter how bright your eyes when first jumping into those trenches, over the course of a project, they dim – maybe not a lot, but more than you’d like.
It’s a harsh truth. The truly harsh part about it, for designers, is that I feel it affects one of the truly important aspects of doing this job well. Designer must always keep one finger on the pulse of their inner child. That sense of wonder, that one we used to feel, that insatiable hunger for new experiences, and that passion to make games. It’s this sense of wonder that dims over the course of a project, and it can be especially hard to remember through the haze of a 2am crunch.
But I have a secret weapon.
Ok, it’s not a secret, but it is a weapon. A few years ago I received an e-mail from my little cousin. It was his “game design document”, and frankly, it owns. Though he might be embarrassed that I’d share it with the world, I would hope he is proud.
Here is the message, unedited, and in it’s entirety:
My video game
First you pick your team ninja dog or monkey. On each team there are 4 players.2 male 2 female. each player has different stats. At the end of each level you can make your stats higher with the points that you earned. you can also by weapons & clothing at the shop with your points.there are check points every once and awhile lv.1 THE SNAKE PIT. First you start out in a canyon, You will find a hidden box once you open the box you grab the key inside it. The key unlocks a door farther down the canyon. You go inside & it is a cave lit by neon crystals all around. You come out and find yourself face to face with the kung fu master snake & his army. You have to fight them, but when you make the first strike, the snake tells his minions to flee. after you have defeated snake you must find your way out of the canyon. Along the way snake’s minions come to fight. You’ve made it out of the canyon and find yourself in a forest.
Lv. 2 THE EYES IN THE BUSH. You made it into the forest and jump up into the trees because you see something. It was a pair of eyes staring strait at him/her. He/she just ignored it and thought it was just nothing. so he/she jumped down and it jumped out, it was a tiger. it chased him/her through the forest, but there was an impass all of tigers minions were there. It was a camp, no one noticed him until the tiger yelled intruder. Then tiger faced what ever player was playing. When the player defeats the tiger the minions get mad so they chase him into the river where he/she finds a boat. The player races down a raging river until there’s a fork in the river when you go one way, the minions went the other and fell off a waterfall. you find a bay then find yourself trapped in the snowy mountains.
This is it, people! Right here!
I re-read this e-mail once a year — bare minimum — and I definitely read it every time I start to crunch on a new project. It’s not going to win any awards for “exciting new game concept”, and it’s not going to win any writing awards, but damn. It gets me so excited!
That’s exactly what we need to be, just like that, all the fucking time. Do you even remember being that damn excited about your own ideas? Remember when the WHOLE WORLD was that awesome? He can barely get the words and ideas down on paper fast enough. The sentences playfully smash into each other in a super pumped videogame orgasm.
Whenever I start to forget why I get up and go through another less than glamourous day of eye-bleeding excel work, I read this. I get up because frankly, if I don’t, I’m not just letting him down, I’m letting that part deep inside of me down. I know it’s still in there, and I know it’s still super pumped. Sometimes I just gotta be reminded he’s there, and so do we all.