Q: What are you doing now?
A: I’ve been running the Games Research division for HCD Research, a marketing and consumer science company focused on traditional and applied consumer neuroscience research. We use a wide array of tools including qual/quant, statistical analysis, biometrics and psychophysiology to figure out what makes great games great and not-so-great games… well… you know.
Q: Why don’t you post here more often?
A: While there was a time when the Blog reigned supreme, these days it’s much easier (for writers AND readers) to use tools like Twitter and Facebook on a day to day basis – especially when you’re the sort of person who travels a fair amount.
I’ll still post here from time to time when I have detailed things to discuss, but for more regular updates, follow me via the these links:
Q: I have no industry experience or specific applicable skills, but I want to make video games! What should I do?
A: This advice is generally for “design-oriented” folks:
– Play lots of games – and not just video games. You can learn a lot about fundamental design concepts, gameplay styles and interactions by looking closely at “traditional” games. Make sure to broaden your focus and play games you think you’ll hate and try to understand why other people love them.
– Make games. Any kind of games. Obviously, make video games if you can. There are a lot of free (or nearly-free) engines and toolkits available. Many of them are suitable for solo/novice use.
If you can’t figure out how to use one of the free engines that exist for video game development, make a card game or a board game. Take an existing game and tweak it by adding or changing the rules. Then play your “house rules” version with friends or family and see how they react.
The key is to learn to think like a designer, not just a player (though never forget how to think like a player as well!).
– Build or contribute to a mod. In many ways, I think joining a team is BETTER than doing it alone. There are TONS of mod projects of all shapes, sorts and scales out there and nearly all of them need additional help of some kind. Find one that you can contribute to and volunteer. This will get you working with useful tools and teach you what it’s like to work with a team on a production level. It will also build connections with people who share your interest in development.
– When the time comes to finally go and look for a “real job”, get your foot in the door any way you can, then work hard and learn the necessary skills to improve yourself and advance. There really isn’t any other way. Getting a job in tech support or quality assurance is a good first step in SOME STUDIOS. Some studios work closely with their QA/CS teams. Some studios outsource that work or house QA/CS in completely different facilities. You’ll want to be at LEAST in the same city as the actual developers (preferably, in the same building). Do some research ahead of time to be sure.
Q: Why don’t you post on [insert name of forum/website] anymore?
A: For the same reason I don’t post many blog entries anymore. We live in a world of Tweetbooks and Facetegrams, so it’s just easier and more efficient to chat with people that way.
Q: I have a game idea or proposal. Can you help me with it?
A: For legal reasons, I do not look at game proposals unless the people providing them have taken me on as an employee (full time or contract) with a proper, binding NDA and non-compete agreement. This is to protect you as much as me – you don’t want your idea getting stolen and I don’t want to be wrongly accused of stealing it.
Beyond that, I’ll just offer a few words of general advice for people with “Big Idea” proposals:
When it comes to game development, the easiest part of the process is usually “The Big Idea”. The setting, the story, the characters, the basic premise of the game and the overall gameplay ideas are never the areas that make the process of making a game difficult. As a result, they’re almost never something game studios are interested in accepting from outside sources.
Everyone who is a fan of games is likely to have a pretty well-formed game design idea rattling around in their head somewhere and that goes double for folks who make games for a living. For this – as well as a variety of legal reasons – most developers won’t even LOOK at unsolicited game proposals from outside sources.
This doesn’t mean you can’t “go indie” and build something great on your own. Lots of people do and their work is sometimes extraordinary. Just bear in mind that – if you can’t do most of the work alone – that usual means finding volunteers among the people you already know to do the work.
Q: People sometimes call you “Rev. Dr.” – what’s up with that?
A: I’m an ordained minister with an honorary doctorate in Metaphysics from the Universal Life Church. Why? Because I needed to preside over my best friend’s wedding a while back and I had to be ordained to do it legally in the state where the wedding took place. It only cost $25 and for an extra $5, they threw in the “doctorate”. Based on how much it cost me to get my first college degrees, that seemed like a real bargain.