At the recent ‘Meet the Game Press’ event there was a panel session with a number of respected journalists. At one point someone in the audience asked a question about how to get into game journalism, and one of the responses made me reflect on something that is very dear to my heart: the motivation for why I create games.
The answer to the question came from Keith Andrew from Pocket Gamer and it was as simple as it was insightful: “you have to love writing. It doesn’t matter what you are tasked with writing about, you have to love the act of writing”. I’m paraphrasing Keith’s actual response but the essence is the same.
Keith’s comment brought to mind a critical point in my own career just over 2 years ago; I was still working at Rare at the time, but I, like many veteran game developers, had become increasingly disillusioned with the business of making games. A combination of the stresses of large team development, constant focus on profit-making and a general shift in the nature of making games made me call in to question my motivation for continuing to do it. I contemplated the unthinkable: quitting game development and taking a different path in life. It took a lot of soul searching to come to the conclusion that it wasn’t making games that I was tired of, it was that I’d moved so far away from the actual creation process that it left me feeling like I’d lost my way. I’d fallen off the path.
The idea of a ‘way’ or a ‘path’ through life has a strong resonance with me. I’ve practised the Japanese martial art of Aikido (合気道) for many years and this has had a strong influence on me. In Japanese the final character of Aikido ‘道’ (transliterated as ‘dou’ but pronounced more like ‘doe’), translates roughly into English as ‘way’ or ‘path’, but what it really means is a life long dedication to a particular journey through life. In Japan it is applied to many traditional areas of arts and crafts and following a ‘dou’ takes great devotion, commitment and no small amount of passion.
Over the years I’ve come to believe firmly that making games is my ‘dou’. It’s what I’m here to do. It’s my path through life. It’s what I think about when I first wake in the morning, and what pervades my thoughts as I drift off to sleep. Like many people, the seeds were sown when I started playing games, but after I started making games professionally, the joy of playing games quickly got caught and overtaken by the excitement of making games. And this is crux. To be truly amazing at anything you have to love doing it. No matter how much you enjoy playing games, it isn’t enough. It won’t get you through the tough times, the ups and downs, the constant obstacles that are thrown in your path. That requires dedication, focus and a lot of passion for the process of making games.
I’ve met many wonderful people during my 15 years in games, almost all of who love playing games. But the ones that have most inspired me and invariably went on to greater things, were the ones who internalised making great games as a way of life. In the old days at Rare there was only one company ideal: “Create great games”. I hope to continue that with what we do at Nyamyam.