Video Game development is a very creative process, there’s no denying it. From story to sound design, each part of game design requires dedication and planning to mesh together perfectly. It is, therefore, inevitable that the artists look to themselves for inspiration many a time. They let their imagination loose in their hopes, dreams and experiences, and transform them into a sort of ‘fake’ reality for us consumers to explore.
We players seldom think of the developers. Their lives remain non-important to us as we expect them to serve us more and more of what we love. But open those doors, and it’s a whole different world out there.
Take the case of Heart Machine’s game, Hyper Light Drifter. Reminiscent of the old Legend of Zelda games, HLD revolves around a nomad searching for a cure to it’s life threatening disease. In an interview with Rock, Paper, Shotgun, Alex Preston, the game’s creator, revealed he’s been struggling with heart disease himself. “I can’t live my life in a typical fashion that most people can.” Alex was born with a heart condition, and has lived with it all his life. He’s played a lot of video games, and wanted to create one himself. Thus, he created a game about a wanderer with problems of it’s own. It’s quite a straightforward example of how the developer gets in the game.
Then, there’s the little known developer Acid Wizard Studio, and their game Darkwood. A top-down horror game, it hinges on the fear of the unknown to create tense, creepy moments. “Sometimes I wake up and I see something on the wall; sometimes I just stare at it, sometimes I want to kill it.” In Kotaku’s piece about the indie studio, the developers reveal their inspiration. Suffering from a condition known as ‘night terrors’, two out of the three devs wake up at night to experience great horror and fear. But they’ve found a way to fight back, by transforming their dreams into their art. The visuals in Darkwood all have an eerie feel to it, but now you know that this is what they deal with in their everyday lives.
Sometimes I wake up and I see something on the wall; sometimes I just stare at it, sometimes I want to kill it
It’s not all happy endings, however. Fez, the puzzle platformer, unique for its perspective shifting mechanic, was the brain child of Phil Fish. He’s had one of the most horrible experiences I’ve ever heard of in the gaming industry. A 5-year long development period put immense stress on him and his team. When the game was finally released, it was well received. Phil, however, was not. In fact, he’d been known for aggressive statements on media. In an argument with journalist Marcus Beer, he reportedly called him a “middle-aged parasite”, alongside more vile language. He cancelled Fez 2 in a surprise tweet, and went on to leave the industry (and Twitter) following a hack on Polytron, the studio behind Fez. What a way to go…
Nothing is worth this. To every aspiring game developer out there: Don’t. give up. It’s not worth it.
– Phil Fish (Twitter)
Game development can often take over the lives of the developers. Huge workload and tight deadlines can cause them to ignore their personal well being. This has led to what developers call the ‘Crunch’, a practice wherein people dedicate upwards of 80 hours a week to their work. 12+ hours a day, 6 days a week. That’s is the kind of work they put in to deliver a finished product.
So, the next time you play your favourite game, take a moment to think about the people who made it possible to do so.