Here’s a fun little exercise: if you’re passionate about making video games, tell yourself that the real money in the video game industry is in churning out boring, simplistic casual games for middle-aged housewives, and watch as you quickly lose all interest in video games, give up on the whole medium, and fall into a nihilistic depression. If you’re an author, you can achieve a similar effect by telling yourself that the real money is in churning out formulaic, third-grade-reading-level romance novels, and if you’re a painter, you can tell yourself that the real money is in “personalizing” Thomas Kincaid paintings at the mall.
Fortunately, after spending the last month having given up on video games altogether, rediscovering scotch, catching up on my Dashiell Hammett reading and seriously considering going back to school and getting a Ph.D. in Physics, a new video game project has been forced upon me, rekindling my lifelong video-game-makin’ passions. Maybe I needed to take a month off from all things video game — actually, the fact that I was seriously considering making casual games is undeniable proof that I needed to take a break from video games. It hasn’t all been a waste, though; I’ve gained some insights into comic book publishing and non-comic book marketing that I think have applications in video games (although I’m still trying to figure out how you’d do a “reading” of a video game, not that Gamestop is set up for that kind of thing to begin with). I also think that I’d gotten myself too “steeped” in video game culture and was getting overwhelmed by it, and now that I’m back from my break from it I’m going to exercise a LOT more moderation.
In case anyone’s wondering, here’s how the world conspired to get me back into video games: Last Thursday, I picked up my Neo-Geo from the cafe where it’s lived for the last 8 years because the cafe’s going out of business. Since then, I’ve been giving it a much needed cleaning and overhaul, and have been playing a lot of Samurai Shodown IV and Last Blade 2. Last Sunday, my wife and I had dinner in a bar, and our table was right next to one of those bar-top horrible-excuses-for-a-video-game that has like 50 different casual games in it, and while we sat eating I kept watching the game demos and thinking how god awful each and every one of the games on the machine looked, and by extension how god awful all casual games are, which brought me to the realization that I really don’t want to make casual games at all, no matter how profitable they are. And lastly, an artist has been emailing me for the last couple of weeks about a game he wants to make, and has been actually working on sprites for the game. Last night I combined the artwork he’s provided so far with an updated version of an engine I’d written. It looked great, and it played great, and suddenly I was back in the game (so to speak).
- Don’t immerse yourself in your passions to the point that you get overwhelmed by them. (That sounds dirty.)
- FUCK casual games, right in the ear.