My friend Eduardo Baraf has been making games for his entire career. He recently posted a video that’s part philosophy, part motivational speech about making games. I’ve only been doing this seriously for about four years, but what he said really resonated with me. Here’s my commentary on what stood out to me from the video.
Think Of Yourself As An Artist
You can think about making games (like making other forms of entertainment) as both a business endeavor and as an artistic endeavor. On the one hand, game makers are designing products to sell in the marketplace. On the other hand, they are creating experiences that will nourish the souls of those who experience them — as well as their own souls through the process of creating them. I see Eduardo’s advice as a call to all of us to focus on the artistic side of making games:
“Being a creator — being somebody who puts their heart and soul into a product and brings it to others — is incredible. The rewards are huge, and it is so quickly dwarfs the effort. You hear how they’re playing it and enjoying it, that’s a memory that’s now a part of their lives. There is so much joy that you can get and feel from the experience of others playing your game, from the joy that they’re having.”
“Making a game takes time, commitment, and effort. Over time, I’ve come to appreciate that it’s the journey, it’s the adventure. It’s the learning, exploring the design, who you’re working with, getting to know your teammates. It’s really important that you enjoy the moments of it. Games are entertainment, which is a hit-driven business. It’s really easy to have something that misses for no good reason. If you get so caught up in the end, you’re working hard, you’re working hard, and you don’t enjoy the travels, and then it’s gone.”
Making games will grow you as a person and bring joy to other people’s lives. It’s certainly wonderful when you can also make money doing those things, but never lose sight of the artistic nature of what you are doing.
He calls out some really important questions to ask yourself as you make games:
- Skill — What is it that you are good at?
- Satisfaction - What is it that brings you joy in life?
- Objective — What are you trying to accomplish?
It’s fine if you don’t know the answers when you start. I certainly didn’t. (You can read a little about my own journey so far in my post “How I Became A Board Game Publisher.”) In many ways, I’m still exploring all of these:
“You might not know, and making games is a way to learn. You might not know until your third game or your fourth game or your tenth game. Be introspective as you make games and figure it out.”
As far as your objective goes, remember that you don’t have to have the same objective as everyone else. There are lots of ways to find personal satisfaction making games:
“Creating something doesn’t have to be about making a product or making money.”
Don’t sell yourself short, of course: if you want to start a business or sell your game to a publisher, then by all means work towards that. But you don’t have to take other people’s objectives and apply them to yourself: it’s perfectly fine to find your path.
Making Games Is A Lifelong Discipline
Inherent in this idea of introspection is the notion that making games can be a lifelong discipline. Eduardo doesn’t emphasize this point much, but he does mention his experience at the beginning:
“I’ve been making games my entire career. 15+ years. Independent, for companies. Video games, card games, board games. Dozens and dozens of products.”
Each project is a journey, yes, but being a game maker can be a much larger journey if you want it to be.
When I first started, I had a short-term objective to make a game and run a Kickstarter campaign. (Looking back, I would say I was primarily interested in moving a couple items from my bucket list to my resume back then.) That was a perfectly reasonable objective, and I wouldn’t fault anyone who gets that far and decides to move on to other types of creative work. But I fell in love with making games, with the challenge it brings me and with the joy it brings to other people, and my objective has now shifted to something much longer-term: my goal now is to study, practice, and make relationships that will help me get better and better at making games.
Eduardo emphasizes these points a little differently, and he covers other points I didn’t include in this post. I highly recommend you check out the full video: So You Want To Make A Game