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Playing Games vs Making Games

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There are a lot of gamers out there that want to make the next big game. Unfortunately the vast majority of them don’t realize there is a big difference between playing games and making games. They browse online asking the same questions: “I liked game X. How do I make a game like game X?” or “My mates and me want to produce a game like X, where do we start?” So much work goes into making games that it is hard to describe it all in a single short article.

You hear from a lot of places that making games is fun. However, a lot of work goes into making a game and it is not fun for most. If you don’t think solving problems and working out solutions to them is fun then it won’t be fun for you. There is a certain fun involved in seeing your creation on your computer screen but a lot never see any results from all their efforts.

There is a difference though between a hobbyist, independent, and professional game maker. A lot of people who ask how to make games want to be professional game programmers. They want to make big hits that cost millions of dollars to produce and thousands of hours worth of work. Being a hobbyist is a lot different. A hobbyist game maker tinkers with game programming. They try and make small games for fun. Being a hobbyist game maker can, and does, lead to the other two categories. Not every hobbyist will make it to being an independent or professional game programmer. Some never truly ever finish even a simple game and are quite happy where they are tinkering with game programming.

The path of an independent game programmer is a step up from being a hobbyist. You wear a lot of hats as an independent game programmer. You are responsible for all aspects of a game from design, to programming, to art assets, to production, to promotion, and many other aspects. A lot of time and money goes into producing an independent title. I’d say that there is a high failure rate of indie games. Many projects that are started never come to fruition. This is where most people who ask: “I liked game X. How do I make a game like game X?” fall into.

A professional game programmer is also different from the other two. They’ve learned programming back and forward and have made it into a game development studio. The hours are long and the work is arduous. They sometimes dream of being an indie developer, creating their own title, but from all the work that they do at their job they just don’t have to time or energy to work on a game at home. They also realize everything else that goes into making game from their experience at a game development studio.

Just because you know how to play games doesn’t mean that you can make games.

5 Comments On This Entry

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Fib Icon

01 December 2011 - 12:55 PM
Amen brother!
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Kilorn Icon

01 December 2011 - 01:42 PM
I couldn't have said it better myself. Well done, Jamie.
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Apokio Icon

01 December 2011 - 03:10 PM
Nice post, I am right there with you. I often think of trying to go to work for a game development studio but then I realize that I will never want to work on my personal game projects and possibly could run into some issues if one happens to make it big. I enjoy tinkering with game programming and learning new concepts but I want to continue to enjoy that.
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Curtis Rutland Icon

01 December 2011 - 04:23 PM
I wouldn't let that stop you from exploring your career options. I'd say, give professional game programming a shot if you've got the chops for it. What's the worst that could happen? You don't like it: you quit. Try to work at a studio for a few years and see if you still feel that way. You could turn out loving it.
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negligible Icon

02 December 2011 - 07:25 AM
You should really watch Extra Credits, its a series on video gaming done in kinda lecture style and I was reminded of it straight away after reading your post. The entire series is pretty interesting if you are into that sort of thing.

This episode is very relevant to this topic IIRC.
http://penny-arcade....a-game-designer
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