So you want to make video games. Who wouldn't? It must be amazing creating new e-narratives and cyber stories. Working with a team of talented artists and programmers and probably Jennifer Hale, giving fans hours of joy, what could be better?
Anything. Literally anything could be better than working in video games. Despite its self-glamorization as a cool wolf pack having fun, wolf-packing around, the video game industry is serious business. And like any serious business, the people who make that serious business work are more or less interchangeable parts in a horrible machine of sadness. Don't believe me? List time!
Every video game is made by a group of people with their own hopes, dreams, and families. A lot of them are nice folks who are super excited to be part of the industry that shaped their childhood. So when you make your hilarious YouTube video mocking the shovelware in a Best Buy, try to remember that decent, mother-born humans were forced to create that Dora the Explorer game. And since around 90 to 99.9999% of games are total crap, you'll probably also be forced to make that Dora the Explorer game. Especially at the entry level, which in the video games means "the rest of your life."
Even if you're lucky enough to land that dream job at Valve or Nintendo or Blizzard, and you get to work on a beloved franchise, you'll hate it when you're done. Try enjoying Halo after you get reprimanded for slightly coloring Master Chief's helmet off the style guide. You won't. The magic will be gone: An endless universe filled with infinite stories will be replaced by a group of bug logs reporting that Nathan Drake's eyes are missing in cut scenes.
When Silent Hill Downpour lead designer Brian Gomez left the project this month, he said "I couldn't keep making the commute between Los Angeles and Brno for another 4-6 months." What a wuss! Just buy an audio book and suck it up, right?
Except that Brno isn't some suburb a traffic jam away from Los Angeles. It's in the Czech Republic. Because Brian Gomez is such a talented and in-demand designer, he was expected to spend the majority of his time in a country that's not the country where his wife and children live.
He's not the only one: job listings for video game companies often ask if applicants are willing to leave America. And stop getting excited, thinking it means you'll be shooting movies in the luscious hills of New Zealand. It just means you'll have to do your 18-hour programming day somewhere the one person willing to have sex with you isn't. Usually Poland.
Everyone hates you when you make video games. Everyone. Do something right, and fans will demand you do it again, right now. Do something wrong, and fans will demand that you change it immediately and then give them something free to make up for all the suffering they went through.
That trailer you spent months working on and getting approved is terrible! That Special Edition boxed set you designed only contains a cloth map? What a rip off! The console multiplayer mode you programmed doesn't support enough players. Boo! And the single-player campaign you wrote is a lot of fun, but way too short to be worth $50.
Like a sea of bad fathers, video game fans will never be happy with your work. And even if they are, the DRM your parent company forced you to put in the game means they're telling all their friends how to pirate it anyway.
No matter what job you get, people will think your job is a million times easier and more fun than it actually is. Civilians simply don't get how hard it is to make video games (and neither do you that's why you want to make video games). And when you explain what you do, you'll lose their interest in a heartbeat. Here's a reasonably accurate conversation you'll have every time your job comes up:
-"You make video games? Wow! That's awesome! What do you do?"-"I'm a tester."-"Wow! A tester! Lucky guy, getting to play video games all day."-"Actually, I just play one game every day. I've played it for a year now. I know every inch of every map. I know every secret, every lie that has been stitched into a universe made of empty polygons. I know how to melt down the entire network with one wrong item in my inventory. Every night, I dream of looped sound and text overruns. My wife left me after she tried to spice up our marriage and I said her dress wouldn't fit ESRB guidelines. I sometimes wonder if I am a character in a crueler video game. A video game about testers. And the only reason I have not killed myself is because I'm afraid that in this video game, there are continues."-"Wow, how do you even get a job in video games?"-"Craigslist."