Anti-Aliased: Don't hate the playa, hate the developa

Seraphina Brennan
S. Brennan|08.19.10

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Anti-Aliased: Don't hate the playa, hate the developa
So I noticed something last week, in the comments section of my piece on UI design, that finally kicked me back into "endless rant" mode. It's a sentiment that I've noticed in the video game community at large for a while now, but I never really knew how to approach it until recently, thanks to my own life experiences with games. It's an idea that's pretty misinformed on how the industry works.

It's the idea that the developers behind any given game are an idiots. According to commenters, they're all blind, non-gamer morons, bumbling around in the dark without the slightest sense of what game mechanics are actually fun.

Why are these bumbling morons in the industry? Why don't they listen to the endless array of golden ideas that pop up on game forums? Don't they realize that these revolutionary ideas will turn every game into double-rainbow-crapping unicorns? Why haven't 15% of my readers (a totally accurate statistic, mind you) figured out how sarcastic I'm being at this point in the introduction?

This week we're going after some of the common misconceptions about developers and game design, and how making a game as complex as an MMO is really never as easy as you claim it is.

Developers never played a game in their life

So let's start this column off right by pointing out the stupidest thought ever: developers don't play games. For those of you in the audience who believe I'm completely making this up, I'm unfortunately not. There are people out there who really think that the people making games don't play games themselves.

"I totally created six full RPG systems that made rolling dice into the world's most boring activity."

Heck, there are people out there who think I haven't touched a game in my life. (To those of you who think that, I should mention that I keep a boxed copy of Asheron's Call 2 in the back of my car because I can. If that doesn't spell it out for you, I don't know what will.) These people are pretty much nuts, as the reason I took this job in the first place was to do what I loved -- talk about and comment on video games.

My feelings for the industry are the exact same feelings that many, many developers have. The reason we all got into this industry was because we loved playing games and we wanted to make them. We wanted to try our hands at crafting the perfect title, just so we can offer a great time to others.

We don't do this because the hours are easy. We don't do this because the pay is spectacular. (Protip: It's not.) We don't do it for the "fame." We do this because we love it.

The funny thing is, you don't realize that until you get into the industry. Once you're on the other side of the fence, you too will wonder why all the commenters think you've never played a game in your life. They will accuse you of that, trust me.

Making a fun game is easy

Misconception number two is something many people get wrong: They think it's easy to put together a great game. Really, only the inverse is true: It's easy to put together a pile of crap and call it a game.

I'm not on the seventh iteration of my pen and paper roleplaying game for no reason. I'm on the seventh iteration because the last six iterations were straight-up terribad. I totally created six full RPG systems that made rolling dice into the world's most boring activity. Once I found out how bad each of them was for roleplaying, I scrapped them and started fresh with a brand-new take on things. It was only when I hit my seventh iteration that things were finally fun for the players and stayed true to the themes I wanted to convey in my game. That entire process took me a year of working on the rules single-handedly.

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