Advice is good.
I take to heart the advice I hear from people I consider successful. I would be the world’s most arrogant person if I didn’t. Over and over again, I hear them say, “Always have a reason for everything that you do.”
There’s a catch, though. It can never be money. It can never be fame. They will say, “Wealth and fame are an illusion.” If the reason you’re doing something is money or fame, then you’re doing it wrong. You might not fail. You might even thrive. But if you do it for money or fame, what you’re doing won’t have a point. It won’t be guided by any principles. You will be guided solely by the pursuit of profit and you will do whatever it takes to get it. That’s not good.
That is not to say that money isn’t good. Money is good. As an economist, I’ve learned the proper role of money. Profit is the means of measuring whether or not you are making something that benefits someone. That’s all it is. Someone values your work enough to compensate you for your time and work. Profit is the goal of a business, because profit means the business is working correctly. Profit cannot be the goal of a person.
What are my reasons?
Reason 1: I have stories to tell.
The simple fact of the matter is that my brain is overflowing with stories I want to tell. I have been a gamer since the days of playing on a Commodore Amiga 1000 at the age of 6. We stupidly gave it away and we only had a typewriter for a few years. That’s when I started writing. For as long as I remember, I’ve always imagined my stories with a cinematic flare. It’s probably because I’m a very visual person. Whenever I write, I think of how it would be translated into a movie. Not because I think anything I do would be licensed for a movie one day, but because that’s just how I think.
I love books, don’t get me wrong. I love movies, too. But when I write stories, I realize I can never describe things perfectly. I know everyone will walk away with different ideas. (Just look at the level of description in The Lord of the Rings. All that painstaking description and the movies were still mixed up from what I’d imagined.) I know I can’t make movies. That’s entirely not in my skill set, and I just don’t want to make them.
More than a visual story, I want interactive stories. I want people to be able to pick the path they want, but still be my story. I don’t want to make a story on rails. C.S. Lewis once said, “I can’t imagine a man really enjoying a book and reading it only once.” I don’t entirely agree with that. I mean, I’ve read The Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia multiple times, but most books I read once and move on. It’s not because I don’t think they’re not good, but it’s because I’m capable of clearly remembering the story and if I read it again, it’d just be the same experience.
That is my first reason: I have stories to tell. Visual stories. Interactive stories.
Reason 2: Too many games are on rails.
I’m sick of stories on rails. If you play it once, you’ve played it. It’s over. If you play it again, it’ll be the same. I don’t want to get into game design philosophy at this point, so suffice it to say that I think modern games are too restricted. Stories have a beginning and end, obviously, but games are increasingly becoming a type of “use your keyboard to watch this movie” experience.
I’m tired of wasting my time on games that don’t let me do what I want. If the only chance I have of affecting the story is the player character dying because I didn’t shoot fast enough and I have to replay the level, you really are better off just making a movie. The story might be amazing, but it’s too narrow of an experience. It would be perfect as a movie, not as a game. At the very least, games should have multiple ways of approaching the objectives, but even that is less and less of something games provide. There is too much of doing one thing in a game over and over and over again until you do it a certain way.
That is my second reason: I want to play games that give me choices. Since so few make them, I will make them!
Reason 3: Too many games do it wrong.
It seems arrogant to just out and say, “Your game did it wrong. I know how to do it better.” It seems arrogant, but there’s always that little kernel of “I can do it better” that moves people to creation. You take the general idea of something and you improve upon it in a way that seems better to you. I keep playing games that I enjoy very much, but there’s always this one thing that makes me go, “Your game would have been better than good if you just focused on this feature a little more.”
I want to be clear that I’m not bashing a game when I say this about a game. I don’t know the reason why a game doesn’t focus on a certain feature. Maybe it wasn’t the point of the game. Maybe they didn’t notice it. Maybe ran out of time. Maybe they didn’t notice it at all. Like how Orcs Must Die didn’t have multiplayer until the second version. That was a game that needed multiplayer. They fixed it with Orcs Must Die 2, but it’s still an example of a game that had room for improvement.
Another example is Telltale’s The Walking Dead series of games. (Bias warning: I absolutely love them. I think Telltale games are some of the best PC games at the moment.) The game is fantastic! I’ve watched many plays on YouTube and played it myself. Experiencing the game that many times with so many divergent choices being made each time made me notice something. There are too many fixed points. No matter how far apart two directions could possibly be, there is always some part of the story you’ll arrive at that will have the same outcome no matter what. This has to happen to some extent, and, like I said above, it could be for any number of reasons. I just think they happen far too often.
That is my third reason: I think there are issues in certain genres of games that I can improve upon in my own games.
Are these good reasons?
I have no idea. But they are reasons. Reasons that aren’t money and fame. It seems like it’s an odd fusion of selfishness and selflessness. On the one hand, I believe I am for some reason the only person who thinks there are things wrong with games and that I know how to fix them. On the other hand, I believe other people are wanting the same things fixed and would love games that take a different approach, so I will make those games for myself and those people.
There is more to what I want to do than just those reasons, too. I have a very clear idea of what I think makes games good, but that will be for the next post. These are just the reasons why I want to make games. I don’t know if they’re good enough, but at least I have some. Only time will show if they prove to be enough, and I’m sure I’ll change my mind as time goes on, as well.