I stopped writing at some point in 2010, and since then I have toyed with the idea of starting again. It is not because I enjoy writing; for some reason I have a really hard time structuring what I want to say in any form of writing, so much that I even struggle with emails. The real reason I keep trying to come back and put my thoughts in print is because I worry that all of my experiences and learnings will be worth nothing if I never share them. If the story is never told, did it even happen?
I work in an industry that is all about "stealth mode" and secrets. There are some aspects of my work that I can never write about. Still, I believe that high tide floats all boats, and collective success is better than cutthroat competition. The nice thing about product design is we can deconstruct and learn from everything on the market; the learnings are all out in the open for anyone capable of analyzing them. If we can share our learnings and edify each other along the way, even better. I want to see my field moving forward by leaps and bounds, while always "paying it forward" for others to benefit from. What I am trying to say is, I want to write about what I have learned!
I will start with some ideas about the game industry. For one, I believe that game design is an art. Regardless of whether the finished products constitute "good" works of art, the fact of the matter is that this is a hits-driven business, with a few big hits and a lot of misses. I mention this because in the past five years I have watched a lot of investment capital entering the games industry. Money is exciting and I have benefited from this capital more than once, but investing in games is not as simple as investing in sales or services. It is more like investing in books or movies. There is always an art aspect (connecting with the audience, resonating with their emotions) that influences the success of any game, and this is not so easy to guarantee. There is a lot of uncertainty and risk associated with such a creative endeavor that makes every P&L messy. At the end of the day you can have the right people and plenty of resources and tons of time and effort invested and still end up with a product no one will use. Even when you have a "hit," the reality sets in: how do you scale art? You cannot just make more of it. How do you keep people around? They are playing your game because they like it, and they can move on at any time. You might just be the flavor of the week. Even if you have a new title lined up to follow your success, there is no guarantee that every game will be a hit. Every designer has their duds. You cannot win them all.
I should qualify my statements here: there are a lot of opportunities in the games industry worth investing in. There are many smart platform / tech / service plays that have the potential to generate big returns. The medium is always valuable. I have just witnessed a lot of money going toward the actual content, the games, and that has always seemed a bit shortsighted, only because you cannot put a P&L on art. A game is either good, or not worth releasing. You have to keep working on it until it is ready, regardless of the budget. You cannot cut corners. If it is not fun, then you may as well scrap it. There is no sense in trying to "break even." Either you have a big win, or you die trying. It is not for the faint of heart.
Backtracking a bit, am I saying that games are not valuable? Of course not. If that were true, I would not bother designing them. I believe that a great game, like any great content, is priceless. When you have something that people genuinely connect with, that engages audiences, that makes people happy — you cannot diminish the value of something like that. My belief is that there will never be a shortage of great games. There will always be new ideas, new surprises, and new hits. This is my "supply and demand" idea about games (or any type of art):
Supply: never enough
Given the opportunity, I will always pursue making new games. I also would never make any attempts to prevent others from making new games, too. There is no sense in trying to "control the market." Art is subjective and there should always be more of it. If we can make more great games, we can reach more people more often and they will reward us for it. That is the beauty of making art… and while we are on the subject, I may as well write about it. Or something.
Until I write again, I would like to connect with more people in the games industry, and open the doors for dialogue on topics like these. If you would like to talk, let's connect. How about Twitter?