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  • You Can Make Games

    - Mare Sheppard
  • [In this article from Game Developer magazine's 2012 Game Career Guide issue, Mare Sheppard explains why everyone -- even you! -- can make video games.]

    You probably have a passion for playing video games. Why else would you be reading this? Games take you on a journey through their world, immersing you in their language and rules as you explore. It's almost magical how games can inspire you to learn their mechanics and behaviors and to develop your skills, growing as a player along the way. And if you enjoy playing games, you may have started thinking about how to make them. Contemplating how games are composed and designed, and how people built their worlds, characters, and interfaces, can help you understand how games work, what makes them fun, and what you might do differently if you had the chance.

    If the above resonates with you, I have good news: You can make games. I can say that with confidence, even though I have no idea who you are. You could be a 67-year-old grandmother, an 18-year-old guy with an interest in music, a 23-year-old woman just finishing her college education, a 45-year-old firefighter -- whoever you are, whatever your interests, you can make games.

    Why make games?

    Make games because you love them. For me, I make games as part of a two-person indie developer called Metanet Software because there are games we really want to play that don't yet exist beyond our imaginations. So we create them ourselves! We like working as part of a small team because we needed to have complete creative control in order to bring those game ideas to life, and because we each also happen to have a variety of skills, such as game design, art, programming, and so on.

    But you don't have to make games in small teams. If you would rather specialize in one particular area, such as 3D modeling or database programming, you could be an integral part of a larger development team -- maybe at a big-budget triple-A team of hundreds or at a leaner indie studio with a couple dozen employees. If you're a designer, or if you want to first sketch out some ideas until you have a feel for what you can do and what you most enjoy, you might start out on your own. Making games means different things to different people: It can mean singlehandedly constructing the entire game from start to finish, or it can mean contributing just one small, carefully crafted part. It's all about experimenting until you discover what satisfies you the most.

    How can you be sure I can make games?

    Because anyone can, if they try. Your age, race, sex, religion, social status, height -- none of this matters. All you really need to get started is a passion for games. Even having no prior experience in games can be a good thing; if you're new, you won't necessarily be operating within the established "rules," which allows you to explore unconventional solutions with creativity and innovation. No one is born a perfect game developer, fully formed. They get better by practicing their skills over time, and all of the skills you need to make games are naturally attainable by every single human on this planet.

    If you're concerned about what you bring to the table, especially in such a saturated industry, consider this: What distinguishes you from everyone else is the exclusive mélange of your intrinsic talents, your opinions, and your skills, cultivated over the course of your life and shaped by your unique circumstances. Everyone benefits from having diverse opinions and people in a field, and you can contribute to that diversity with input no one else can give. Whatever your circumstances, whatever your stats, making games is something you can do.


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