Though I haven't always known that I wanted to create video games for a career, playing games has been one of my passions for as long as I can remember. From vocabulary-building games on the Apple II GS to Dragon Warrior on the Nintendo Entertainment System, there is scarcely a time in my life that I don't associate with some sort of game. It has influenced my family relationships (to this day I play games with my mother) and is a cornerstone in many of my friendships. I suppose that it shouldn't have taken me until college to figure out that game design was what I wanted to do -- but it did, and in my own way I'm grateful for it.
The Journey to Game Design
It was summer of 2000 and I had just recently arrived in Vancouver to study at the University of British Columbia. I was taking first year programming, but my field of study was Japanese. I had hoped to finally learn the language, but it wasn’t going so well. I spent my days learning about the history of Asia, how to write simple programs in Scheme, and lamenting about how I should have taken that no credit pre-calc class because the “college algebra” class I took in high school simply didn’t prepare me for calculus. Meanwhile, my nights were spent as usual: playing games.
I'm not a solitary gamer by nature, so I was delighted when my cousin, who's also a gamer, told me he was moving back to town. Every Friday night like clockwork we'd settle down for a solid weekend of gaming. We played classic RPGs like Tales of Symphonia, survival horror games like Resident Evil, and even a few MMOs like Final Fantasy XI.
But we didn't just play the games -- we analyzed them. We talked about everything from storylines to gameplay dynamics, what we liked and what we didn't like. We brainstormed what gameplay features would have been effective in a certain game, and what we would do if we were to make a game. We had dreams of creating our own MMO, or maybe it was just my dream and he was running with it because it was fun to talk about.
One of my strongest memories from that time is when my cousin and I were at a game retail store rattling on about some game or other, and the clerk behind the counter asked, "Are you two in the industry?"
"Uh ... no?" Our answer clearly surprised him because, to him anyway, we sounded like professionals. I'm sure actual professionals would disagree, but it felt good to hear that. It felt empowering.
So I guess that it was around that time that I started thinking, "Maybe, just maybe, I could actually design games for a living."