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More than just gamers

One goal I had for myself this year was to get more involved with making video games, and that meant coming out of my cubby hole and seeing what I can learn to improve. Too long I’ve sat on “what I know is enough”. It was time to learn more and meet people, and my recent game developers meetup was the first step…and it was a good idea.

Something for everyone

Everyone likes different games. Some people like video games. Some people like card games. The list goes on. And then there’s subsets of those. I like shooter video games, you like RPG video games. You like poker, I like hearts. The problem is without other people you get stuck in your world all too easily. It’s easy to forget how many different ways there are to approach games and to what extent people take interest in them.

My game developer meetup was not just a great chance to meet other video game people, but a real eye opener to their interests. Sure, we are all game fans, otherwise we wouldn’t be there. I came to the meetup as a programmer and general designer…and to be honest, I was expecting a lot of the same, but when I arrived I found there were more than just gamers getting involved.

Making games means lots of choices

More than just techies

Of course, there were a lot of programmer folks there but there were also artists who care more about visuals than engines. And there was even a person who is exploring gaming for educational purposes. I don’t think they had interest in any specific part of game making, just trying to find a way to use games to get results. And to my surprise there was even a “real” video game dev there in someone that works for EA and was currently involved with the upcoming Bulletstorm game. I guess when I think “local” meetup I think folks in a startup or doing indie titles, not big budget games, but I guess it’s legal for those people to live outside of California, huh?

The meetup might have started off slow but it eventually got to a point where everyone was talking openly about the process of making games, and it was a lot of fun. I left the meetup really motivated. It was nice to meet others that are making games as a hobby like me and knowing that we’re all in the same boat…and that we all struggle. There wasn’t a lot of post-meetup chatting that explored the matching of talent but I hope that comes later. If anything, the meetup nailed the point home that a team is probably the best solution to make games. I plan on reaching out to other members to see if any artists want to work with me on games.

Sure, you can lone wolf it (like I am) but until you open your ideas up to others can it really take off. The key is making sure you open it up to the right group of people, and I think this meetup group is a good choice. Having a room full of people that love and know games just as much or more than you can make quite an impact. Talking game reviews with other friends is great but unless those friends are also into the idea of making a game, your attempts at going into the nuts and bolts will fall flat. It was great to jam with others that knew what you were talking about before you even said it. And it was even better to talk to people that are better than you, but that can also lead to problems.

Learning is painful

Perhaps the worst thing that came out of the meetup was knowledge. That sounds wrong but there is nothing worse than spending time setting up shop around certain methods only to find out a new way of doing things easily. Learning is a wonderfully dangerous activity. In our discussion of game dev tools, I learned about new engines and technologies that I should explore and probably use, like Unity, if I want to make better games…not the somewhat basic tool in Game Maker that I’m using now. It really got me thinking…and we all know that’s usually a bad thing. The other bad thing is that talking games with people gets my gears running and makes me want to jump right on it rather than finish the game I already have in the oven. Must…get…it…done…first.

It also hit home to me that the games I like most and want to make, arcade shooters, are incredibly niche and unpopular. I knew that going in but came out knowing it even more. And if anything, that was the great equalizer of knowledge. The tools I use now are good for making the games I want, but the advantage to new tools is portability. Now that we’re all on fancy phones and mobiles, it’s a group I need to think about and pursue, if for no other reason than the games I make work well on that type of platform.

If you like games, come join the fun

I’m glad I went to the meetup and will be going to the next meeting. This is the first “club” I’ve been in since fourth grade…and it feels good. I haven’t decided if I want to participate in the Global Game Jam at the end of the month, but I don’t think I would mind jamming with any of the folks I met a the meetup. In the end, we’re all gamers that just want to play and make fun games.