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Why do we do it?

Warning in advance...this post is a little of the cheesy, motivational, and introspective variety


I'm often asked why we do what we do. What drives us? What motivates people to work in games?

Many presume it is just because we either love games, or love creating things, and while yes, we like to create, many in the industry are certainly creative types who have a passion for the act of creation...but to be honest, that doesn't really touch on one of the most important reasons, one of the primary motivations I have found underpins game development, or indeed any creative process.

I was trying to put this reason into words, when a friend on Facebook happened to post a concert video, and watching it (since I like the band) made me realise it actually made the point for me perfectly, so I had to share...


The crowd takes that song from the band, it isn't just a song someone wrote, performed, recorded and sold, it is something that means something to a lot of people...


...take a look at 0:43 and again at 1:25 and at the end of 5:21, look at his smile. That's a genuine smile, a genuine appreciation of the audience...it is the kind of validation that no amount of salary, fame, infamy, lifestyle or bonuses can match.


Metaphorically it is also why many of us make games...(or in my case, hopefully allowing others to make games to the best of their ability)...whenever I am tired, stressed or worn out, that video kind of captures what reminds me it is all worth it...You.


While not the same as a rock concert of course, there are still hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, or for some developers even millions, of people out there who love playing these games. in the same way an audience at a concert are there to enjoy the music (sure, there might be some hecklers here and there, but that comes with the territory!)


Whether it is a mod project a dozen people play, an indie game, and XBLA game, a flash based game on facebook, a budget title, a major title, or a full blown AAA million seller, they all share that potential for their creators...for many of us that is why we do it.


In many ways MMO are especially comparable to what you see in that video. We make a world, add content and features into it..but you are the ones that own it, come to enjoy it, and get enjoyment from it...now granted (before the nit-pickers chime in), maybe it is not in exactly the same intense 'short burst' as a concert, but to extend the metaphor, I compare a concert to the great raid, fantastic PVP battle or that epic moment in your gameplay that punctuates your normal play experience. They act as the highlights in the same way as a concert is often an exaggerated enjoyment of listening to that same music you listen to on your ipod on the way to school or work...the world might originate from our creative processes just as that song was the work of a songwriter and musicians, and might contain personal observations, inspirations or experiences, but what it becomes once it has an audience is often far more important than where it came from...


Sure, there are some people in the industry 'in it for the cash', just as for every successful band of great musicians there are slickly produced cash-ins (although even then I bet a part of them still get that same kick when someone likes what they do)


So whether you want to compare any given game to an appropriate venue and concert, be it your faithful twenty person MUD being the equivalent of a small town bar gig, a community game comparing to a basement venue, before moving up to niche mainstream titles filling a small or medium sized indoor arena, or some of the more mainstream titles having an audience like you see in that Snow Patrol video (or presumably a whole U2 tour if you happen to work for Blizzard), the buzz is still the same...musicians, despite their press, are rarely only in it for the sex, drugs and rock and roll...those moments on stage, when they realise all these people don't just share a passion for what they created, that audience have taken it and they own it now...things like that? things like that drive you.


On the days when I, as a developer, wonder 'why?' Simply thinking of your audience as that crowd, regardless of size, thinking of that appreciation, regardless of it's transience (your fan today might not be your fan tomorrow and vice versa), that crowd, that drives me. That crowd is made up of folks like all of you out there...


Yes, games have to make money, yes, it is a business, no denying that...lots of people make lots of money from the work...music and movies are also the same, just like games some of their products are more commercial than others, and they are indeed all products, but more importantly many are also the result of serious creative passion, and a serious compulsion to seek that special cathartic moments you see in that video. No one denies that with movies and music, games just aren't always there yet in being generally accepted in the same way. Many of us, and I would dare to say, most of us, do this because we want (and often need) to please all you out there.


We all know we need to make some kind of returns...but why do we put ourselves through the mountains of hard work, frequent challenges, more than occasional stresses and cope with the internet often wanting to compare our efforts to that of a particularly stupid simian...why do we do that? We usually do that for the chance of that proverbial smile you can see on the lead singers face in that video...


..let's be honest, we have all wanted to be that rock star on stage at some point in our dreams as kids haven't we? We might not have ended up as the rock'n'roll types, but we have communities and fans that are just as enthusiastic, and often simply fantastic...so by and large, you are genuinely why we do this...




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