If you’ve read previous posts on this site, you may know that my dream is to become part of the ever growing games industry in the north west of the UK. I’ve started reading a great deal more about the status quo of games, and I find myself facing a bright future.
First let me layout my goals with the industry; The UK isn’t the largest place, but given our culture we have a significant influence and role in the world. When it comes to games in Europe we often fight it over with Sweden over most titles produced or industry value (this is based on an article from much earlier this year which I can’t find any more, so slight pinch of salt here); We’ve certainly the resources then to compete at the top end of the charts. Given a plethora of reasons I find myself looking to Manchester, the 3rd largest city in the UK behind London & Birmingham but the 2nd largest in terms of Game Development and dare I say one of the fastest growing cities with great potential. Despite being the 2nd largest area for game development it’s still hard to find a role, this is for several reasons both my own and the industries – e.g. roles based outside of a commutable distance that might strain my family life; a large number of indies that are solo; A focus on undergraduates coming into games and not graduates themselves – I feel this is further embodied by things such as the “search for a star” program by Aardvark Swift (fantastic people who are helping would be professionals like myself) – These programs are for students, there isn’t a similar structure for graduates and beyond other than hoping to crack Ludum Dare for example and get noticed by someone with availability. [Update, as of writing this originally, I’ve since listened to GameIndustry.biz’s podcast “Enhancing games education…” this does a great job of summarising some of the issues raised above and more – highly advise listening].
At this point many in the industry, or even in a similar position to myself, may be thinking “but you can just go it your own, create your own game!”. This is absolutely 100% true, there’s no denying that making games and selling them myself, whilst a monumental task, is entirely possible and has been done before. I would like to point out that not everyone would be able to go full-time developer, and the success-bias we see of the “top sellers” on the steam indie page and the often reported indie-darlings from places like PCGamer/Rock Paper Shotgun/etc (no offence to those sites, they’re my go-to’s so were the first examples to hand) doesn’t show that for every person who has done just that, there’s a mountain of failures both from their history and also every other developer who didn’t make it for whatever reason.
This leads me to my main point, that I want to work with a company! I want to be able to reference team-members skills, and develop myself in a healthy and professional environment. I’d love to be paid for it, I’m not going to lie but also it’d mean that I can keep it as the focus of my time in the day without cutting out time from rest & relaxation with the family. I, also, want to be able to learn how the industry works on a better, more enlightened, granular level as opposed to throwing myself at the whim of twitter, reddit, investors, advertisers, artists, other programmers and so on and so forth until I have a game. This is inline with a recent article by James Batchelor after speaking with Nick Duncombe of Playground Games in Leamington Spa, and it’s something that really resonates, as I believe whilst going indie is great, I’d rather have the opportunity to learn from those who have fought hard to get where they are and therefore know what they’re talking about, instead of overthinking every piece of advise on a reddit forum. Whilst there is the occasional good comment or here-to un-thought of idea one might not have entertained, they’re typically filled with the woes of others – “large companies will make you Crunch”, “indie is near impossible”, “there’s an indie-pocalypse on the horizon”, “the industry itself with crash” etc etc.
A lot of the advise online isn’t useful, and can in fact be inaccurate! The woes of crunch are slowly but surely being thrown out and are seen as outdated and unnecessary by several devs in my area but also those household names such as Tim Shafer of DoubleFine Fame! The old horror stories of EA ruining families are a thing of the past. So crunch isn’t a reason to go indie and avoid the path I’m trying to carve, and it’s definitely not a reason to not try at all either! As for the idea that games are on some sort of brink economically, the industry has gone from strength to strength nearly every year; In fact to add to this my very own Country’s government has been advised to increase cash incentives for the creative industries to boost things like competition and, an issue very close to my heart, onboarding of new employees! [Again see GameIndustry.biz podcast] Add to this that the UK Interactive Entertainment body (UKIE – based in London), The Independent Game Developers Association (TIGA), and The British Games Institute (BGI) have all come out in strong support of the independent review. This leads me to hope that my home country will start to raise our standing yet further in this ever growing industry and that I might see further opportunities, as well as communities. Whilst Liverpool had it’s time to shine in the past for games, the larger companies such as Playstation have since left giving Manchester and myself a chance to make our mark on games, and show that this city will be the centre of creatives going forward.