I love games; that’s no secret. Watching a medium grow from an 8-bit curiosity to a transformative and omnipresent fact of life has been fascinating. There’s something that’s driving me to help play a small part in making interactive media as relevant and meaningful as possible; I’m still a little fuzzy on how I’ll ultimately wind up doing that, but I’ve loved honing my skills and trying things out every step of the way.
Fortunately, I’m not the only one who feels this way. Hundreds of game developers, independents and big-name publisher types alike, see the vast, untapped potential in this medium that’s still so misunderstood and underestimated by most of society. Their passion and confidence inspires me to keep trying, to keep working through the rough days.
But I struggle to reconcile the progress and innovation I’m seeing on the development side with the exclusionist rancor that still defines so many gamers. In other words, the stereotypical image of the racist, misogynist, homophobic, privileged white guy sitting at home in shorts and a button-down shirt, spouting vitriol over his headset and posting incendiary responses to any author who challenges his dominance is still alive and well. The “gamer” is very real, and he’s an asshole.
Maybe that’s the problem. I’ve never defined myself as a “gamer” any more than I’ve called myself a “reader” or “runner” or “car-driver.” To take a single facet of your life and define yourself by it is something I’ve always shied away from. It can be empowering to identify so strongly with a single thing, but it can also corrupt the rest of your life. I don’t want to make games because of some bizarre belief that they’re the culmination of human achievement. They’re not. They’re simply a new and rapidly evolving means of shared ideas and expression. And I want to believe there’s a strong and growing audience out there of people who also see games not as a way of life but as a necessary component of being well-rounded and culturally conscious — people who want to be challenged not just in how many headshots they can score in a round of team deathmatch but by complex moral questions, evidence-driven historical debates, and experiencing a moment in time from a point of view that’s very different from their own.
Then there’s the issue of survival. I need to make money at this at some point, which means I need to go out on a limb and hope that I can not only make the sort of games that appeal to this sort of thoughtful consumer, but that I can also market it well, distribute it well, and have enough luck on my side to get the exposure it needs. And that’s all assuming whatever I make winds up being polished enough to sell. But those are my own challenges to take on.
What keeps me going is this belief that I’m not the only one who wants to see games that challenge us to see differently, to think critically and to spark new conversations in our own lives. If that’s the case, the demand for those sorts of games is probably a great deal higher than the supply. I want to help change that.