Could being a game designer make me hate games?

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In this episode of Game Industry Career Guide Podcast, I answer a question from Anthony, who asks “One concern I have is, what if being a game designer makes me hate gaming? A friend of mine said that he has talked to developers and they have told him that it’s like eating your favorite food 20 times a day. Is that true?”

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • How “crunch time” can affect your interest in games
  • Why I went for several months without wanting to playing games, and how I got over it
  • How learning to make games can actually increase your love for gaming

If you have a question you'd like to get answered on the podcast, leave a comment below or ask me anything here.

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Hello and welcome to the Game Industry Career Guide Podcast, this is episode number 39. I’m Jason W. Bay from gameindustrycareerguide.com, and this is the podcast where I answer your questions about getting a job and growing your career making video games. This week’s question is from Anthony who left a comment asking this: “One concern I have is what if being a game designer makes me hate gaming? A friend of mine said that he has talked to developers and they have told him that it’s like eating your favorite food 20 times a day. Is that true?”

What’s the risk?

For many people, this is an important question to consider. Because if you’re somebody who’s interested in becoming a game developer, it’s likely that you really love playing games, and you’ve probably been playing games your entire life. So the last thing you’d want to do is start a career that could make you hate gaming. That would be tragic.

So, is it true? If you make video games for a living, as an artist or programmer, designer or other development job, and you do it year after year after year, game after game after game, how likely is that to make you start to hate video games?

Well, I can tell you that personally after over 15 years making video games, I still love playing them. And in all those years, I’ve really only met one person who said he couldn’t stand a particular genre of game after having made too many games in that genre. But honestly, that guy is kind of a cranky dude just in general. So I wouldn’t take that too seriously. But Anthony says that he has a friend who has heard of developers started hating games after making them for a long time. So is there a grain of truth in that or is it maybe just an urban legend?

Burned out?

When I started thinking about how to answer this question, I did a little soul searching. I looked back over my own career making games and I thought about the times when I maybe started feeling a little burned out, and I didn’t play games as often as I normally would. And I realized that there were some times when I wasn’t as into gaming as usual. And I think those times were caused by my job as a game developer. So what was going on at the time that made me feel that way?

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Crunch time

Well, most of those times when I didn’t do as much gaming, it was when I was in what the video game industry affectionately calls “crunch mode.” Crunch mode is when you’ve got a big deadline coming up, like maybe you’re getting a build ready for a big conference like GDC, or when you’re trying to finish a bunch of development works so you can launch your beta or even your final release of your game. Sometimes when you have a big deadline coming up like that, there’s more work to be done than you have people in time to do them in a normal 40-hour week.

And that means that you have to work more than 40 hours a week. Sometimes I’ve even worked 50 or 60 hours a week. One time I can remember working 80-hour weeks, as twice as much work as normal just to get a game done on time. Now in those times, I was working lots of hours. I basically got up each morning, I went to work, I worked all day long, came home and just collapsed in the bed for the night. I didn’t have the time or the energy to play games. Gaming just didn’t even sound appealing at that time.

Now I want you to know that crunch time is not normal. If an entire game team is crunching for a long time, that means that somebody seriously messed up on the project schedule. It’s a big mistake, but it does happen. And when it does, it can cause you to temporarily stop wanting to play games. But personally I’ve always recovered my interest in gaming once the project is shipped and I was able to get caught up on my sleep and my relationships and other areas of life that I had been putting off.

Bad taste

There was also another time actually when I didn’t really play games for quite a while, almost a year actually. And that happened just after I was laid off from my job in 2013 as part of a large corporate downsizing. It was along with a few dozen other developers at that game company. A lot of great devs lost their job and it was an emotional time for everybody involved, and it came after a very difficult couple of years at that company. After that, I didn’t really play any games for several months.

Why did I stop playing? I’m not exactly sure. I think it was partly because I was busy applying and interviewing for new jobs, and partly because I was starting a new business, which by the way ended up becoming the Game Industry Career Guide website and podcast. But I may also have just had a bad taste in my mouth about games during that period. I think I just needed a break to focus on other things in my life. And fortunately the dry spell didn’t last – I got back to gaming and I still love it. In fact I just returned this weekend from the 2016 Game Developers Conference. It was an excellent conference and an awesome time, and I’m more fired up about making games and playing games than I’ve ever been in my life.

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Ebb and flow

So can being a professional game developer make you hate gaming? I don’t think it can. Like most things in life, your interest in gaming is going to ebb and flow depending on what else is going on in your life at the time. The times in my life when I didn’t do much gaming, it wasn’t because game development made me hate gaming. If anything it was because game development was just taking up so much of my time that I didn’t really have time left over for gaming.

But I got right back to it once things returned to normal. At the end of the day, you’ve got nothing to worry about. In fact I think that learning how to make games will actually give you more appreciation for games. Once you start to grasp the huge amount of hard work and creativity that are required to build a game, you can’t help but look at even the smallest games with a new appreciation and a deeper connection with the amazing skill of the artist and designers and coders and other people that brought it to life. Just like studying songwriting or studying cinema can build a deeper love of music and movies, doing game development can take your love of gaming to a whole new level.

Many thanks to Anthony for that question and thank you for hanging out with me today to talk about game dev. Did you enjoy this episode? If you did, please share this podcast or any article from my website. Share them with your friends on social media. For more information and inspiration on getting a job and growing your career making video games, visit me at gameindustrycareerguide.com. I’m Jason W. Bay. Let’s meet up again next week right here on the Game Industry Career Guide Podcast.

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