GCAP 2022: Indie game development can be a fruitful hobby

The games industry has become a major global success over the past decade, with estimates assuming it is currently worth around 300 billion US dollars worldwide. It represents the collective efforts of thousands of game developers and the delight of video game fans everywhere – but as game development has grown, there has been more and more interest in what it becomes. increasingly monetized and corporatized, and creativity has taken precedence over profits. According to part-time researcher and developer Brendon Keogh, speaking at Games Connect Asia Pacific (GCAP) 2022, despite this move, there is still room for games to be fun, experimental and carefree.

His GCAP speech, titled “Don’t Quit Your Day Job”, was meant as a wake-up call for indie developers struggling to survive in a tough and crowded industry. As profits continue to rise and the industry grows, its popularity also means a more competitive field of employment.

“Trying to work in games full-time can be very difficult,” Keogh said. Hard to the point of hurting people – financially and emotionally. “There will always be more game developers than paid game developers.’

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Although the discussion began by focusing on the negative aspects of the industry, it also encouraged a more optimistic and carefree approach. Keogh thinks not everything games need to be monetized – and that creativity is far more important than the pursuit of profit or the fulfillment of life. As an amateur game developer who works primarily as an educator and scholar, Keogh largely views games as a way to express new ideas, experiment, and learn new skills.

In a tough industry, in tough economic times, game development can be what you do it.

Image: Brendan Keogh

Experimentation is an incredibly valuable skill

Keogh’s lighthearted approach to game development began around 2017, when he set himself the task of making 50 small games in a year. That meant learning new skills quickly, experimenting with game engines, and getting out of your knowledge and comfort zones. While the games he created were simple, he thinks they were incredibly educational and taught him essential skills.

During his quest for 50 games, Keogh discovered the game engine PICO-8, which encourages the creation of smaller games with simple mechanics and graphics. This directly contributed to the creation of Brendan Keogh’s Putting Challenge, a game that debuted to warm reviews on Steam. It sold around 750 copies, with 24 positive reviews – and even generated coverage in PC Power Playof which Keogh is particularly proud.

Without room for experimentation, and abandoning “commercial” notions for its game production, Bredan Keogh’s Putting Challenge may never have seen the light of day. After all, with so many developers perceiving games as only being for-profit, experimentation is seen as an economic risk not worth taking.

But for game developers, especially entry-level game developers, taking the time to create personal experiences away from the strict confines of monetization or societal expectations of “valuable” work can become an incredibly rewarding part of life. learning game development.

“We should try to feel less shitty about not making money from our personal projects,” Keogh said. Emphasis has been placed here on the personal – because the idea of ​​not getting paid for work can sometimes translate to developers working for the other people free.

To clarify this, Keogh was firm: “If someone else is making money from your work, you should earn money from your work. He believes that passion has an important place and can be a useful tool for motivating ambition, but only when deployed correctly – for personal creativity, self-expression and “play”.

Creating games by yourself can teach you new skills, it can help you express an idea, it can help you collaborate with other people and learn team building skills. You can make them on a laptop, sit anywhere in your house, make games smaller than you can actually to endplay with game engines – anything that can spark your imagination.

You can definitely learn transferable skills from this process, grow as a human being, and yes – one day these skills can help you enter the gaming industry full time. But as Keogh points out, acting and self-expression remain essential to developing your own voice and improving your skills in a tough and often unforgiving industry.

The value of play in game development

In an associated GCAP 2022 presentation, the game designer Duncan Corrigan shared similar ideals – the focus of his “Cultivating Playful Culture” talk being on how to make games fun and engaging, without focusing on productivity, efficiency or performance.

Corrigan is the Sydney-based conference organizer Serenade game meeting that comes together to share experimental art-based works and encourages creativity in the local development scene. Surrounded by peers, non-commercial and silly games can be celebrated freely.

“We think we should limit the game,” Corrigan explained in his speech. “Things that don’t generate money are considered less valuable.” It comes from capitalist notions of what works should look like, and the strict value we place on art.

But according to Corrigan, childishness and silliness should be valued – these are qualities that help us express autonomy, curiosity and new ideas.

“To be playful is to make the most of a situation with will and autonomy,” Corrigan said. We become little players because we are discouraged, from an early age, to experiment. As we get older, we learn to associate play with unproductivity – and in a society that values ​​products above all else, we begin to feel guilty about what we produce.

It only leads to dullness and a feeling of boredom. In the games industry, Corrigan thinks this has encouraged more bland mainstream games that try to fit into a “box” rather than trying something new. With capitalism as king, the game erodes, resulting in a loss of color and imagination.

But as Corrigan says, all is not lost – and gaming can help restore that color and create more engaging, lighthearted experiences. The examples he cited were Untitled Game of Goose including the playful “horn” mechanism – this noise can be deployed in any situation, just for humor. In capricious strandthere is a button that allows you to relax and soak up the atmosphere of the game. frog detectiveyou can use magnifying glass to make the world fun and funny.

Image: to inputby Duncan Corrigan and Vulcara

These mechanisms are not specifically related to productivity – instead, they encourage to play. The same kind of game that Keogh encourages developers to experiment in their practice. As games tend towards homogenization, it is these processes that can make games stand out.

Self-expression, creativity, personalization, charm and playfulness – they all contribute to memorable experiences that can reshape how people interact with games and how developers create games. In a world that is increasingly corporate and driven by ideals of productivity and value, game development is changing at every level. But there’s always room for experimentation and for experiences that don’t fit the “norm”.

Amid all the noise, there’s sure to be room for you – no matter how wild or weird your ideas are. As Keogh says, game development doesn’t have to fit into a fixed box – it can be a tool for anyone, regardless of the myths around the industry and the pressures that capitalism brings. on the creatives.