Wednesday, May 17, 2006

The continued history of me

So what is it that brought me into games? It seems like many other developers have interesting stories about their start in the industry. Mine is probably less accidental than some I have heard but I honestly didn't expect to work in the industry as far back as high school at least. I wasn't even really aware it was a viable career option.

I will point out one thing - I've always been a gamer, big time. My first game system was an Atari 5200 but I also spent a fair bit of time playing the 2600, Intellivision, and Collecovision. I also loved playing things like Oregon Trail and Carmen Sandiego at school on what I believe were Apple computers. Eventually I got hooked on the NES. I remember playing the system that came with the light gun and R.O.B. at a friend's house. That was it. I had to have one. Sometime in the 6 months after having played that NES for the first time I got one when it was packaged with Super Mario Brothers. Much happiness ensued.

From there I went on to get a Commodore 64 which was the first computer I ever owned. There were some games I really enjoyed on the system and I tried my hand at making a few games during this time. I specifically remember using some type of game making tool that was fairly primitive. You could only rig up some basic objectives and I think you had to have the levels contained on one screen. I also tried programming in BASIC. While I didn't write many of my own games, I ended up spending a lot of time typing in the code for games that came with a magazine I read. This magazine contained several pages of what I believe was the full source to user submitted games. Every month I'd get a new issue with around 3-4 games you could type in and try. They were pretty simple but I got jazzed about the idea of creating a game from what seemed like nothing but air.

The next great saga in my gaming history was the TurboGrafx 16. When I saw some of the games on the TurboGrafx I was fairly excited and I still get warm fuzzies thinking about when I beat Keith Courage and Legendary Axe for the first time. I also got a Turbo Express which was an incredible handheld other than its short battery life. From the TurboGrafx it was on to the Sega Genesis followed by the TurboDuo, Super NES., Atari Jaguar, Neo Geo, PlayStation and then the PC.

I'll take a minute to make a side note here. No I wasn't super spoiled and wealthy. My mom did something that I thank her for to this day. She didn't want to get games for me on birthdays and holidays so she made me think of ways to get them on my own. So I did. I became a young entrepreneur and got into the business of buying and selling used games. I managed to make enough from this little business that I was able to keep a healthy stock of games and systems. I also started playing in video game tournaments and managed to increase my game inventory through those winnings. I'll detail more of that in another post.

Quake and Diablo brought me into PC gaming in a huge way. Quake was amazing for playing at LAN parties and Diablo had me hooked on its fantastic execution of dungeon crawling mixed with lotto style item collection and Battle.net goodness. Even at this time I was not really thinking about working in the industry. I was also getting tired of console gaming which had traditionally been my mainstay. I sold all my console systems and spent a lot of the next several years playing Magic:The Gathering.

I was introduced to Magic through a random role-playing event I attended at a local Barnes and Noble. The funny thing is that I never really spent much time doing role-playing games but I decided to attend this particular one for some reason. At the end of the event someone brought out the cards and we started playing. Sometime the following week I went out and bought a few more cards. Not too long after that I learned about the tournament scene which was bustling in the Chicago area at the time. I also found out about how much the cards had appreciated since their release. Once I knew there was loot to be had, I picked up about 8 more boxes of cards. I came, I traded, I collected, and I won some tournaments. I met many awesome people and went on to become one of the junior Pro Tour champions during the first season. People couldn't believe I was winning big scholarship money for playing a card game.

One aspect of Magic that I really value is the human interaction component. It was fantastic being able to see your opponents face to face and have a real conversation with them while playing. This is so much more satisfying and personal than typical online video gaming. It's also one of my biggest disappointments with the decline of the arcade community and the relative unpopularity of the LAN center in the U.S. There's just something special about being able to meet new people when you can look them in the eye rather than hiding behind a computer. I hope that one day video games in the states become more popular for use in public places. And that a diverse set of people come to play - hopefully outside the traditional gamer crowd. There are a lot of interesting folk out there.

Post-Magic was my college years. I went to a community college to figure out what I wanted to study. I enjoyed literature, business, and computers but couldn't really settle on a particular major until I heard about Digipen Institute of Technology. Get a degree in making games? It didn't take much to convince me that my heart belonged there. I applied and nervously waited to find out if I would be accepted. Once I got in I learned a lot about making games and once again met some amazingly cool people. A job offer from Nintendo followed after my graduation and I was excited to work for a world-class game company.

That pretty much leads me here, in a long-winded kind of way. Not the most serendipitous journey but it's certainly been an entertaining one. My love for games continues. There are just way too many exciting developments that we haven't even been able to scratch the surface of. I want to be right there when it happens, hopefully contributing to them.