The Game Developer-Player Divide

Originally published on Trevor Trove on August 14, 2016

As performance and server issues continue to plague the rocky launch of No Man’s Sky (I’ve suffered at least six game crashes today on PlayStation 4), the divide between people who talk about and/or criticize games and the people who make them is on full display. One such example of this cognitive disconnect is the following comment that I’ve seen making the rounds:

no mans sky dev disconnect.jpg

Who knew it would have only taken ONE MORE WEEK to turn No Man’s Sky into World of Warcraft or FOUR-FIVE WEEKS to turn it into Grand Theft Auto Online guys?!?!?! (Well apparently this person on reddit did).

And while pretty much anyone who writes or talks about games seriously on either side of the industry recognizes how faulty this person’s logic is, the fact there there are players out there who know little enough about what it takes to make a game is a serious problem for the medium. To this point specifically, I certainly couldn’t tell you how long it would take to implement those kinds of features. And this is commonplace as most critics/games media/enthusiasts/whatever you want to call us will be the first to tell you that we don’t have the slightest clue about the ins and outs of game development.

Unfortunately, due to how closely guarded industry secrets are with so many people working under non-disclosure agreements, the developers often aren’t able to do themselves any favors in really educating people. Of course, not everyone is looking to be educated. You could probably have had Sean Murray sit down and tell the person above directly why his plan of attack wouldn’t work and he’d still have posted it. Some people just want to anonymously complain on the internet.

But I want to learn.

I love reading the glimmers of insider knowledge that creep out every now and then. Like a recent blog post on Why “Day-One” Patches Are So Common by developer Rami Ismail. This is one of the reasons I’d love to cover GDC someday (perhaps even over something like E3). I always strive to be better informed. I might not often focus on a games technical achievements or lack thereof because I’m largely ignorant on the matter so I don’t want to say “oh it would have been great if they had done X, Y, and Z” when it reality they wanted to do X, Y, and Z but time and budget constraints left those features on the cutting room floor or that wasn’t actually what they were going for technically so X, Y, and Z were never on the table.

When I’m reviewing a play or TV show or movie, I have a general idea of all the different building blocks that go into that content, thanks to the years I spent getting my B.A. in Theatre. I like to think that I can distinguish when something falls on an actor versus a director versus an editor, etc. And when I see people who didn’t study the craft talking about things they don’t really understand it can absolutely be infuriating so I imagine the developers who read reviews might scream at their monitors from time to time for the very same reason.

I would love to see more transparency in the industry in terms of the realities of development versus the general perception. I spent a semester as a Computer Systems Engineer major prior to switching to Theatre because I thought (just out of high school) that I’d go make games. But I quickly realized I like playing games more than I like making them. There are definitely days, however, where I wish I’d stuck with it just to have a better insight on the industry than that one class project where I had to program a game of Tic-Tac-Toe in Java.

So if you have good recommendations of insider insight into the industry (books, articles, videos, etc.) please let me know.

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