Welcome to Ask An Indie where we interview local independent game developers to learn how they make, do and create.
What inspired you to start making games?
I had a surprising realization one day in the mid 90s reading Morph’s Outpost on the Digital Frontier.
I realized that making games is a learnable thing – even better it’s composed of many things I already enjoy learning and doing such as making art, design, music, and getting computers to do stuff. The other driving inspiration for me is, of course, playing lots of video games.
At what age did you create your first game? What was it like?
The first game I recall creating was a pen and paper role-playing game that was pretty much a mashup of mundane jobs and battling monsters. I was about 10 or 11 years old.
I’ve been coding off and on since the second grade, back on the Atari 800. I was eight years old and much of my coding was text prompt-and-response simple programs that were more or less poop jokes written in BASIC.
What formal training (if any) do you have that has helped you?
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a self-directed learner. For me the process of being curious, inspired to explore a topic and then trying to make something is how I learn best. It is very hands on and self-directed. Throughout my career I have found value in attending engaging hands-on workshops. I have found even more value in sharing what I’ve self taught myself through podcasts, workshops, and articles – nothing keeps me accountable and focused like teaching.
What are some of your favorite tools or resources?
I try to keep a strong flow of podcasts, audio books, and articles related to gaming and other interests. I call it my infostream. Some examples for books: Reality is Broken by Jane McGonigal, Theory of Fun by Raph Koster, The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses by Jesse Schell and for podcasts: The Lostcast, Hidden Brain, Freakonomics Radio, and You are Not So Smart. Gamasutra is the ultimate source of game dev and design articles.
Market places to sell what I make are an amazing resource. Places like iTunes App Store, Google Play, GumRoad – it’s so awesome that there are many ways to offer games and related creative products for sale.
Finally, it’s pretty amazing to be able to make stuff anywhere via tablets and laptops. I can work just about any aspect of a video game just about anywhere.
How many people does your studio employ and in what capacity?
For now, I’m a one-person studio though I do ask my wife for advice very often. Also, my kids are live-in game testers and give me all sorts of advice. Currently game design and development is a side gig. My main gig is working on an applied research team for an innovation group at Target.
What game(s) have you published and on what platforms are they available?
Currently, I have two games available for purchase and one open source game that accompanies an e-book I wrote:
Guitar Fretter – An action-puzzle game that helps you memorize the position of notes on a guitar fretboard. It has multiple difficulty levels and supports custom tunings for 6 or 7 string guitar and 4 or 5 string bass. Available on iOS in the iTunes App Store and on Android in the Google Play store.
This Panda Needs You – An early childhood block stacking game where you help little Panda stack blocks that get knocked over by the windy Cloud Kid. It promotes early math skills of pattern recognition, matching, and problem solving. Available on iOS in the iTunes App Store.
What is the most challenging thing about being a game developer in the Twin Cities?
I’ve come to realize there are opportunities for people with game development skills and an active community here in the Twin Cities. The biggest challenge can just be making the effort to engage. I’ve considered moving at different points in my career and I have found that the only challenging thing about the Twin Cities is it’s tough to find another place that’s just as awesome to live.
What is the most rewarding?
The game developer community is pretty amazing in the Twin Cities. I feel kind of silly that it’s taken me this long to engage with the community and I’m very thankful that there are so many cool people, companies, and events. What I find rewarding about being a game developer: there’s always so much more to learn and great sources to learn from.
What advice would you give someone trying to break into the industry?
First I would ask them why they have to break into anything? If you want to make games, make and ship a game. Then do it again. And again. Seek out critique of your games. Listen to others and practice creating with your whole cognitive being: rational mind, emotional mind, and gut/survival mind.
Is there anything else you would like to share?
If you’re into visual storytelling and thinking a lot about topics related to it you might like a podcast I do with my co-host Jerzy Drozd at LeanIntoArt.com.