Ask An Indie: Charlie Mackin, VGDC – UMN

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Welcome to Ask An Indie where we interview local independent game developers to learn how they make, do and create.

The Indie: Charlie Mackin, Designer/Producer, Vice President of Video Game Development Club (VGDC) – University of Minnesota Twin Cities.

What inspired you to start making games?

My family has always played games, I grew up watching my older brother play before I could hold the controller, and playing PC games like the Nancy Drew detective series. Once I got to college, I joined the Video Game Development Club to compose music for them. After awhile I started getting into the design side of it and have been working on games ever since.

At what age did you create your first game?

19, with my club. A friend and I did the music for it, I sat in on a lot of the design meetings too. Since then I’ve been much more hands on with the design of all the games I help make.

What formal training do you have that has helped you?

My degree in psychology and art has helped me a lot. I think having that background gives me a unique perspective for game design. I did my psychology research in educational games, singling out specific game mechanics and how they affect the player. I also have training in the Adobe suite and Maya from school that have helped me make some of my personal projects.

What are some of your favorite tools or resources?

There’s a YouTube tutorial for just about everything, but honestly the best resource is just the people who are willing to help. Whether it’s actually teaching me something new, or just listening to me work through a problem out loud. Having people around while working on a game makes it a much better experience.

How many people does your studio employ and in what capacity?

Our club has about 30 people in it of varying commitment levels and attendance rates. Anyone can come in and out as they like and only does as much work as they want. As an educational club we try to make ourselves as accessible as possible.

What game(s) have you published and on what platforms are they available?

I’ve made several games with my club, and a few things with different teams and on my own. Everything that I’ve worked on can be found on my website and is hosted online. The game I am currently working on is made specifically for an art gallery setting, so that won’t be playable anywhere but in the gallery, but I’ll have video of it posted.

What is the most challenging thing about being a game developer in the Twin Cities?

It’s hard to find internships or entry level positions nearby. Most things I apply to are pretty far away. The games scene here is getting bigger and there is a lot of cool stuff happening, but when you are first starting out it can feel like there aren’t many opportunities.

What is the most rewarding?

All the people who make games in the Twin Cities are super nice. Everyone is genuinely interested in each others work. GLITCH has been helping me find resources and meet people since I first got interested in game development; there’s no way I would be where I am right now without them.

What advice would you give someone trying to break into the industry?

The thing that has surprised me the most as I’m getting ready to enter the industry myself is just how much following and DMing people on Twitter can do. I think social media is the best way to keep up with what everyone is working on, and a lot of really cool people in the industry are very nice if you just send them a message and aren’t pushy.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

If anyone reads this and wants to talk feel free to message me, I love making new friends in the games industry. Any a college students in the Twin Cities should check out our club, it’s been a really helpful environment for me.

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