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Month: January 2024

Avoid the scarce mentality

Many talented people have been unfairly laid off. You can start thinking: “Hey, there are seniors from Blizzard open to work, they will never hire me. I am completing my engineering grade!”.

Let me tell you this is a fallacy. When we look at job openings we see very few positions for juniors or for people who didn’t work on a TOP game. Still, the possibilities are many.

The games industry is smaller than you think in number of people. But the games market is huge, opportunities are much more than you believe. Companies often don’t have to publish offers because internal employees know reliable people to hire.

You need to build!

Build your network, build your games, build your career. The job market is not meritocratic at all, it’s not the best that gets the job. The job market is a lot about being in the right place at the right time. Instead of spending your whole day doom-scrolling layoff news, build your future!

Please, stop it

People are complaining on a platform owned by Microsoft about the bad decisions that Microsoft made in many people’s lives. This is SO 2024, right?

We need to evolve as a collective. I don’t know the solution, but I think we should first state the problem well. It’s not a black-and-white situation. There are lots of nuances, posting a quote from Satoru Iwata doesn’t reveal the real problem.

The problem is not just greed. There is a whole situation to consider, we spent the last 3 decades experiencing dramatic shifts. It’s easy to lose the big picture. Easier to point the finger.

We need to evolve and think of new forms of collaboration, and different ways of financing projects. We need to improve our way of treating others like we are still doing.

The first step is to stop complaining, feeding the algorithms belonging to the same people that we are criticizing. That’s ridiculous, we are looking like the Pals! A clone of something already seen, now repurposed to serve as milking cows. Stop doing that!

Are you an artist or an entertainer?

There is a World crisis and our beloved games industry is not immune from that. 2024 just started and we are already seeing many people losing their jobs. Everyone is worried, someone wants to help with suggestions and experience.

One of the most common messages is “Have you lost your job? Build your own thing!”. I am not sure I agree with that statement. I have learned the hard way that you are either the artist or the entertainer.

In case you are an artist, you will tend to obsess with something. You can get lost in small details, but there is great news: you have the chance to become very wealthy. If you want to make money with games you should do your games.

In case you are (like myself) an entertainer, I am afraid that is better to work on projects made by others. Help them land down their visions. Facilitate the right tools to decide how the game will be. My bank account will never have seven figures like that, but hopefully, people will remember me as a great guy to work with.

Not any tips are good for us, the first thing is to understand who we are deeply. And to do that you need to try things out. Can I be an entertainer and an artist? Or, can I be 5 years an artist and 10 an entertainer? Who knows, maybe I can.

Portfolio for juniors

The other day a guy asked me: “Should I add game deconstructions to my portfolio?”. He is a student, willing to join a company as a junior tech designer. I said “no”, and I was not sure it was the right answer after all.

When a company looks for a junior designer, it is not to grow their talent and all that. They derive technical tasks for the juniors. The seniors can focus on things related to the vision and the design strategy, then. Imagine you are a recruiter or a manager looking at a portfolio. What do you focus on?

The answer is that you focus on the technical skills. You want to know if you can give technical tasks to them. You want to know if with them you will be able to focus on higher-level chores.

A portfolio should be concise and straight to the point. Show 3-5 projects focusing on very technical things when you are a junior. Leave the analysis and the breakdowns to senior professionals on their blogs. They do not have time to focus on tech stuff.

Answers that matter

Every time I say to someone that I design video games, the common question is this. “Can you show me the game you made?“. And my answer is that I can, but my games are not Mario or Quake.

this is one of the games I helped make. Probably the most successful one, for sure one of the dumbest

Others in this industry would give the same answer. It is what makes an industry, in the end. You don’t ask a car worker “Can you show me a car you made?“. The worker is one of the dozens who worked on a car. Still, you ask that to a game designer because we have this idea of a very personal thing. Which indeed is true, but reality is deeper than that.

The reality is that you hardly work on a project you love. And the few people who work on those projects are the ones that achieve recognition at a certain point. I mean, if they insist and persist in their goals.

I want to celebrate everyone that is building in this moment. Because you will be the future of the industry. You decide to build something in which you believe. You can be an indie or a new team inside of a big corporation. Many sides of an industry that permits different exits.

I cannot really show anything, because I have always worked on games belonging to ideas and vision which came from others. Maybe that is the right answer to the first question of this article.

Skill-based puzzle games

Once there was Bejeweled Blitz! dominating the charts of free puzzle games. But then Candy Crush Saga brought many interesting changes that appealed to a broader audience. And you need that if you want to be profitable and scalable.

Still, when the business people see something that doesn’t work, the game designer sees an opportunity. And to me, there is an opportunity in skill-based puzzle games. Games where the rules impose the norm of not thinking too much. Tetris was maybe the first successful example. And it’s still there.

There is this game pretty popular online called Watermelon Game. It’s very simple and gives lots of space for the Players to think. Maybe a skill-based version of that would work? Like a Bejeweled Blitz! but with a merge mechanic.

I’m writing this in case someone does it and has success. It’s always good to feel “I said it!”.

UI driven skinner boxes

Skinner boxes are artifacts where the user taps a button in the hope of getting something. In the original ones, the user was a lab rat willing for food. In Monopoly GO! the user is a Player looking for dopamine rushes.

Skinner boxes work very well, because of two factors. The first is the variable ratio variable schedule rewards. It means that the user doesn’t know if and when the reward will arrive. The other factor is that they are simple to use. That means that also a lab rat can do that.

There are many ethical questions around Skinner boxes, but humans can choose to play a game or not. The lab rats, instead, have no choice. Of course, we can consider the addiction to dopamine a form of slavery, there are no easy answers.

In games, Skinner boxes are often associated with a series of tasks to perform. Usually, the UI leads the Players on what to do next, so they don’t have to worry. They can continue to follow the series on their television set or the class while playing the game. Their dopamine system will stay stimulated and it will feel pleasing.

A sit at the table

Companies hire game designers (and other profiles) to build their business. Game designers have a specific focus on features and content. When we design features, the best way of showing their value is to focus on the benefits of that feature.

  • Business leaders love to hear about the impact of a certain feature, more than the quality of it.
  • It’s better to speak about the benefits of reducing cognitive load instead of selling a “cleaner” design.
  • One of the goals of feature design is to improve the long-term profit, more than improving the gameplay.
  • Things like accessibility, inclusivity, and so on are useful to reach untapped markets. They are not just a good thing to do.
  • Managers love to hear how to improve the path to purchase, more than vague concepts like flow.

If more designers take this approach, we will see less of them switching to Product Manager roles just to get a sit at the table.

Top game design voice badge

I have been on LinkedIn for 14 years. I use that platform a lot because of my personal branding activities. When I was fired from Digital Chocolate, because of a bad relationship with my direct manager, I decided to become the best game designer I could possibly become. Part of my strategy involved starting to share my ideas and discoveries of this complex micro world.

In fact, you need to explain things to others to become a recognized expert. It’s not just walk the walk, you need to talk the talk. Also, the language of business is not my native one, so I needed a tool to improve my English. I needed to find my own voice.

And the results are good, I have a healthy small business with my clients. Also, when I go to local meetups often I am reached by people that I don’t know who thank me for something related to my writings and videos. I can say that I feel I am in a good way. Of course, many things can happen and I can screw everything up with a mistake. In fact, pushing your ideas out there is no easy task.

Collaborative articles

For all this, I have never received any badge of any sort. But then LinkedIn published a new feature, called collaborative articles. That feature is probably meant to substitute experts in certain fields in the future. I honestly hate it. So I decided to take action.

Every morning I do this:

  1. I select randomly 5 collaborative articles on Game Design
  2. I copy one of the questions, also a random
  3. I paste it on Bing AI
  4. Then I copy and paste back part of the answer

Tadaaa! In just 10 days I got my badge. It was just grinding, nothing more. These social networks don’t care about the true value of their content.

We need a simple controller

Games should be simple to play, for everyone. They can also be difficult, and offer a challenge. But the play itself should be a very accessible act.

A gamepad with over 20 buttons is not simple. We need some courage and go back to the origins. With adaptation to the novelties.

8 buttons for NES pad were more than enough, but the shape was not optimal.

Oculus controller solves the ergonomic problem, but has too many buttons. I would save just the trigger and add a touchpad on top

The touchpads of Steam Deck are a good reference for the top part.

Can you imagine that?

  • Connect it with any device, smartphone, PC or console
  • comes with a dongle to stream on any screen
  • takes gestures too