10 November 2011

What is it you do exactly?

I spent an hour or so earlier playing this video game about making a video game. So meta. In Game Dev Story, you manage a studio by hiring coders, designers, sound engineers, developers, and writers. Along with selecting the right staff, you're in charge of advertising and picking the genre of game to produce.

My first attempt was to create a ninja puzzle. It pretty much got terrible reviews and bombed. Then I created a romantic action game that did slightly better. As my team worked to pump out some hits, I had to make sure they were paid on time, that they had energy to perform at their best, and also decide if we should pay out licensing fees and try to anticipate what our fan base wanted.

After reading Harold Underdown's "What a Publisher Does," I thought about how cool it would be if there was a publishing game just like this. I mean, unless you work in a particular industry, it's easy to overlook how complicated things can be. "Don't products just magically appear?" Even when I was in the gaming industry as a tester, I wasn't fully aware of what all the other departments did until after a few months. Imagine if a game could replicate the entire chain of decisions toward publishing a smash book. Or how bad you would feel when your company launched something without proper marketing and it struggled.

Heck, imagine if games like this existed for every industry. I have no idea what most of my friends do every day at their jobs. I'd love a game that showed me what someone in advertising does all day, or what sort of decisions go into investment banking and architecturing. I mean, I learned the basics about a fast food company's supply chain from the McDonald's Game!

Actually, the company that makes Game Dev Story already sort of does this. Kairosoft has simulation games for managing a cruise ship, becoming a music mogul, becoming an illustrator, running a sushi joint, and one that I'm eagerly waiting to be ported over from Android: being the dictator of a soccer team. Power over little people, it's the thing that makes me keep playing these things.

Growing up, I played this basketball simulation game where you managed your team over many seasons. Keep in mind, you didn't even get to play the games, you just lorded over them by trading players, substituting different lineups, and adjusting pre-game strategy. I probably went through a dozen consecutive seasons of this. Just sitting at my computer screen watching little basketball players play each other. And I wonder where my childhood went.

Of course, as an adult, one could just go work in these other industries to find out what they're like. Or you know, I could read a book, do an interview, and research or something. But where's the fun in that?