NOTE: The Game Design Workshops Tamworth AU mentioned in this post have a FACEBOOK PAGE. If you're a local interested in game development, subscribe to the page to keep up with news and coming events. At the date of posting, the next workshop will be held on Saturday January 5th 2013. These are free workshops, and no experience is necessary. If you have a laptop or tablet device, bring it along, but it's not required - most of the workshop's time is spent in discussion and practical exercises.
It seems like my blog has fallen to the wayside, becoming trampled beneath the heels of a nomadic lifestyle. Projects bustle about in the mosh-pit of my mind, competing for the attention of the hyperactive and fickle persona that claims to be my creativity. This is the creative life, right? What can you do but cling on and enjoy the ride?
Well, being the mind-blowingly awesome ride it is, I recently decided I'd offer some other folk a chance to jump on.
That is me.
The photographer was a cool dude of 50-something who had never played a video game in his life. I was trying to convince him to get started with GTA, but the running-over-hookers thing, discussed in parallel with the significance of gaming as an art form in contemporary culture, seemed to be both compelling and terrifying. I like to think he bought an Xbox 360 and a bunch of violently cathartic B-games on his way home. And for the record, I make no apologies for my guilty pleasures: I played flOwer and bawled like a baby in the end so I am entitled to my moments of destructive glee.
Eclectic tastes aside, the write-up in the local paper was great: Partly because I'm moderately narcissistic and felt like a celebrity nerd for a couple of days, but mostly because it represented a little bit of regional exposure and recognition for an industry which is utterly non-existent out here. I'm sure it surprises no one that Tamworth - like most regional areas in Australia - is not exactly a mecca for game development. Budding developers in our dry and dusty country music capital severely lack resources and support.
This Game Design Workshop (the first of many) was an opportunity to start to change that.
One of the biggest barriers to productivity that often arises for beginners is an inability to identify good resources for self-education. So you want to make games? Well, a Google search for the phrase "How do I make games?" isn't likely to give you a clear road-map. In fact, just glancing at a page of results, I feel confused myself and I already know this shit.
That ambiguity creates uncertainty, and uncertainty often leads to anxiety and procrastination. If you've ever told yourself "Eh, I'll feel more like doing this / have a better grasp of this tomorrow" you're a victim of the mechanisms of your own lazy-ass vices. This is one of the most common lies folk tell themselves, and we all do it. I do it with housework. If there was a film about my life the antagonist would be a giant pile of dirty dishes.
I'm pretty convinced that this bug in our programming is the only reason we aren't right this instant flying around on hover-bikes in Hyper-Robo-Earth-2012.
My goal with the Game Design Workshops in Tamworth was to circumvent those barriers by offering local game-dev enthusiasts an opportunity for Q&A, tutorials, anecdotes, general advice, and most importantly (by far) a local community in each other. Nothing inspires and motivates more than passionate peers.
I grew up here, and despite some supportive and encouraging adults, the lack of community was frustrating and often demoralising. 18-year-old me would have given a kidney to meet some dude who had forged the way ahead and could say to me, with emphatic resolve "This kicks ass, and you can do this too, here's how..."
Well, I can offer a little bit of my time to be that dude to others. And I recommend it to my professional buddies: Go start a Game Design Workshop in your local area. All that stuff we learn over our combined centuries in the creative industries - what really is the 'tao' of game development - can't be Googled or purchased from a college. Think of all that brilliant anecdotal knowledge in the enormous field of view that is your professional hindsight. It's a pretty cool thing to be able to offer that to others. I can't wait to see what they do with it.
Enough proselytising: The first workshop was a huge success and I'm pumped for number two.
I expect next time I'll transition from facilitator into guide, and then from guide into peer, as the workshop gains its own momentum and becomes driven more by the group's pulse than mine. But what I'm really looking forward to is the three or four weeks from now when these folk are making their own games. I can't wait to see how they inspire me.
Boring old Tamworth: You're about to get pwned.
Colleague and good friend Epona Schweer (formerly @ the Academy of Interactive Entertainment and now globe-trotting on a creative pilgrimage) wrote an extensive article on Gamasutra about building an independent game development community in your local area. This article is overflowing with sage advice, and is a great place to start if you're considering facilitating Game Design Workshops in your local area. I'll also document and report on my own experiences and advice for working with a community who lack training resources: Fundamentally, providing training and support through to the point where these folk can confidently refer to themselves as game developers.