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The games industry needs less specialists and more product builders
a short rant on overspecialization and the need for people to care more about the full product, not just their own part of the job

Great games aren't made by putting together a bunch of people oblivious to everything except their focused set of skills. Being a designer, an artist or a programmer is not enough. Great games are made by people who can hack their way through all kinds of jobs.

Sure, you can't excel at everything. But you can't just program a game. Neither can you make a game only out of 3d models or 2d sprites. And you sure can't make a game just by designing its rules on paper.

You should be able to craft meaningful placeholders, be it code, art or design. Your title should be "game developer", not artist, not programmer, not game designer.

To hire a guy and tie its position to a particular kind of work, is implying games can be split into pieces to be processed on their own. They can't. Do you want your team to be an assembly line or a creative melting pot full of cross-pollination?

The problem is deeply rooted in the way we envision education. Current formations are centered around a set of skills which define a limited job. Do you really care about writing programs just for its own sake? animating sprites for its own sake? Or do you want to create awesome gaming experiences for people to enjoy? Why don't we teach people to make a complete game? That's much more empowering and you can still have that particular skill you're very good at.

Some people would call Joakim Sandberg ( an amazing 2D artist, and he sure is. But he didn't stop right there. He's hacked his way through game making tools, wrote his own music, etc. He makes games. He's a fricking game developer.

Making games isn't about programming, it isn't about the visuals or the audio, it isn't about well-crafted mechanics. No, to make games, you need all of those, plus the ability to put them together in a finished product.

If you want to become a fully-fledged game developer, taking part in a compo like Ludum Dare might be a good way to start expanding your skills to the full art of making games. You'll make all kinds of things and learn from other people.

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Last weekend I was fortunate enough to be taking part in a friendly game development session in Cambridge, and during a presentation of my creation to my peers I was asked a question which became stuck in my mind.

“What message are you trying to convey with this game?”

At the time this question flummoxed me, and I did not have an answer for them, but after some time and thought I have come to a conclusion which I would like to share:

When creating this game, even at it's most initial stages, this question had not entered my mind. Instead, I worked by my own question “What am I asking the player to do?”

The player of a game has been assigned goals by the game's designer. By providing entertaining and creative methods and feedback through which the player can achieve these goals, we have created “fun”.

This does not however mean that a game cannot convey a message to a player. It is simply that the method through which the message is conveyed is slightly more complex than simply watching a movie on a screen, or viewing a painting.

When we as game developers create tasks for the player, we have a chance to convey a greater message – not by telling them directly, but through the conclusions formed by the player as a direct result of attempting to complete these tasks.

Examples of this can be drawn from existing games, so I will use one as an example, say the Command and Conquer series of real time strategy games.

What tasks do these series of games give the player? Defend yourself from your opponents, and exterminate them. What tools do we give the player to accomplish this task? A variety of buildings, units, and commands for these units.

By assigning a task to a player and providing them with a set of tools to accomplish these goals, we have set the building blocks for the player to form their own conclusions from the experience of play.

So what message could we say this game portrays? Well the player learns a certain amount of management ability, the ability to adapt to enemy attack methods, how to use the game's interface, and so on.

This doesn't really feel like a message in the sense of which the original question was asked. We are trying to imply that video games have a more deep meaning than teaching the player how to achieve a goal, so how about when we create a game, we design it in a way which teaches the player more subtle, philosophical meanings?

Could we teach the player how to understand the horrors of war via such a game? What if the player had to choose between slaughtering a village, or evacuating them to safety at their own expense of time and resources?

With a lot of current video games being focused on violent activity, it is very easy for a modern game player to take the desensitised route: “Evacuation is too costly, kill them”

We could however try to raise attention to the callousness of this decision later in the game, perhaps the player has been exposed for being a murdering war lord and must now explain himself in a court martial. However I fear the only message this would give the player is that killing civilians results in punishment, and empathy would not be involved in the player's future decision not to kill civilians.

As I tend to dislike writing an article that does not have some form of interactivity with it's readers, I present a task to you the reader. How would you attempt to teach a player empathy via game mechanics, allowing the player to form this conclusion simply from playing the game?

Perhaps if we can find answers to these questions, we might become one step closer towards raising the humble video game closer to being accepted along with other forms of art such as movies and music.

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This is my updated Stanford AI Class Circle. If you want to get added, leave a comment below. I also have a circle for ML and DB. :-)


Facebook AI Class Study and Discussion Group:

Facebook ML Class Study and Discussion Group:

Strong Artificial Intelligence Group:

Stanford Courses Forum:

Top 10 Study Groups & Resources for Stanford’s Open Class on AI:

Download GNU Octave for ML:

Youtube Channel:


Google Group:


Class Notes (By the AI Community):



Class Notes (By LarveCode):

Unit Notes in a fun way:

Class Notes (By +Ivan De Marino ):

Ivan's Blog:




For those interested in other free Stanford courses visit the Stanford Engineering Everywhere Program here:

People to follow: +Juan Carlos Kuri Pinto +Peter Norvig +Michelle Marie +Nima N +Andrea Kuszewski +Linh Pham +Jonathan Langdale +Rohan Aurora +Ivan De Marino

#stanford #ai-class #ai-stanford #artificial-intelligence #ml-class #db-class

Juan Gabriel Calderón-Pérez shared a circle with you.
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