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12/03/2003

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Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Death of a Hobby: Pay no Attention to the Man Behind the Curtain:

» Jaded Behind the Scenes from grandtextauto.org
There's a good discussion over at gamegirladvance about that jaded feeling that can set in with art/entertainment when you become a creator of it.... [Read More]

» Jaded Behind the Scenes from grandtextauto.org
There's a good discussion over at gamegirladvance about that jaded feeling that can set in with art/entertainment when you become a creator of it. Update: more behind the scenes links just discovered, minus the jaded part. ;-) A NYTimes article... [Read More]

» Jaded Behind the Scenes from grandtextauto.org
There's a good discussion over at gamegirladvance about that jaded feeling that can set in with art/entertainment when you become a creator of it. Update: More "behind the scenes" links just discovered, minus the jaded part. A NYTimes article about... [Read More]

» Jaded Behind the Scenes from grandtextauto.org
There's a good discussion over at gamegirladvance about that jaded feeling that can set in with art/entertainment when you become a creator of it. Update: More "behind the scenes" links just discovered, minus the jaded part. A NYTimes article about... [Read More]

» Jaded Behind the Scenes from grandtextauto.org
There's a good discussion over at gamegirladvance about that jaded feeling that can set in with art/entertainment when you become a creator of it. Update: More "behind the scenes" links just discovered, minus the jaded part. A NYTimes article about... [Read More]

» Jaded Behind the Scenes from grandtextauto.org
There's a good discussion over at gamegirladvance about that jaded feeling that can set in with art/entertainment when you become a creator of it. Update: More "behind the scenes" links just discovered, minus the jaded part. A NYTimes article about... [Read More]

» these words aren't just for show from Tales of a Scorched Earth
In light of Wednesday's post that talked about the rise of our hobby as an accepted medium, I began to think about our subculture as it is seen by outsiders and the general media. In recent years we've seen the... [Read More]

» these words aren't just for show from Tales of a Scorched Earth
In light of Wednesday's post that talked about the rise of our hobby as an accepted medium, I began to think about our subculture as it is seen by outsiders and the general media. In recent years we've seen the... [Read More]

» Bored Games from BryanByun.com
From today's Salon [Premium membership or DayPass required]: It's the best of times, it's the worst of times for video gamers. There are no interesting games, there are stacks of interesting games. Gamers are bored with games, they are excited... [Read More]

» Bored Games from BryanByun.com
From today's Salon [Premium membership or DayPass required]: It's the best of times, it's the worst of times for video gamers. There are no interesting games, there are stacks of interesting games. Gamers are bored with games, they are excited... [Read More]

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Zaius

I've been working in the game business for 2 years now as an Animator and I understand what your saying but I think the way I enjoy games is just evolving. I see them differently than your average gamer off the street.

It was the same when I started taking film classes back in school. When I went to the movies I could appreciate a film in what I felt was a deeper way than when I didn't know anything about story arcs or shot-flow or editing. Now I know I can understand why I do or don't like a film in detail.

It's the same with games, now I can pick apart why a game is fun or why I get bored after an hour or so. Being an animator I naturally focus more on the movement I see and I often can't stand to keep playing a badly animated game. But would I have be doing myself any favors to keep playing if I was ignorant of what makes good animation?

Brain From Arous

I know a few older game developers, and they don't play games anymore, and I think it has everything to do with seeing the man behind the controls for Oz; once you know how it's done, the magic starts to wane.

While not a developer or programmer, I am a Great Old One of video games (approaching 30 years' worth of playing) and I have the same feelings - the only twist is that for me, the lethargy and weary contempt come from the length and scope of exposure.

Like a once-favorite style of music that you now can barely stand to hear.

A doctor friend on mine once told me that boredom is biologically-based. Re-experiencing the same thing over and over again 'wears down' the neurological sequences to a point where your brain prods you to try something new...

TitusByronicus

i am gearing myself up for a career in game development (once i finish college next year), and this post troubles me.

before i entered college, i had to make a decision about whether i wanted to major in computer science or in music. i have always had a great passion for programming and playing piano. i decided on majoring in programming and shooting for making video games because of long discussions i had with older people who either play music for a living or majored in music in college. it seemed to me that, while they still had great appreciation for music, they had effectively taken their passion and turned it into work. no longer was it their joyous hobby; they seemed to be sort of worn down by years of practise and composition.

i decided to go for CS because i was afraid that i would lose my passion for playing music if it became work. now i wonder if the same will happen to me with regard to programming and video games. or maybe it wouldn't have happened if i had chosen to direct my life towards music rather than video games? maybe it's always better to turn your passion into your living?

this is difficult...

-titus

Bowler

Titus: I think you made the right choice. I was going to either do code-slinging or art when I went away to college, and because I loved art more, I majored in it. Today I kind of wish that I had gone into programming, and kept art as just my personal hobby. Now when I draw or paint, I feel that I *must* meet a certain watermark or I'm not using my education to its fullest. I'm a professional, so any art I do should reflect that. That sucks.

It's a tough decision to make, but a). You're going to have an easier time making a living at programming, and b). You still can play piano at home after work to wind down and relax. You'll love doing that the rest of your life. It will never become tiresome. There won't ever even be a rare moment where it will be "just your job."

Brain: that's some good advice on the changing-things-up front. This is why I now play golf. When it's not winter.

Zaius: Where you animating at?

w00master

This comment seems a bit of a tangent, but definitely relates to the comments above. I work in advertising (yes, I know. EVIL) Anyway... My hobby, however, is in sleight-of-hand magic. I perform all the time for friends, family, and the like. After all of my performances, people invariably ask me: "so, why don't you quit your job and do magic for a living?"

Well, the simple reason and fear of what has been stated above. I don't want to make my performance magic "work." I want to enjoy it as it is -- not as a vehicle to earn a living by. So, I understand everyone's frustration and definitely relate to what this discussion has been about.

w00master

TitusByronicus

bowler: i think you're right. i was just thinking - if i had done it the other way around and tried to make a living with music (would would be incredibly more difficult than making a living with programming, i agree) i wouldn't be able to come home and code in order to wind down. programming is awesome, but it's definently not something to do to relax.

Doccus

I hear you :)

I worked in the game industry for five years, and have credit on two titles. Mainly, I did network programming and 3D effects engines (particle and special effects).

Knowing what goes on under the hood does affect the way you look at games!

Instead of finding a quirk, and either glossing it over or ignoring it, it now rubs me the wrong way. Why? Because if I saw it, the folks who made the game saw it. And that means that the game was somewhat rushed to market (as most games are due to economic issues). This leads quickly to the thought "How good would this game have been had they been given the time they needed?"

By that time, my immersion is toast, and I'm usually disgusted. I find that pretending I didn't see the flaw helps a bit, sometimes.

On a lighter note: because I know what goes into making a game, I especially enjoy those with both a maximum of depth and a minimum of flaws. Those are few and far between, but they're golden when I find them!

Bored with canned / quirky AI in games? Play an MMORPG. At least then you'll be so busy talking to friends as you burn down your opponents' town, you won't have time to notice polygonal tears and misapplied textures :)

D

waka

I am also a game industry programmer, with credit on seven titles.

I also notice flaws and inconsistencies in games all the time. However, this doesn't (usually) ruin the experience for me. If the flaw is a technical flaw (like buggy AI or a stupid collision system), I often wonder (like Doccus) what the game would be like if those corners were not cut. If the flaw is with the art, I typically try to ignore it and move on. I actually enjoy finding design flaws, because I think that game design is by far the most difficult part of game development to get right. In fact, over the last couple of years I've gotten into the habit of playing terrible games just to learn what the developer did wrong.

I went into game development because I really enjoyed picking games apart when I was a kid. Now I put games together for a living, but picking the competition apart can still be fun. However, I very rarely contemplate games as they apply to my job. That is, I spend my time looking at design flaws and ignoring the code flaws, because I don't think there is much I can learn from looking at other people's bugs. This is different than having an immersive game experience (which is still possible, with a very highly polished game), but it is entertaining nonetheless.

My suggestion to you: since you are an artist, try thinking about the games you are playing in terms other than those you are used to (like code or design). I think that if you concentrate on things that are not your expertise, you'll quickly forget about the animation or art flaws and settle down into the game.

waka

J. McNeill

I've been a pro game programmer for about six years now. My affection for games (and the development thereof) is cyclical. Every few months I will get completely revolted and fantasize about farming, or some such thing. My wife rolls her eyes, and the mood breaks eventually.

I generally find it hard to muster enthusiasm for whatever game I'm currently working on, but I still enjoy playing other people's games. Maybe there's a difference between how artists see games and how programmers see them, though.

As a counterpoint to some of the previous posts, I still play quite a few games. Most of the veteran game developers I've worked with were avid gamers: video games, board games, D&D, Nerf guns, Bop-It... probably even hopscotch.

Brent Gulanowski

There is talk all over about how games are losing their edge. The high-profile games are going the way of Hollywood blockbusters -- most of them are simply not that different from one another.

Games are such a weird thing. They have an identity problem. As long as the trend towards interactive movies keeps up, and the content of story-like games sticks to action/adventure/combat, how much variety is possible? I cannot remember the last time I saw a good action movie.

The only way to add more depth and freshness to games that stick to the story path is to allow for more role playing possibilities, but that is severly constrained from both ends: technology is insufficient to provide NPCs that can role play, and the work involved (not to mention the social stigma) of role playing in detail keeps the audience very very small.

Let's face it, (single-player) games are, ultimately, about you interfacing with a machine. The story part of it is just at odds with this fact, unless you treat the characters as machines, meaning they are either utilities or obstacles. Not much room for variety or depth or surprise in a story like that.

I think games need to get back to their roots a bit, and acknowledge, once again, that you are dealing with a machine. The game is a system of rules and other parts and the point of playing it is to master, or anyways improve, at playing. The only way to make new games interesting is to change the nature of the system -- to change the rules, radically. For good or bad, though, that probably means dropping the story elements.

Personally I think that the future of gaming, for the hard core (or should I say, sophisticated), is some new kind of multi-player. Once you've out-grown single player (fiddling with the machine), you just have to go to co-operative/competitive play. The trick is to come up with another level of multi-player gameplay and to add formality and a more mature social context to multiplayer gaming, so the whole "ghey/noob/camper" thing can be dealth with. And its got to be something better than Counter-Strike or its clones.

Or you could go play some computer chess.

Kones

I'm not in the game industry, but I do a lot of urban simulation and animation in my line of work. I have gotten used to different engines, animation quirks and the like. While it has taken away from how I appreciate games in some ways, it has opened the doors to other areas that I rarely noticed before. I really appreciate good textures and models in a way I didn't before. I wonder how certain things were accomplished and how difficult it would be to replicate.
I also have noticed that I appreciate the artwork a bit more and the style of games instead of the technology. To me, the technology is old hat, the artistry can never get old. Ico and Zelda: The Wind Waker are good examples of this.
Above all else, I still find a fun game to be a fun game. (But I did get nothing out of Ratchet and Clank for the record)

Draigon

I think my experiences have been different from what most of you have been saying. I'm an artist/programmer/musician and I've done all 3 "professionally" at one point or another.

I got into programming when I was 7, music when I was 10, and art when I was about 11 or 12. And I didn't treat them as hobbies. I always took them more seriously than school. So maybe I didn't have much of that "blissful ignorance" stage or something. I've leaned towards saying "Maybe it's me" whenever I feel jaded by my interests, but I always snap out of that. If you feel like nobody is doing things the way you want and it really bothers you, I believe that's a natural force to push you towards filling a void.

I've felt/feel jaded towards music/games, but I just use that to push me towards finding what I'm looking for and supporting it or getting off my ass and doing it myself.

Draigon

btw, whenever I feel jaded by my interests, it helps to get stimulation from alternate sources. Do something out of your ordinary routine on a quest to find something to rejuvenate you. Do something you would normally never do. For some reason, that works for me sometimes unless it's just a bad case of depression.

mnickel

I really have to agree with Draigon's opinion. You probably need a little change of pace or a new source of input/simulation.

I think that if you apply yourself to a particular task for an extended amount of time, you will go through that particular phase of boredom. I believe, however, that it's a particularly cyclic sort of thing. Eventually you will come around full circle and be able to look at the same thing with new eyes.

When humans start a new experience or task, they generally seem to have endless bounds of enthusiasm for whatever it is that they are doing. As time goes on, only those things that are truely important to you remain interesting.

I don't think that it applies only to the field of gaming. I think that this idea of "loosing the magic" happens for anything that you do for a long period of time. Unfortunately our society as a whole does not reenforce the idea of perserverence. We all like quick, easy, simple, small to digest bits of experience rather than long-term committed developement.

I've been a martial arts instructor for 15 or so years, and I have gone through many ups and downs of not wanting to step into the gym to train or look at another uncoordinated person, but what keeps me coming back is the personal interaction between the people in the class and an unexplainable desire to just not quit.

I'm also wondering if it's time that you create a game. :) If you can see these flaws, maybe there is some new twist that you would be able to create that would be fulfilling.

Finally, I think that it's important to try and maintain a child-like attitude towards these long-term experiences. Kids always seem to enjoy endless repeat behaviors: the re-reading and re-reading of a favority book. The constant repeating of a question or a song. They have no preconceived experiences so everything is always new and refreshing. Having that sort of attitude is very difficult to maintain... Human's cannot maintain a state of alertness for a prolonged period of time.

I guess everything seems to lose it's magic after a while, but those things that are important to our core are worth rekindling that child-like attitude...

Jay Cobill

I've been in the visual effects industry for the past 4 years or so, and for the first little while going to watch films in a theatre became an excercise in reverse-engineering. It was such an immersion-destroying phenomenon to have a behind-the-scenes intimacy to a film that for a while I couldn't bring myself to watch an action/sci-fi flick.

After some time spent watching indi movies and experimenting with some genres of film I wouldn't have normally been interested in (I discovered a passion for hokey westerns!) I managed to re-discover my love of film, especially -really terrible- film.

I'd like to think that these days I can "turn off" the CG artist and just sit back and enjoy the experience. It's taken quite a bit of work though. I quite liked the Hulk in all his plasticy green glory. :)

Perhaps the key to rediscovering your love of games is to immerse yourself in the truly awful and most off-the-wall games you can find for a while, until you develop an affection for bad work. I strongly recommend any 1980's arcade classic based on a movie or comic book license. :)

-Jay Cobill

madsax

What a great thread. A lot of insightful comments!

I think it's true that the things you do the most you eventually grow tired of - and if you're working on games all day, every day, it's hard to imagine any other outcome than that you would get a little bored with them. (I've often said the same thing about relationships...;) )

But what I'd like to suggest is that this is a plateau in your interest, not a valley - and whether you go to another hobby for awhile or soldier on through your frustration, what will happen is that eventually you'll find yourself noticing things about games that you didn't before, and your interest will be rekindled.

I've been in the industry for ten years, and programmed a handful of games, but mostly I've examined and played perhaps a thousand games and game concepts while working for two of the console manufacturers. I've definitely been where you are, and revisit it frequently. That doesn't change. But trust in yourself that you haven't killed your passion - it will respark on its own.

For me, what rekindles my interest is just that little something that shows passion for an idea. It could be a unique game design concept, like for Mr. Mosquito, Parappa, Rez, Space Channel 5, Rez, Ico, Sly Cooper, or BG&E. Or an incredible technical achievement like the movie-to-real-time camera for LOTR:TT. Or amazing production values like for True Crime. Or even simply an extraordinary strength of will to create a great product, which causes the developers to go to amazing lengths, like for Enter the Matrix (cost) or Republic (time).

Your hobby hasn't died - there is no death of such things. Like the flowers which bloom each spring, your passion for games will return when the circumstances are right. It may not feel exactly the same, but then, you won't be the same person when this passion returns, so why would you want it to be exactly the same?

BoringBot

i think mebbe another thing that may be affectin you that you might not realize is that prolly all of us have been told throughout our lives that games and gaming aren't very valuable to society. i think here in america at least, it takes a lot to keep on with the hobby in spite of people saying thats its a waste of time. i'm basin this from personal experience tho, so if you don't feel that people treat it that way then nevermind. but basically what i mean is that its pretty hard to keep up interest with something, whatever yer passion for it is, if you've repeatedly been told that it doesn't really have any worth. personally i think games are central to a peoples culture, and that if a culture has no games, its not a real culture. so i place games up there with painting and music. i think a lotta people do internally at least, but maybe don't acknowledge it. i liked what draigon said, about how if you don't like whats out there, you should try to put something out there that you do like. thats really how good art is made. by seeing that something is missing from the world and makin it. i know thats prolly bad advice, especially for video game design, on account of the costs involved, but i think it could be good advice too. theres no reason you cant make a game thats better than all of the other ones out there. its true for all other forms of art, so why shouldn't it be tru for games as well.
i really think it comes down to the worth issue, cause after years and years of painting, i still remember that what im doing is art, and therefore of worth to society at large, but for some reason i still have a hard time explainin to my friends why its all right that i can play video games for 10 hour long stretches at a time. i paint for that long, should it be unnatural that i play for that long too?

Rulzern

I've been into game programming for a few years, and in the beginning it really took out of my enjoyment of games, but my passion for gaming came back. From time to time i lose my passion for small amounts of time, luckily i have other hobbies (and game programming is one of my hobbies, in addition to gaming, free diving and snowboarding). So if i get bored with one of them, i just do one of the other until the interest comes back.

BT

Bowler,

It may not be you. It may just be the games. Go get Mario & Luigi for your GBA. Play that. Then tell me if you've killed your last hobby.

Mando

This sounds like the programmer's mantra:

"All software sucks."

And it does. In my 6 years of computer programming, I've never experienced software that didn't suck. In fact, I've never written software that didn't suck, and I'm a pretty decent programmer. The best thing that an honest developer can say about her software is "It doesn't suck".

One of my best friends in the whole world is a video game designer. For years I pestered him for advice on how to get a job in the industry, and every time I would mention it he would try to disuade me:

"It's really hard to get a job."
"The pay sucks."
"The hours suck."

Finally, one day I said "Listen up. This has been my dream since I was 12 years old. Don't tell me how hard it is, or how much it sucks. I've got a real job now that's no cakewalk: the pay sucks, the hours suck, crunch time sucks. But that's the job. That's what I do. Why won't you help me?".

And he looked at me the way that only a true friend can, and said "I know. But you love games and I don't want you to lose that. And you will if you start making them.".

He's got a valid point, although we've since talked more about it and he doesn't feel as strongly about it as he used to. We've decided that industry insiders need to view gaming as a relationship rather than a hobby.

It's like when you get married. Before the marriage, everything's all hugs and kisses and romance and candlelight dinners. After a few years and a few kids, the hugs and kisses and romance and candlelight are replaced with passing glances, quick hellos and Dominoes pizza. Does that mean that you don't love each other anymore? Do you give up?

Some might, but if it's real you understand that things change. My wife and I haven't had a romantic trip in years but we love each other more than ever. We understand each other in a way that's beautiful. And that's how you understand games.

Yeah, the cancerous spots in games are more offensive. But the beautiful spots, the games with great gameplay or art are that much more beautiful. You have an understanding of the process and the underbelly that few do, and with that comes a greater appreciation.


So chin up :). It'll get better. Or you'll get a divorce.

waka

[b]Perhaps the key to rediscovering your love of games is to immerse yourself in the truly awful and most off-the-wall games you can find for a while, until you develop an affection for bad work. I strongly recommend any 1980's arcade classic based on a movie or comic book license. :)[/b]


This is exactly what I do, and it totally works. Bad games are much more fun when you play with other coworkers though. And after playing some truly horrible games for a while, the good games that annoy you now will seem like a breath of fresh air.

waka

William

I think one of the reasons that you might be getting frustrated is from a lot of the talk that comes out of the game development and game-interested crowd about what is and is not important. Mechanics and gameplay have been so over-emphasized as the "heart" of gaming, and looking at them as cultural works or on an aesthetic level have been somewhat dismissed, and while this is understandable (you don't have a good game with bad mechanics, you have a broken promise) it doesn't really give you much to grow up with.

My sense is that game design isn't growing up with its audience, and as you grow out of the audience demographic, you're starting to feel a little let down. If you were working on the videogame equivalent of Citizen Kane, would you still feel the same way?

dhex

game design seems to have grown in terms of boobs and bombs and little else, with a few exceptions here and there (deus ex comes to mind as the last really enjoyable console experience i had) but that's a depressing issue for another thread.

as a semi-pro musician i find myself having trouble enjoying a lot of work in my particular genre of expertise (microhouse/IDM/glitch/etc) and only started buying music again by getting into stuff from the opposite side of the spectrum, like spastic metal and arty rock type stuff. by listening to things that i wouldn't or couldn't do by myself in styles that i wouldn't even begin to try to emulate i've found out more of what i like and don't like in my own work and the works of others.

Alex

Like the flowers which bloom each spring, your passion for games will return when the circumstances are right.

Amen. Sometimes, we have to accept that who we were lies in the past, and who we are lies in the future. Many's the time I lost interest in games, and many's the times that years later I've come back.

It's only natural, and it's the only way to really appreciate the art in the game, rather than the monkey. (Are there monkeys in games? Not enough, methinks!)

BrainFromArous

I think one of the reasons that you might be getting frustrated is from a lot of the talk that comes out of the game development and game-interested crowd about what is and is not important. Mechanics and gameplay have been so over-emphasized as the "heart" of gaming, and looking at them as cultural works or on an aesthetic level have been somewhat dismissed, and while this is understandable (you don't have a good game with bad mechanics, you have a broken promise) it doesn't really give you much to grow up with.

Damned good point.

I often get into this with so-called "classic" or "retro" gamers. With a few exceptions, computer & video games just don't age well. The best games are always the ones to come.

Whereas forms of art and entertainment with more settled technologies - like cinema and music - have established a canon of key works that can easily be enjoyed by (and inspire) people born long after their creation, any video game older than, say, 5 years might as well have never existed for the current generation of players.

(Again, exceptions can be made for a few all-time faves and runaway bestseller franchises.)

The focus on the underlying technology and mechanics of the games also, as you point out, de-emphasizes any aesthetic or narrative considerations.

For a timely example, check out almost any gaming website or magazine coverage of video game trade shows. It's all about new video cards, new console specs, broadband enabling, etc. Hardly ever anything "deeper."

Now, this is true of something like the movies as well. There are all manner of cineaste specialist publications to inform you about lighting, new kinds of cameras, film processing, digital editing, CGI, THX and SDDS theaters and so forth.

All worthy subjects, but it's still understood that someone who only watches movies from a technical, "cinematographical" perspective is rather missing the point.

What is the movie about? Is the story any good? Is it the same old, tiresome stuff or is something fresh being attempted?

(In fact, some of the best cinema criticism ever written has come from people who couldn't diagram the parts of a Panaflex camera or explain exactly how Dolby Surround works if their lives depended on it.)

So why is the gaming media so often a soul-deadening drone of texture mapping, framerates, polygon counts and hair-splitting over the virtues of the latest Creative Labs audio card...?

Is there so little "meat" to our hobby and passion that there's nothing else to talk about outside of the wires and plumbing?

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