I am a game designer. I even spent 3 years at school to get a piece of paper that says I am a certified Bachelor of Game Design. I graduated with high honors and lots of awesome references from teachers and fellow students.
Tragically, I live in the middle of nowhere. I’ve a family, and a farm, and I’m in no position to leave. I overcame this hurdle with my education, finding a great school and working hard to surpass all expectations of me. I worked full time, studied full time, and was a mom full time. When I graduated with that degree I left my mark on it, and I left a name in the minds of the many people I interacted with.
With high hopes and a determined spirit, I turned to start a career in the game industry… And I found a wall.
More and more digital games these days are relying on the internet. You don’t have to go to a store to buy a game, you can download it. You play online, streaming content or communicating with people thousands of miles away. Even games that are single player can require an internet connection just for validation purposes.
But this seems to be a one way street. When it comes to designing video games, being online just isn’t enough. I can get my education online… but I can’t work online. Why?
During the course of my education we were introduced to a multitude of collaboration tools. There were messaging tools, both voice and text. There were screen sharing tools. There were file dumps and servers. There were forums. There were organizational tools… We were expected to perform with the same high standards that on-campus students were given.During those 3 years I met, made friends with, and worked with a number of people. I met their families, played games with them, brainstormed assignments, and even celebrated our graduation with them. I did all this without being in the same city. We were faced with a limitation and we made it a strength.
Today’s technology makes remote work easy. There are hundreds of tools to assist any type of organization in connecting its workers whether they are located down the hall or across the ocean. Technology is not a limitation.
There is something to be said for being able to sit next to someone and tell them with gesture and expression what you think of a design element. It’s convenient to be able to point at something on a piece of paper and say “THAT is what I don’t like.” With today’s tools, this can be done online just as easily.Files can be shared, video can be streamed, and live chats can bring people from thousands of miles away right into the office. Businesses have been using digital transfer of design elements to get approval from clients for decades. Webcams, email, FTP… they all make it unnecessary to be at the same place in order to view the same piece of work.
Once again, technology has made this excuse obsolete, but in a different way. The excuse of keeping a firm hand on a studio’s IP is no longer solid. A home office is no less secure than a cubicle. Over a terabyte of data can be stored on a device no bigger than a typical wallet. Any employee that wanted to leak things could do so whether they worked on it from home or from the office.
Hackers are much more sophisticated than game studios. I only need to mention the fiasco with PSN losing credit card information to prove this point. The computers at the office are no safer than the one sitting on a desk at home.
Is the idea of allowing workers to do their jobs remotely just something that game studios dislike? Is it an “atmosphere” that they are refusing to give up? What is it that allows graphical, web, programming and written work to be done remotely in their respective industries… but doesn’t allow game design to be done unless you’re sat in a studio? What would happen if all the game designers that are stuck in the middle of nowhere like me were to band together and prove that remote work can get it done? Would a new brand of studio be born? Maybe we’ll find out.