Category Archives: My Career

Ten New Year’s Game Dev Resolutions for 2018

As the Earth begins another journey ’round the Sun, it’s time for the annual tradition of resolving to accomplish a list of goals for improving one’s life. With this being a game development blog, here my list of career-related New Year’s resolutions that I have compiled for your reading pleasure but have no realistic expectations of actually accomplishing this year more than any previous year I’ve made such lists.

Here we go!

  1. Expand My Social Media Reach: Creating a brand for yourself has become an essential step in managing your career, and social media is a terrific way to build, craft and enhance your brand, as well as bring attention to your accomplishments and connect better with new and existing contacts.  Now, I’m very good at regularly posting to Twitter and am pretty good at writing a weekly blog update (although I’ll let you in on a secret — when I miss a week, I’ll often write that week’s blog later and then backdate it). However, I do need to take greater advantage of image-based ones like Snapchat and Instagram, because I hear that’s what all the kid’s use.
  2. Add Videos To My YouTube Channel: I started a YouTube channel a couple of years ago and began creating a series of videos about Gamification.  Unfortunately, my PC blew up and it took all the video I had recorded with it, along with my favorite video editing program.  What I need to do is bite the bullet and get a new computer (my MacBook Air is on its last legs too) and better recording equipment, because I’ve also been meaning to create a new series of Boy Scout Game Design Merit Badge videos.
  3. Spotlight More Student Work: Last year I began covering more of my student’s in my blog posts, as well as posting Facebook videos of their project presentations at the our monthly Los Angeles Film School Game Fair. However, I’d like to make these spotlights more of a formal element of the classwork to give them a broader audience for creating games.
  4. Attend More Game Industry Events: I manage to attend E3 and IndieCade every year, the Game Developers Conference about every two years, and the USC GamePipe Lab every semester, not to mention the International Game Developer Association events in which I participate, but there are many more venues in which I can meet more people, learn new things, and find inspiration.
  5. Speak at More Conferences:  Later this month I’ll be leading an ageism panel at Casual Connect, and in September I’ll be a guest at a The Prisoner convention to talk about the Apple II game I developed based on the show.  But that’s not enough.  Noah Falstein once told me that the way he got clients for his game design consulting business was by speaking at conferences, and if I want to increase my consulting business, I need to do the same.
  6. Play More Video Games. I’ve always found it difficult to find time for doing things by and for myself, so unless I’m doing specific research or have been asked by someone to play a video game with them, I have a hard time setting aside a dozen hours or so to play a video game just for enjoyment.  However, if I don’t do just that, I won’t be staying current in my field.  So, I just need a way to justify it — perhaps by writing game reviews.
  7. Play More Tabletop Games. I learned about game design from playing tabletop games throughout my childhood, and now I use tabletop games for teaching my students about game mechanics, since it is so much easier to “look under the hood” and create prototypes for tabletop games than it is with video games.  I do need to play a broader variety of these games, but fortunately, their social nature makes it a lot easier for me to play tabletop games than single-player video games.  I recently joined a Board Game Meet-Up in Hollywood that meets very frequently, and on both Thanksgiving and Christmas, we played board games as a family after dinner.  Now with the holiday over, I need to make more opportunities to play games with my family.
  8. Read More Game Design Books: I rely heavily on Tracy Fullerton’s Game Design Workshop and Jesse Schell’s The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses in my classroom, but there are so many other great game design books out there that give new perspectives and insights.  I am particularly looking forward to reading Mike Seller’s new book, Advanced Game Design: A Systems Approach.
  9. Become more active: As a game developer and teacher, I tend to sit in front of my computer or my classroom all day long, but continuing to do so will eventually have a negative effect on my posture and health. Last year we got a dog that liked to take long walks, and so I got into the habit of walking him around the neighborhood every day.  Unfortunately, he became destructive when left alone while we were at work, and so we had to return him to the rescue shelter were we originally found him. However, I’ve kept in to the habit of taking an hour-long walk each morning, but I need to challenge my heart and muscles a bit more, and so I resolved to turn some of those walks into hikes in the hills around my home.
  10. Stop procrastinating: The biggest barrier that keeps most people from reaching their goals is the desire to do something fun instead of working hard. Once you get used to procrastinating it’s difficult to snap yourself out of it, so you’ll need to put in a lot of work to change this bad habit. Unfortunately, I put this one on my list every year, but somehow I never get around to addressing it.  Maybe this year, I will!

So, how about you?  What are some of the New Year’s Resolutions you recommend for game developers?





Teaching Game Design Virtually At The National Boy Scout Jamboree

If you follow my blog, you know that I was part of the team that created the Game Design Merit Badge for the Boy Scouts of America. It became the scouting organization’s 131st merit badge, each of which introduces scouts to such hobbies and occupations as archeology, chemistry, stamp collecting, and robotics, as well as such scouting skills as camping and orienteering. Several years ago, two scouters and game enthusiasts, Tom Miller and David Radue, proposed that the Boy Scouts introduce a merit badge for game design, and after a year of studies to gauge interest and two years of development from a team that included myself, the new merit badge was unveiled at the 2013 South by Southwest conference.

To earn the badge, a scout must analyze different types of games; describe play value, content, and theme; and understand the significance of intellectual property as it relates to the game industry. However, analyzing a game is only the first step. A scout must then propose three rule changes to an existing game and observe how the players’ action and emotional experiences are affected by the rule changes. After that,scouts then design, build, and blind test a game of their own design. The Game Design merit badge is not limited to video games; scouts can also choose to develop board, card, and pen-and-paper role-playing games too.

Since helping to create the requirements and instruction manual for this merit badge, I’ve stayed involved with it by serving as a merit badge counsellor to assist scouts with the requirements, and I also run game design workshops at local merit badge midways. However, right now I am counseling scouts at even bigger event that’s thousands of miles from my home. The National Boy Scout Jamboree is a gathering of over 40,000 Scouts held at the Summit Bechtel Reserve in West Virginia to do activities like zip-lining, scuba diving, BMX biking, patch trading, whitewater rafting…. and game design.

Game Design Merit Badge Team leader Tom Miller is stationed at a tent for assisting scouts to earn the Game Design merit badge, and he asked me to assist him by allowing scouts to interview me about my work in game design to fulfill one of the merit badge requirements about careers in the game industry. Unfortunately, I couldn’t make the trip to West Virginia this year, so I’ve been attending virtually via Google Hangouts.  While the acoustics in the tent weren’t the greatest due to all the scouts having fun making and playing games, we managed to communicate via a combination of gestures, texting, and shouting.

I did attend a Boy Scout National Jamboree in person many years ago. In 1985, my business partner, Pam Pollack, and I were there to demonstrate our company’s wilderness survival simulation, Wilderness: A Survival Adventure. We had been in discussions with the Boy Scouts of America’s National Office about allowing scouts to use our game to satisfy one of the requirements of the Wilderness Survival merit badge, and the BSA invited us up be in the Apple Computer booth. Although we were never successful to get the BSA’s endorsement of our game (they were rightly concerned that the technology would become obsolete too quickly), we had a great time at the Jamboree, meeting all the scouts.

Never would I have imagine that I’d return some three decades later, but do so through technology I would not have imagined possible back then. So this year, I’ve been talking to scouts in groups of three about careers in game development. I’ve often done virtual lectures to school classrooms located throughout the country, but I have to say, the scouts ask the best questions. Instead of “Did you work on Game X or Y?”, the scouts have asked me, “What hands-on education do you need to supplement your college courses to get into game development?”, “What is the process for balancing a game?”, and “How does your average workday change from prep-roduction to post-production?”

So far, the scouts haven’t stumped me. And as long as they don’t ask me to remember how to tie two half-hitches for a game involving knot tying, I should make it through the week just fine.