Ready To Become A Video Games Creator?

Whether you want to set up your own games company, get a gig in the industry, or just improve your random knowledge of games history, take a look at Video games:an introduction to the industry by Andy Bossom and Ben Dunning (Fairchild Books), out this week.

Ben Dunning has a background in UX, web and graphic design and teaches at Kingston College in the UK. Andy Bossom was a game developer, and is now a course leader at the University for the Creative Arts. They’ve written a useful hybrid How-To-manual/textbook that sets out the nuts and bolts of game creation from hiring a team to copywriting intellectual property and then marketing it to the world.

I spoke to the authors via email back in London while they gear up for the book launch. Ben Dunning explained the motivation behind the collaboration.

“We saw an opportunity to avoid making another text-heavy book on video games; we felt there were enough of those,” he said, “And we wanted to open up the industry to people who hadn’t given it a second thought previously, particularly those from other creative disciplines and professions.”

It’s clear that the games industry is a good state of flux. Yes, there are millions to be made at the top end and those games giants are always hiring. But with the proliferation of platforms, especially native apps on mobile with built-in retail ecosystems, it’s now possible to make it as an independent publisher.

“Indie development had significantly diminished during the 1990s due to the rise and dominating strength of the console market and the powerful publishers behind it,” agreed Bossom, “At that time the cost of developing a game to market was huge and beyond the reach of most. After 2000 the rise of the online game hubs such as Valve’s STEAM Green Light changed the model of game delivery to market, across an expanding range of platforms that now include SMART devices with touch screens and swipe mechanics (mobiles, phablets and tablets).”

The book unpicks contemporary jargon, key terms and genres, and gives the best examples of games in each category as reference, from RTS (real-time strategy), RPG (role-playing game) and FPS (first person shooter), via puzzle (self-explanatory) to sandbox (open worlds to roam around in).

The book has lots of industry expert interviews, including Senior animator and 3D artist Will du Toit, who worked on Hitman at Io-Interactive, and Anna Marsh who set up her own company, Tickity Boom, after stints at Sony and on Tomb Raider for Eidos. The authors also sat down with Stuart Saw, aka The Stupot, an exec at Twitch to get tips on the most compelling live gameplays on the platform.

If you’re not looking for anything more than a good history of random, yet vital, factoids, this book delivers that too. Who knew that the first recorded game was called The Royal Game of Ur (4000 BCE), a two-player race to move your pieces from one end to the other over a twenty-square rectangular board? Or that back in the Dark Ages in Northern Europe the long winter nights flew by with a game of Hnefatafl (pronounced nef–ah-tah-fel, meaning “King’s Table,”)?

And did you know that nuclear physicist William Higinbotham created Tennis for Two, consisting of a bouncing green dot, wire connected paddles and a 5-inch oscilloscope screen in 1958? Sounds familiar? Yes — it was the inspiration for Pong, two decades later.

From arcades to consoles, home PCs to mobile devices, right up to today’s VR headmounted devices; Ouya, Steam Box, and Mojo consoles, Video Games: An Introduction to the Industry delivers a thorough exploration of an industry that is now bigger than Hollywood.

Which begs the final question: what was the first game the authors ever worked on? And what do they still play for fun?

“I first began to create games in the 80s using Basic (the programming language for the BBC Micro computer),” said Bossom. “Then, after getting my Master’s in computer animation, the first ‘game-in-a-box’ title I worked on was Rogue Ops, a stealth-based action-adventure game for the PS2, XBOX and GameCube in 2003.”

And for fun?

“When I’m not playing my undergrads’ Unity prototypes at the University for the Creative Arts, England,” Bossom said. “I’ve been spending many happy hours playing Fallout 4 and Star Wars Battlefront, and indie games such as Terra Tech with my 7 year old son, Gabriel.”

Dunning also got his gaming start on BBC Micros at school. “As for what I play now,” he said, “I’m a real sucker for the historical RTS of the Total War Series of games and the FIFA football (soccer) franchise. But most of the time I’m playing Minecraft with my 6 year old.”

According to the Entertainment Software Association, total consumer spend on video games in 2014 was 22 billion US dollars, so if your day job is decidedly lacklustre, and you’ve had that games idea kicking around for a while, now is the time to act. Maybe you’re the next Markus “Notch” Persson. You never know.

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Video Games: An Introduction to the Industry by Andy Bossom and Ben Dunning is out now from Bloomsbury price $42.95

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