Video-Game Education is Hard (Life as an Educator)
Learning a new language can be difficult but learning to create video-games is like learning a new perspective on life. You have to deconstruct fun into the core elements and piece it back together with different tools. You have to discover regional, platform and genre ideologies, leveraging your knowledge to create a delicate balance that is the determining factor of how successful your video game will be.
You have to master the knowledge of what function each cog and gear serves in the machine and then have to build said machine without a guide. Needless to say, AAA or Indie, it takes a lot to bring a video-game to life.
Video-Game educators have it just as difficult, if not more so. Not only do they have to master their own workflows, they also have to master a seemingly infinite amount of different workflow builds, some similar and some drastically different, further than the polar opposite of what they are comfortable with.
As an Educator, there are a number of roadblocks and traps that constantly try to impede your progress and unmotivate you to the point of giving up. I wanted to talk about this experience a little today in an attempt shed some light on the video-game education field, to show the constant battle against the odds so that next time, when you’re watching a tutorial, reading a guide or having a tutor lesson — you remember the love, sweat and tears that went into the creation of such materials.
You may be thinking at this point, “Boo hoo, this is a sob story about poor, hard done to Kitatus, doing what he loves for others. Life is so hard boohoo” but this could not be further from the truth. I am not here for sympathy, I am here for all my peers and friends who perform this mostly thankless task (usually for little to no money) to help you make the video-games of your dreams only to be scolded and forgotten about at a moment’s notice.
First off, you read correctly. Video-game education is not an industry you want to get in if you want to get rich. It won’t happen. There are obviously a few fringe cases to this with those lucky few who have “cracked the system” but if you feel like you want to educate others in the video-game field and that you want to make an easy living doing so, you are sorely mistaken.
Humanity thrives on sharing information. How to build a fire, how to afford a roof over your head, how to get over a past loved one, how to make a video-game. We thrive as a species due to the fact we share our knowledge and experience. Putting your knowledge behind a paywall just adds a minor obstacle to this situation.
People will discover your knowledge and share it around, circumventing the need to pay in some form or another. As I said, if you’re planning to make money with video-game education, the simple fact is that you probably won’t.
I have been extremely fortunate, lucky, whatever you want to call it, during my time as an Educator that I have been able to earn enough to continue to educate without starving to death. If that sounds like a direct contradiction to my previous statement, it shouldn’t. Living hand to mouth, sometimes putting more money into my goal than receiving from it is not a lifestyle I recommend.
To date, if I had to put a number on it, I would estimate that all in all over the years I have been an Educator, I have spent over £30–40 thousand pounds (GBP) in my quest to educate others. This includes such things as software licenses, needed hardware and most of all research and development, not even starting to delve into distribution of my educational works. It is an expensive hobby.
Of this £30k-£40k number, can you guess what percentage I’ve made profit wise? None. Every penny I’ve made educating, I’ve put back into my educating projects. The only deviance from this is to occasionally feed me when my bank is in minus, which, when you do education as a full-time gig is 90% of the time.
I think it is of great importance at this point to stipulate I don’t do this for the money. I don’t. I do not care about the financials, I care about giving people the tools to achieve their dreams. The reason I have gone into detail about the financial side of the video-game education is to the drive home the point. It’s very rare to make a profit from video-game education and you should do it for the right reasons. I personally feel that financial gain is not the right reason.
Instead, you should educate because you want to. Because you want to give artists their tools, you want to help people achieve their dreams, you want to change someone’s life. To that point, however, video-game education is mostly a thankless task. Occasionally, you will get a nice correspondence or two thanking you for your efforts.
However, more often than not, you will receive criticism for “not teaching the correct thing the correct way” or people who want even more from you. I see this with all my friends who are in the video-game education field. The best case scenario you can hope for in terms of thanks is a “Thank-you, but how do I do this other thing? “.
There is nothing inherently wrong with wanting more education but for me personally, it starts to feel like I am being ripped apart by a hoard of the undead. I put all of my effort and time into a specific topic or subject only for the students of my teaching to pull me beyond my limits in hunger for more.
Where I draw the line is the cases of people who feign interest. Who ask for your help, then again and again until you realise they have no interest in what you have to teach, they just want you to do their project for them pro-bono. I see this all the time. I get roughly 3 or four emails every single day in regards to this situation. So much so, I’ve been able to spot the pattern early on, which means I can attempt to avoid people like this.
Herein lies the contradiction. If you avoid people who want to use you because they are lazy, sometimes they get angered and start a hate mission again you. Some of them start spamming your social media, harassing you via any means such as when you’re live streaming and some even start a smear campaign, claiming you steal your knowledge from others and distribute it for fame, that you’ve done unimaginable things in real life and other such hurtful means to discredit and demotivate you until you cave in and do said persons bidding.
It’s hard. Really hard. Sometimes you have to turn legitimate people away who want to learn in fear that they’ll turn on you at the drop of a hat. Because you offered them a free starter, they expect a free main course and desert, all packaged up nicely and hand delivered to their front door. It can be really demotivating.
To that point, motivation is such a bitch in the video-game education field. As previously stated, you put your everything in and people are always hungry for more. You go beyond your limits but people are still hungry for more. Other “educators”, who try to use this industry as a means to make a quick buck make rushed, incorrect content and get all the attention and love. Video-game education can be like being a middle child in a family who favours first borns.
Before you say it, no — this isn’t autobiographical on my thought process. I’ve said a number of times now, I do not do this for the money or the fame, I do it to help. It can still hurt however when random personalities spew incorrect nonsense and get put on a pedestal for it.
Having the drive to continue video-game education can be a battle all in itself. There have been a number of times, I’ve sworn I’ve done my last tutorial, my last guide, my last video. Yet the thrill of helping others always eventually draws me back. Another demotivating part of video-game education is accidentally over-promising and having to deliver on said promises.
When I was quite young in the education field, I made the mistake of crowdfunding a book that told you “How to make games from start to finish”. At the time, it seemed like a great idea — the ultimate guide. “Read this and never have to read anything again!”. In retrospect, if I could have stopped myself from making that promise, I would have.
Now, I have a half-finished book that is four years late that I spend hours upon hours on every single night to make sure it’s as comprehensive as originally promised. It haunts everything I do and my failure of being four years late on the project keeps me up at night. I worry what the believers in the project think of me, my betrayal to them and if they will ever forgive me once the book has been completed. The only way I will find out is when the book is finally launched. Until then, I will spend many nights working up a sweat, restless and depressed.
This brings up another important fact about video-game education, what do you teach? Do you focus on one small niche or the complete process? There are limited bits and pieces around about the whole process. Sometimes the most important parts are ignored.
Workflow, marketing and dealing with feedback and investors are some crucial stages of the video-game development process that mostly go completely ignored in the educational front. The design stage usually takes a back seat to the flashy “Here’s how to make something move on the screen!” or “Here is how to make this thing look awesome”, completely foregoing the design aspect, how to research and develop ideas. Etc.
I could go on all darn day. The basic gist is video-game education is hard. It’s unforgiving, mostly thankless and an uphill battle all the way. If you’d like to start educating others, just make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons.
Even though there is pretty much no money to be had, no fame to be achieved, helping someone achieve their dream — at least to me, makes it all worthwhile in the end.
The next time you watch a tutorial or read a guide. Remember about the human on the other and what sort of sacrifices and stresses they have had to endure to bring this content to you. A simple thanks goes a long way.
Thanks for reading.