When I began writing about videogames a decade ago, I was like any other videogame fan. I was excited about the idea of working in this space and perhaps someday getting to talk to some famous developer and finding out what color his Ferrari is. Games were some unknowable construct built from the genius of men who could wield math and logic into a kind of magical amalgam that entertained me endlessly. I was innocent and naïve.
Now, I count a few of those "names" as friends, and I have seen behind the curtain to find out that the conjurers who I imagined calling forth titanic and arcane magiks to create the games I play turn out to just be guys who work really hard to be a part of an industry they love. Even those who are doomed to struggle every day for years to create some product that may only manage a meager 75 on the metacritic scale have invested themselves into work with the passion and determination of any craftsman.
As I close the book on Press Released, and step further back from writing about games professionally, I wish to leave you with this reminder: This is an industry built on the backs of real people.
To actually sit down and talk to a developer, programmer, producer or artist who poured themselves into four years of production that was poorly received at launch, regardless of legitimacy of the criticism, is an exploration in the human side of this equation. What I have learned and grown to respect over 10 years is how much these professionals invest of themselves in their project.
I am reminded of a story I once wrote for a magazine about the doomed MMOG Vanguard. While I had been as scathing as any other critic about the game, I was fascinated about the struggles that had faced the team, and I pursued people at all levels involved in the process. There came from that two stories: the one I could actually write in which I had quotes and on-the-record comments from credible sources. Then, there was the one that no one would confirm but about which everyone in the know agreed that spoke of unending disappointment, discouragement and at times outright betrayal. The people who worked on that game were endlessly talented, regardless of the shambles which represented the final product, and if you think you were disappointed with the results as a player, get one of those guys in a bar, sit down and have a few drinks to find out what real disappointment looks like.
As I read the recent Wired article about the final days of Duke Nukem Forever and looked at the picture of the team gathered for their one final moment of glory before the lights went dim, I understood again the human toll of such public failure. Yes, it's been fun to make Duke the butt of endless jokes, but imagine for a moment spending 12 years, day after day, struggling to build something monumental only to fall far short with nothing to show for it. For us, Duke Nukem will be an anecdote. For those involved, it may certainly be a cornerstone of their life.