I took a game design class my first semester at college, and it was definitely not all fun and games. Specifically, I remember the crunch during the last week of the semester. Our final project was (unsurprisingly) to fully design and create a board game. The game we were making was a board game with a computer program supplement: the pitch was Carcassonne meets Sim City. We had been working for weeks, but always had more to do. The project was due on a Thursday afternoon; Tuesday night, I got barely any sleep working on the project. Then Wednesday came. We met after classes were done for the day at 4pm, and worked straight until 9, when we moved to another building which was open later. We were there all night; I remember texting my girlfriend good night and good morning while working.
There were three of us: one person ironing out the final mechanics, one working on the art for the game, and I was writing the program for the computer supplement. It was miserable. I kept finding bugs that needed fixing, the girl working on the mechanics kept asking me to add features, and I was so sick of programming that I wanted to vomit. We continued work straight through the morning; I missed my final English class of the semester, and we worked right until it was time to present. I had never slept so little and gone so crazy over one project... but even though the work was miserable, I ended up really enjoying it. It was a shame that I actually had to turn in the game and could not keep it. (Man, I should really be a game designer...)
Anyway, anecdote aside, I only have one comment on the article itself.
Game devs think back wistfully to those days before they became a creator and could dive headlong into truly just playing a videogame. They talk about games that came out before they took their first computer class like those days are gone forever. They know, even if they change careers, that they will still know how the magic tricks are done. They've seen things they can't unsee.
While this is true, I think it's worth adding that there's an upside to this. Sure, you become more critical of games once you see how they work and learn the tricks, and it becomes more difficult to enjoy some games, but when you happen across a game you can truly love and enjoy even after all the game design experience.... it's a wonderful feeling. Your appreciation of the game is so much richer since you can enjoy the game and appreciate its design merits. I would happily trade my naivete and enjoyment of perhaps lesser games in exchange for a fuller enjoyment of my favorites again, and encourage anyone with the opportunity to do the same.
Well, you're right, but departing from a strange point of view. Are there really people who think that making games is just sitting around popping headshots and drinking beer? If so, I am certain that those people have never seen a computer code. Not even html. Anyone who's tried writing those knows that computers are fickle and strange creatures, and anyone who didn't probably thinks they could make a great porn star as well.
Part of it is probably the industry. No way the reliance on dreary crunch times is inherent to gaming, it's something big companies have invented to release games in time for Christmas, for example. And like any creative field, you can truly enjoy the act of creation even if it's objectively work.
Regarding that, I think gamers should be encouraged to create games. You can't wander into a library without bumping into a wannabe novelist, you can barely walk out of a record store without being given a flyer for someone's garage band, and just being in the same college building as any movie-related course is taught will land you in someone's experimental movie (yeah!) but few gamers have a desire for creating a thing of their own. Creating a game is for one person as easy as shooting a movie (that is, not at all, but not impossible if you skirt around your weaknesses). I plan to try my hand at creating a roguelike as soon as I figure out what language to use and emerge from that hideous failure considering myself even more superior to others.