Making games as a hobby

I’ve recently played two games that were made, as far as I can tell, “just for the hell of it.” And it’s a delightful spirit of making games. Not for profit, not for recognition, not for fame nor money nor biatches — just the simple fact that you’ve put out a game.

I used to get thrilled about the idea of being able to make my own games. Fuck that, I still am. I played a hell of a lot of games as a kid (yeah, fancy that). And I was one of those quote-unquote “creative” kids that couldn’t leave well enough alone. If I read a comic or a book, I wanted to see if I could do it, too. In grade school, I drew tons and tons of comic strips in school notebooks (until I realized I was crap at it), and in high school I figured I’d “start off easy” and novelize the first game in the Space Quest series.

I remember trying to program my own text adventure things in BASIC on my Commodore 64. I didn’t know how to make a parser, so I just had a bunch of INPUT A$-commands and IF A$="go fuck yourself" THEN PRINT "No, YOU go fuck yourself!" statements.

I got a little further than this. But not much.
I got a little further than this. But not much.

It was enough fun that, when I first got to DOS and started messing around with QBasic, I ended up coding my own “game engine” based around my obvious limitations: Instead of having the player type in an entire sentence, they would select from a verb list (Look, Get, Talk, Use) and simply type in the noun of the object they wanted to mess with. It greatly cut down on the number of variables of my IF/THEN/ELSE list, but even when I figured out QBasic’s subroutine system, I still kept running into its memory limit. So I never actually finished any games with it*.

Back in my old DOS days (early-to-mid 90’s), “game maker” software was hard to come by. I think I actually tried Adventure Creator, the pre-cursor to Adventure Game Studio, back in my teens, and was simultaneously fascinated and completely, utterly baffled by it. Never got anywhere with it.

Oh, how far we've come since then.
Oh, how far we’ve come since then.

It wasn’t until sometime in my university years that I decided to try my hand at Adventure Game Studio and found it surprisingly easy to use. I made a very short test game (download at your own peril) and was thrilled to see that I could actually, finally, make my own games the way I had hoped and envisioned that I’d be able to, back when I was a teenager.

These days, the tools are there. Just like making studio-quality music is possible from your bedroom, so is making adventure games. You don’t need to be code-savvy, which was always my main stopping block — and the most important. I was never smart enough to figure out how to move a character around a screen, or for that matter getting him/her to circumvent obstacles, or program in interactions and such. That’s why I love Adventure Game Studio. It’s done all that legwork for me, and all I have to do now is be creative. Which often is a struggle on its own, but that’s the point of this post:

As my friend Ben Chandler is fond of pointing out, there’s no excuse anymore. If you want to make games, just go do them! We’ve got the tools now. AGS is free. You don’t have to be great at drawing (I sure the fuck am not). You just need to get creative and do it.

He's telling you to.

Not for the fame. Not for the money. Not for the beeatches (if that’s even your thing). They don’t have to be full-length epic games. Just as short stories are a thing, so are short games. They don’t have to have any particularly deep meaning — just the fun of having made a game that others are playing is a thrill that doesn’t go away.

Do it for the accomplishment. Ben’s right. If you want to make games, just go make them. What’s stopping you?

Oh, right. Not enough hours in the day. At least, that’s the excuse I’m going with.

* Well, I did, actually. But it got lost. I recounted that story on one episode of Square Waves FM; I forget which one.

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