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November 23, 2010 / farrelledwards

Identity

I do video games.  I make, produce , live and breath games.  I am a video games guy.  But I haven’t always been.

Growing up I had long planned to go into physics.  My dad and 3 older brothers all got a BS in physics.  Some built careers in physics.  Others branched out into other things.  It seemed like the sensible choice for me.  But college changed that.  It wasn’t my thing.  Neither was psychology.  Since high school and into college I had been taking computer classes but it didn’t dawn on me as a viable career until my Junior year.  So I switched.

After college I got a job at Spillman, programming in a large public safety database system.  I liked it a lot and the hours were good.  It was a good start.

Then my brother introduced me to Vance.  He owned a small games company and was doing golf games for the PC.  He gave me a shot and I tried games on for size.

I absolutely loved my work.   I would tell anyone who would listen that video games are the perfect blend of all the different computer disciplines; physics, artificial intelligence, databases, simulation, collision detection, prediction, graphics and hardware interface.  I tried giving video games the credibility that it deserved.  But it was 1997 — a time when games weren’t yet mainstream.  They were the things of backward young men working in dark garages creating morally objectionable video games.

So I apologized.  I was slow to tell people what I did.  “What do you do?” they’d ask.  “I’m a computer programmer,” or “I’m a software engineer.”  I admit to being a little ashamed that I didn’t do something more noble.  More contributing to society.  More legitimate.

But that changed.  Slowly.

I became comfortable.  I realized uplifting entertainment is a very important part of our society.  Something I didn’t have to hide.  The gamer generation grew into adulthood.  Games became mainstream.  In fact, even middle aged women started to play.  They are the primary spenders on hot gaming platforms like Facebook.  🙂

Most significantly, my kids grew up and became consumers of the games I was making.  I started working on games for kids.  I used my knowledge of my own kids to shape a gameplay experience.  I brought my children in to playtest our games in development.  They got to bring their friends in for an early look at games that wouldn’t be released for months.

More than I realized, the video game culture became part of my kid’s identity. School career day is a great triumph for them.  The cool games producer that comes in shooting nerf guns, praising the Nintendo DS as a gaming platform and showing teaser videos of games coming soon isn’t some random guy.  It’s me.  Their dad.

And it is, in a small way, who they are.  They have street cred.  They know the video games business.  They know what’s coming out and they see it early.  It turns out, they are reluctant to lose that connection to the video games industry.  It is literally part of who they are.

It is also who I am.  So when people ask, “What do you do?”   The answer is fast and simple.

“I do video games.”

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4 Comments

Leave a Comment
  1. farrelledwards / Nov 24 2010 2:44 pm

    So, do your kids identify with your career and place of employment? Has it become part of who they are?

    Growing up, we were all very much a part of the academic culture, with people of all sorts of backgrounds and cultures joining us for family events. I was sure I was going to grow up to be a physics professor somewhere.

  2. Marianne / Nov 29 2010 3:59 pm

    I am a middle aged woman and I play a lot of games.

  3. Dave Walker / Nov 30 2010 8:48 am

    Hahahahaha! You do video games!? Loser.

  4. farrelledwards / Nov 30 2010 7:07 pm

    Dave Walker. Your name sounds so familiar. Haven’t I seen you around at work? 🙂

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