Outside the Box:
By Paul "Villam" Steed
Anything I say comes from me and represents my personal opinions, views and subtle plans for influencing society. Read, ruminate over and remember at your own risk. If I teach you something and it helps, teach someone else.
h man. I'm in a very smarmy philosophical mood so indulge me.
Making computer games. All my friends and closer acquaintances make computer games. Can't really say I have a friend who isn't involved with our industry somehow (in-laws/family don't count). It seems odd to me how people don't understand the love I have for my work. But then again I don't really love my work. It's just a part of my existence. Do you love being alive? Most of the time. Maybe just sometimes. Sometimes you wake up and everything goes right that day whether it's your RDA in the morning (Recommended Daily Allowance), or the fact that traffic on the way to work was the speed it was meant to be. Life is good. Other days you wake up and the sick aunt's in town and the dreaded trip across that immense, unfinished parking lot perpetually under construction cruelly posing as a freeway is gleefully punctuated by 'WORK ZONE. ALL TRAFFIC FINES DOUBLE' (what a fucking scam that is). Life sucks.
Like I said, people find it surprising that a couple times a month I work the night through and put in 24 hours instead of 10 or 15. And don't bitch about it. Forget the money (money is good), forget the, ahem…notoriety. Take any hobby you have that you have to somehow cajole (look it up flame-boy) your significant other into allowing you to absorb yourself into and you'll start to see what I'm talking about. (Sip) Your shot. I'm big ones.
There is a difference though between say, getting paid to golf all day and making games for a living. Playing sports professionally demands that you practice, practice, practice. And unless you make movies or write novels, getting paid to watch films and getting paid to read all day isn't what I'm talking about. Making computer games is a 24/7 deal. Dig it. Everything you do you view it with a, "…now that has a great specular highlight!" or, "…this story would never equate to a good game, but it might if you changed the plot like…" or even, "if only I could get that sunset into an environment map…"
I guess what I'm saying is that I go to my office at the place I call work where people called my co-workers also go. I go home. I do my domesticity script. I do things that don't involve fondling a mouse or feeling the sexy gel-filled carpal tunnel preventer under my palm while tapping my finger tips into the consciousness of someone else. When I'm lying by the pool or tossing the brats around, or tooling through the aisles of a department store my mind ruminates over the latest potential solution for that nasty UV manipulation problem. Or better yet, I'm trying to figure out why the lighting looks so good over by the makeup counter with the ambient light so muddy (or is it the appealing geometry with a high FPB in that absurdly sexy lab coat?).
At Origin they have a motto: "We Create Worlds".
It's probably more accurate to say worlds scream and claw incessantly at us to be created. We as developers can't help it. That's why I went from six years in the Air Force to nearly a registered dietician to almost a physical therapist to not quite a GQ-wannabe-tie-flipped-over-my-shoulder-at-lunch sorta corporate dude to what I am today: an entertainment software developer. Exercising my prodigious imagination and creative fire is the only thing for me, Keyser Soze. I simply cannot imagine doing anything else for a living (not that I haven't had a varied and colorful employment history). Why not 'artist' or 'computer graphics specialist' or 'modeler/animator'? Because most of my peers and I really do make worlds.
Mastering the plethora of tools and toys (read: teach myself stuff) which crop up faster than yet another Beanie Baby allows me more easily and convincingly to make my little worlds. The props, the sets, the actors and the action are all mine to control in the worlds I create. Whether they're solely my ideas or the ideas of my co-workers or an amalgam of the two, creating the visual experience in the form of animations either pre-rendered or manipulated by the fruit of Carmack's genius? This is my 'job'. But it is also my hobby, my passion and ultimately the inevitably appropriate outlet for my rather abundant energies and dreams.
Someone once told me that working out is like a part time job which they go to for that little extra. I said I view working out like brushing my teeth. You can quit your job but can you quit brushing your teeth. Get it? Habit? Lifestyle? Making games is what I was meant to do. Hell. If I hadn't found girls soon after my mother brought home the Vic20, I never would have given up coding those cool text adventures I was into. Shit. Come to think of it, Dick British and the big C himself may have been overshadowed by not-so-socially-adept Steedster. Uh, not really. Chicks…computers…chicks…computers. I think we know who won.
Saying making computer games for a living is 'work' is like saying drawing breath is a chore. Yeah. It sucks the life out of you sometimes but even the person you love the most does that sometimes (or so it seems). Weekends? Vacations? Sabbaticals? Man you have to be employed for any of that to have meaning.
I just happen to get paid to live. Feel pretty damn fortunate about that, too. Eight ball…side pocket, one time.
- Paul Steed is an incredibly opinionated 3D artist at id Software.
Credits: Thinking Outside the Box logo illustrated and is © 1998 Dan Zalkus. Thinking Outside the Box is © 1998 Paul Steed. All other content is © 1998 loonyboi productions. Unauthorized reproduction is strictly prohibited, so don't even try it. We've got really big guns, and we're ripped, baby.