This is a story about how the gamer in me has evolved throughout my life.
My earliest gaming memory was playing Duck Hunt on my uncle’s NES in the late 80s when I was 4 years old. Shortly after I got my own NES Action Set and quickly discovered the other game that came bundled on the dual cartridge. As a result, my love of gaming began with 2D platformers, and this dominated my gaming tastes for the next several years. As a young child, I was drawn to the thrill of controlling the stylish cartoon characters across their vivid fantasy worlds.
As I grew up in the mid 90s, there were two major forces that would significantly broaden my perspective on gaming. The first was the introduction of RTS games on the PC to my gaming repertoire, beginning with Warcraft II and then solidifying a few years later with Starcraft. These games offered a new type of gameplay from what I was used to with platformers on the consoles. Not only could I build and control armies of stylish characters, but victory required more than just mastery of the controls. In these games, you really had to think and make decisions about the best way to play. To top it off, these games were also my first taste of competing with friends in online multiplayer.
The second major force was the arrival of 3D to console gaming. Playing Mario 64 was my first real exposure to the immersive 3D worlds that have come to be known as the “triple A games” which dominate much of the PC and console gaming we have today. For the next decade and more, I became increasingly intrigued by the emotions these types of games could conjure by combining game mechanics with their worlds, stories and characters. I was so focused on this one aspect of gaming that during college I wrote a paper about Ico which you can read here. Though I’m embarassed by how bad at writing I was back then.
The main result of these two forces as I continued to grow older was a vast proliferation of the types of games I played. It was around the turn of the millenium that I realized designing games was something I myself could do, and ever since I have considered it my craft. I began to “research” games instead of just play them, and I tried to expose myself to as many games as I could. As I mentioned above, my interest as a designer began firmly rooted in the emotional experience of playing an immersive, single player game. At the time, this just seemed to me where all the artistry of game design was found. However, I never stopped playing multiplayer games with my friends, both online and offline. In hindsight, I enjoyed those experiences just as much if not more than any single player game.
For many years, even after I began working professionally in the game industry, I struggled with reconciling how creating immersive, emotional game experiences fit with designing balanced, competitive multiplayer games. It wasn’t until 2008 when I began playing DotA did I start to understand how these two concepts fit together. This new understanding ushered in my most recent and significant gaming evolution, and this is where the story will continue in part 2.