Since I’ve started studying game development my life has been much more hectic and stressful and my free time has been reduced to roughly non-existent. Now, I can’t tell you what life is like for every student studying game development because obviously I have no idea how other people live, but what I can illustrate for you is what daily life is like for me and my fellow classmates, from what I observe around the school building.
Well, I assume (from many encounters with many different ignorant people) that many imagine studying game development as a bunch of never-grown-up nerd boys sitting around playing Call of Duty all day along with their friends. Now, as fun as that might sound, we’re kind of interested in a bit more than that. For us, we typically find that we spend 95% of our time developing and designing, and maybe 3% of our time gaming (the other 2% go to sleeping and eating, which are always put on the backburner and used only in case of emergencies.) Of course I would enjoy having more time to actually play games, but in the end, I’m doing what I want to be doing and I truly enjoy developing the game more than I do playing it in the long run.
That being said, following a course as hardcore as the one I’m in requires a lot of extra time, effort and motivation, and after a while it really seems to show. Every day I’m asked by people why I look so tired; I guess the countless all-nighters have permanently scarred bags under my eyes or something. A recent example, this last Monday I had a deadline to make, so I was up all night finishing it, sent it in, and an hour later I was on my bike to work. Needless to say, when I got home at 7:00 that evening I slept for 18 hours, and I’ve never felt so rested in my life.
With this kind of lifestyle and working habit, energy drinks and caffeine really become your best friends. I personally am not one for Red Bull, but I’ve seen classmates carting flats of cans over from the supermarket for their late night cram sessions; it’s not such an unfamiliar sight. I’m honestly lucky if I get to sneak away from the busy lifestyle for one weekend every three weeks or so to see my lovely girlfriend (who’s amazing for even putting up with all of this!), I’m kept that busy. Game development, much like anything else, requires a lot of time and effort to do properly, and if you want to make the most out of your tuition money, you’d best get yourself motivated.
Eventually though, you begin to realize just how far you’ve come since you first started out, and you really appreciate the fact that you’re creating some pretty amazing stuff you never even dreamed would be within your realm of possibility.
Also, studying game development kind of permanently perverts your perception of games; you can’t appreciate a game ever again (unless it’s an extremely well made game, and in that case, you can actually appreciate it much more than the average gamer can). You notice inconsistencies you never saw before, you find areas you could have done better, and in general you’re much less easily pleased. It’s something that happens in any field, but it’s still hard to believe. In the end, I suppose it’s all a part of making yourself into a better developer, and ultimately that’s the goal of the study anyway.
A fellow student of mine stated that,
“You become pretty engulfed in the environment, with the danger of estranging your friends that don’t understand a thing about it.”
Thinking about it, I find it to be quite true; I always ramble on about game development mumbo jumbo around my old friends and, well, they get quite fed up by it all because that’s not what interests them about the games; they just want to play and enjoy. Us students can sit around watching someone playing the latest EA title and argue back and forth about all the technical problems and poor artistic and design choices for hours on end; it’s what we enjoy doing when we play a game nowadays.
Like I said at the beginning of the column, this is definitely not the case for every game development student; it’s likely very specific for the actual course I’m currently following. However, I am a game development student, and this is what my life is like. When it really comes down to it though, if I were better rested and had more free time, I think I’d feel like something’s missing. At least with all this hard work I can be certain that I’m pushing in the direction I want to be heading in and that, ultimately, I will become the game developer I want to be.