The approval process in the senior design class is extremely thorough. Each student was given an opportunity to pitch two game ideas to the class. After recruiting at least two other students, they could develop that idea into a prototype. With a class of 100-some, we ended up with about 200 ideas, and 50 prototypes. These were then weeded out again, requiring teams of four or larger for an iteration on any game that had been previously prototyped. From this remaining group, the teachers and TAs selected the most promising games to go on to Greenlight presentations. Games who enter pre-greenlight status go up in front of a judge panel composed of industry professionals as well as the school’s game design faculty.
Needless to say, the odd were against me. I didn’t think Biogenesis would make it through the gauntlet, but here we are. What’s the deal?
When you’re in class with people who have been taking classes together for 4 years, cliques form. People want to work with their friends. My close friends were all invested in their own ideas, so I had no sure bets left. When presentations were done, it was immediately time to recruit. I felt like a peddler of wares, shouting “Games here! Come this cool new game here!” I was lost in a sea of heads. By the time I had begun, circles were forming. Locking me out. I rushed to and fro, looking for someone, anyhow who didn’t seem locked into a conversation with their new partners. Far from the heart of the crowd, I came across an acquaintance of mine, Victor, and someone he was talking to – Sandra! Both of them had been unable to pitch their own game ideas because the class ran over time. And just like that, I had picked up two stragglers and we were on our way.
The prototype was created (see this post), critiqued, and then left in the dust. The next round of pitches and prototyping was at hand and we were unable to continue group work on Biogenesis during that time. However, the downtime wasn’t without purpose. That week off was put to good use revising rules and brainstorming new ideas. This meant that when the third prototypes rolled around, I was ready. Or so I thought. As much as I believed in my own game, I struggled to convey that to others. Instead of an audience in front of the class, we had to recruit using the class’s web forum. I fretted for what felt like days and days, refreshing the post, asking friend-of-friends-of-friends if they still needed a team. I joined a secondary team (R.I.P. P.U.B.), growing more and more aware that I had more than a healthy amount of competition. In the end Sandra rejoined me, followed by a stranger, and my friends Mark and Ajay, who despite their uncertainty were willing to put their names down if it meant Biogenesis got to move forward.
The second iteration of Biogenesis was to be a computational prototype. Given a very short time to develop it, we chose C#/XNA. With a hefty team size of five, we thought we could manage. Rifts formed quickly. Revising someone’s code caused a spat. Assigned tasks were untouched for days. Eventually it was just myself and Sandra coding day and night, with backup from Ajay. I worked with a ferocity I had forgotten I was capable of. This was no homework assignment. This was my future for the next 6 months. I had to impress! If this game, if this brain child of mine, were to make it through – I had to make it so. First, I had to dust off my C# skills. Unpracticed for two years. When I finally hit my stride, the days began to blur together. I’m happy to say that when all was said and done, the current iteration of the game was complete. It was starting to look like something I could be proud of.
Work, followed by waiting, followed by more work, and then more waiting. So there I was again. Waiting. The TAs and professor had seen the results of our hard work. Would I make the cut? Did I want to make the cut? I was torn between two strong feelings: That I wanted to make a game, and the crippling fear that I would fail at it. If I couldn’t believe in myself, how would I be able to make people believe in my game, or myself as a leader? Never in my life have I considered myself a leader type. I was never charismatic enough, never loud enough to make it work. I struggle with public speaking and have a knack for avoiding socializing. This fear of mine was made even stronger by the fact that I had worked closely with two team leaders from the previous senior class. I saw how they acted, and I learned a few “what not to dos”, but “what to do”? How does a person command authority while being likable? It seemed so implicit, so natural to them, that I couldn’t parse how I could do it myself.
The ping of a new email alerted me to the results I had been waiting for. Then came the shortest panic attack of my life.
(Part 2 will be posted tomorrow!)