I took the long track through college. Five years after high school I started at the University of Southern Maine in Portland. After a couple of semesters, I put courses on hold because working full time and driving back and forth to classes wasn’t working for me. I moved to Baltimore a few years later. Then I started again in 2002 because the community college campus was literally a one minute walk from the house (though later they moved all my classes to Essex Maryland, which is a thirty minute drive or a toll tunnel away, except at rush hour when it was far longer… which was when most of my classes were of course). Eventually I transferred to the University of Baltimore to finish the degree. Took me 8 years of part-time coursework to final graduate with a degree in Simulation and Digital Entertainment (aka, game design).
I of course do not use my degree for anything.
I had children by the time I graduated and, in my early 40’s, couldn’t see myself quitting the relatively decent paying computer repair work I’d been doing for a decade to start over again with a company that would likely exist for a few years, then go away. See, most people forget the video game industry exists in that dreamy, subliminal place called the entertainment industry. These are not manufacturing jobs, or farming jobs that tend to be relatively stable for long periods. The entertainment industry is constantly churning out new companies and absorbing them into existing ones. Maybe they have a small hit, get bought, get moved to another state. Or they run out of capital and fail. There are tremendously long hours, crunch time, and abusive work situations. There’s no job security for most of the low level individuals. I simply couldn’t risk my salary, no matter how much I dreamed of working on games. But I did a lot of fun, creative work during my school years.
I recently started thinking about podcasts now that a Jonathan, friend of mine from VP, and his wife Ginger, have started one (check out their podcast, they’re a hoot to listen to: The Creative DoubleShot). They’re clearly having a blast with it. I love their theme, wrapped around living a creative life no matter what you’re doing.
While I’m not sure I have the foggiest clue what I’d want to talk about, I did realize this morning I have some lovely podcast intro music we could use if Jennifer and I ever launched one.
In 2008, there was a Games for Health Game Jam in Baltimore. Game Jams are short events, usually only one or a few days long, sponsored by whomever (no idea who sponsored ours, it’s been too long). The idea is to bring together a bunch of teams and let them go to town in a short period to develop a game based on some narrow concept. Win a prize, maybe have a chance to fully develop it. In our case, fun games that could help people improve health in terms of identifying types of calories you take in (good ones versus bad ones). I put together a team of my fellow students from University of Baltimore (we were working on some concepts for a company based on the Trollbreath name; never got off the ground though) and we signed up.
The competition was tough. We were going up against other students, but also at least one professional team from a nearby gaming company, Maryland being a bit of a strong area for game design work (Bethesda of Skyrim fame is here of course, and Sid Meier founded multiple companies in Timonium after he created Civilization). It was a rough 24 hours, but we at least got some sort of demo in place. Our game idea was called “Corpus”, a tiny sub you could pilot through the body, a la Innerspace, identifying and destroying “bad” foods while gathering and powering the sub with good ones. There would be different levels with different challenges.
Along with some very minor programming assistance, my biggest contribution to the game was sound design. I developed the sound effects. More importantly, I came up with three repeatable musical numbers that would play in the background as you played a level. It was quick and dirty work using some digital sound software I had purchased along with some free looping audio samples released under creative commons licensing. But I like to think the songs are kind of catchy and could have been a good basis for environment music in a game.
I’ve attached them below, feel free to check them out. Like I said, quick and dirty work, but that Game Jam was a blast to do (if exhausting). We didn’t win, but we DID get an honorable mention, which essentially tied us with the professional team. The winning team were students and employees from UBalt and UMD who had a solid concept and got a good demo in place (we struggled with getting a working demo).
I think any one of these would be fun as brief podcast music intro’s. It’s good to recognize that the creative work we do years and years ago can still find a place in our lives today. There’s no need to completely abandon the things you’ve made. You can always find ways to recycle them, or parts of them, into something new.
By the way, I am particularly fond of level 3, which I added lots of little sound effects to in order to make the body feel like a factory full of machinery and bubbling vats –
Oh, and I even found one picture of me and the team at work during the Game Jam on someone’s old Flickr feed! I’m in the green, back to camera, pre-balding spot. Ah, we were so young… so full of dreams… well, I still am. Never let your dreams go.
That’s Dan in the back, Amy to his left, and Mario sitting next to me. Hope they’re all having wonderful, spectacular, very creative lives!