Its nice to finally be done with God of War 2, it really was sucking up all my time towards the end there. I am now getting a chance to catch up on some other projects within the Sony Family. Today I got a chance to talk to the programmers from 'That Game Company', they just finished a great little game called 'Flow'. It goes live on the Playstation Store tomorrow.
None of them has made a commercial game before as far as I know. They are fresh University Grads who got a deal based on a some Flash Games they made while at USC. They have the same enthusiasm and creativity that I remember from the demo scene 15+ years ago. What is amazing is that they got here via a university course that actually appears to be making a reasonable job of getting people into the games industry.
In 1989, at my parents behest, I went to university to get a computer degree. By the time I went I already knew that I wanted to make games for a living. It didn't look like a very viable career though and I took my parents advice and went to Manchester University to get my 'back up plan' degree in case it didn't work out. The University certainly had no respect or time for video games, I had to do stuff that interested me disguised as something sensible in order to get good grades. My final project was 'Simulation of Insect Vision', I did it because it let me use the only machines in the department with decent graphics capabilities.
The demo scene, not university, got me my start in video games. A couple of people from the Atari ST demo scene started a company in Germany called Thalion Software. As a way of paying my way through university, I wrote a game for them called 'A Prehistoric Tale'. It wasn't very good, or very original. But I was totally hooked. As for the university degree, it came in very very useful over the years. But most useful of all when I wanted to move to the US. That H1B visa would have been a damn sight harder to get without it.
Its cool that people like the Flow team can make a proper start, doing things they really love, at university. Games are not looked down upon in quite the same way any more. Many parents now will go on the web and look up game careers and find that their kids could make a good go of it. I got a chance to speak about God of War to a games theory class at USC last week. I am not sure if it was exactly the same class that the Flow guys came out of, but it was in the School of Cinematic Arts at USC, so probably similar. It was fun, talking to the students in that class as well as to the Flow guys, has somewhat renewed my faith that games are gonna keep going in some interesting directions and there are more ways than ever of getting your start.