I want to start by saying for the record that I love making video games. I have been making them in some form or another since I started College in Late 2005. Working on games within the game's industry was an honor and I was happy to take the 100 hour work weeks at my first job; especially honorable when that went on for 6 months. I didn't care, I was making video games and I would have taken a punch in the gut, at least once a month, if it meant they were going to keep paying me every week to program and be involved with video games.
This mentality went on for about 2 years and I was just happy go lucky, "I get to make games and I feel awesome." A realization came after I got laid off from my second job and played the games I had killed myself making. I realized that I was slightly diluted and perhaps starstruck by the glamour of it all and I should've been saying "I get to make shovelware games and I feel funny."
I wasn't mad at the companies I worked for, they mostly believed the same diluted concept that was, "Games are awesome, we're awesome" but instead I excited about the idea of realizing that if I knew the games I worked on were bad, If I had the capacity to objectively judge my own efforts to be misguided, that meant that I was moving in the right direction.
During this time I had been looking for a job, and so I decided to shift my job search to prefer something that would allow me the time to work on games in my free time. I figured that working for another small game studio would ultimately leave in a place where I would force myself to think what we were doing was awesome, even if it wasn't. I decided that if I could work on something by myself that I would be able to better see if the game I was working on was crap, since it must have been the game companies that I worked for that were poisoning my incredible Game Developer skills that I was honing. Their interest in gaming was founded in money and that's what what threw off their ability to judge their own games and know if they were good.
Over the next 2 years I would make or worked on a slew of crappy uninspired games that I realized afterwards were primarily created with the idea of, "These sort of games are popular, I'll make these." Does anyone in the class see what happened? I had forged out on my own, with the wind in my hair and a dream in my heart, but I still set a course for the same destination as my last job did, for pay dirt.
I considered that making games for money will inevitably get a game done, it will produce something that meets all the criteria and might even be a good game; and there is nothing wrong with doing that, based on our capitalist society, you sort of have to keep profits in mind if you want to eat. Making a game for money isn't an issue of quality I've found even, at least not the quality of the game. Making a game for money can become an issue of quality of life for the developer because if the only redeeming quality is that it will make money, money that they will probably not see direct compensation for. A developer may end up killing themselves to create someone's vision but find they aren't pleased by that vision; for those keeping up, that means that game developers essentially kill themselves with the only thing to show for it being money. Money can't buy happiness, but from what I've seen it can buy apathy.
Making games at it's best should be like bridge building, think of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. That is something to look back on and feel proud that you worked on it. It is functional, it is built to last, it has style, it is inspired, it gives people a grandiose feeling that all bridges should be so grand; It makes other bridges look like they aren't trying hard enough. We should be building games that we, at least, can look back on over a fog covered evening and say, "I am proud."
Building bridges isn't just about allowing people to get across a waterway. Building anything is about building character, it's about allowing people to stand for something, it's about letting men and women feel as though the are more than a single person. It's about allowing people to become the creator of something greater than themselves. The great thing about being a creator, is that you have the tendency of becoming attached to your creation. I would guess that it is this attachment that makes all the difference between a simple functional concrete bridge and something that has become the symbol of progress and strength for an entire city/region/country.
Since I quit my job last june to build out the prototype that was to become Planet's Core, I have slowly become poorer and poorer, and surprisingly I have become happier and happier. I have never felt so comfortable about working so much, that is to say that everyday I wake up and naturally feel excited and compelled to work on my game. It keeps a spring in my step even while I have trouble getting the art production done without money, because I hold true that I will still be able to finish what I believe will be a fun game and if I make it that far, Kickstarter might be able to help me slap a new coat of paint on the old bridge.