People that make games, playing games is a documentary series about people that work within the video games industry. When facilitating play is at the centre of your occupation it is vital that you also demonstrate a passion for play outside your working hours.
This project explores the downtime that people in the games industry dedicate to gaming. A whole day at work making games is more often than not followed by an evening or weekend playing them.
During the Covid-19 pandemic the difference between work and play has become even harder to distinguish. Working from home has become a normality, meaning those consoles and computers previously reserved for leisure are now also utilised as workspaces. For the people shot in this series the pause between work and play can be as small as swivelling a chair, lowering a standing desk or moving from a temporary office to the living room.
Games are the end product of a team of creative people across different artistic disciplines such as design, illustration, music and story telling. The result of this collaborative process is a product that intrinsically incites play in a diverse range of individuals and gaming communities.
People that make games, playing games also explores the debate as to whether video games should be considered an art form. As somebody that has spent more than a decade in the industry I see many parallels between artistic practice and the creative processes that go into the development of video games. An artist will find huge fulfilment from making and exhibiting art that is enjoyed by others, just as a games developer does.
The people that I selected for this series have offered me an insight into their relationship with video games, and have used this project to reflect on how both making and playing them has impacted their lives in a broader sense.
Laura welcomed me at her front door and two very excitable dogs, Bailey and Stitch, leapt around me in excitement. She has been working in the video games industry for just under two years after graduating from Huddersfield University.
Laura is working on an MMORPG title, but during her lunch breaks and in the evening she's been playing a lot of Fortnite.
When asked how she feels games have helped her during the Covid-19 pandemic Laura says,
"Most of my friendships are currently long-distance, and this has been the case for a while, but since COVID hit I feel like I’ve been re-connecting to these friendships with much stronger effort. My friends and I have been playing more games together and it’s been a really amazing way of communicating and having fun all at once."
For Laura, gaming is a way to immerse herself in something other than the complications of the world, she explains,
"Video games are the perfect interactive outlet for me; I can explore beautiful, magical worlds and get completely lost in the experience even if I’m having the most stressful of days. Once the games are on, the noise of the world is completely blocked out and not much else matters."
The enjoyment that Laura gets from games is the same reason she thinks video games should be considered an art form,
"It’s the perfect way of combining the two things that I’m most passionate about; games and design. To make it even better, I get to contribute to something that millions of people around the world will interact with and enjoy...
Yes [I do consider games as art] they are the most amazing collision of a great handful of art forms. Take a look at any AAA game right now and you will see some form of 3D sculpting, painting, illustration, music, and much more. All of these are different types of art, the only difference is the way we experience it in comparison to traditional art."
I arrived at Joe's wearing my slippers as a result of rushing to make our session time. We both laughed at the ridiculousness of the situation but after speaking with Joe it seemed like an apt mistake. Joe has listened to the government advice and has taken Covid-19 seriously, he has spent most of 2020 in his apartment, in his slippers, making video games and maintaining contact with friends through gaming.
Like Laura, Joe has found that gaming has become an increasingly important part of maintaining communication with friends during the Covid-19 pandemic. He explains,
"Games have been a big force in keeping me in contact with friends from different parts of my life. Being able to play together online with zero effort makes it so easy to stay in touch and spend time with each other. Some of those friends are people I’ve met in person, but many are people we’ve met online from all over the world. Having that constant digital friend group has been a big deal for me this year. I live alone, and without them I could easily have gone weeks without having a chat. With everything off the rails, playing games with friends has been a grounding force in 2020."
It's clear that Joe believes games are an art form. When asked, he responds,
"Definitely. When people doubt that games are art, it makes me wonder if they really see all that goes into their making. You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t think that painting, sculpting, and graphic design aren’t all forms of art. So why does that perception change when that art is brought together into a game?"
The first thing you see when entering Aiden's apartment are two desks set up at either end of a room to the right of the entrance. One is for his gaming (and now work) and one which his wife uses for the same purposes. As I take some test shots Aiden shows me the sophisticated setup he has, a quick change of a cable and the monitors switch from work to gaming. His standing desk is electronic, he shows me that with the press of a button he can sit down for a gaming session. His Playstation is housed in a unit on the underside of that desk, his multiple keyboards are within reaching distance and easily switched out depending on the game he is playing and the lighting above and behind his desk can be changed to accommodate work or play.
Aiden speaks passionately about the benefits gaming can have on wellbeing,
"Besides being a way to pass the time or relax, games offer a really diverse range of experiences that I find really valuable. Some let me enjoy a good story or widen my perspective (The Last of Us Part II), others provide a mechanical or strategic skill to improve (Apex Legends, Terraforming Mars), and some just let me be creative or explore freely (Minecraft, No Mans Sky)."
There is a clear passion that comes across when I ask what Aiden enjoys about working in games,
"It unites different skills and interests I have - involving both problem solving and artistic expression, then applying it to something I find exciting and rewarding. It’s great to see people from all different creative disciplines come together and make something. "
The craft that goes into making games is something that Aiden expands upon,
"I see games as a multi-faceted art form that folds many other artistic disciplines into a unique experience. Narrative, aesthetics, design, film, audio, technical engineering… they must all align in the confines of an interactive world to execute a unified creative vision. Whether the goal is to provoke thought through story or pump adrenaline through action, games have an immense potential to make people feel something. The authors of these experiences are as much artists as painters, sculptors or filmmakers are."