“The meat grinder of the game industry. How to keep the spirit of the game in the corporate world” by Walt Williams
Again in the rubric, a recommendation about gamedev. Plus one useful and non-boring read for anyone who loves to play games, make them, or just wants to get an inside look at the industry. The book this time is age-restricted, so promise not to read it if you’re under eighteen yet. The translation contains estimated vocabulary, and in general, sometimes the author refers to hotter topics than we usually discuss here.
Walt Wilms is a narrative designer and screenwriter. Reviewers and critics call him a veteran of the gaming industry, and he is known for having worked on Spec Ops: The Line, BioShock, Civilization, Star Wars: Battlefront, Mafia, Borderlands, The Darkness. In the book, the author talks about her path to her dream projects. Unlike the books we recommended on the topic earlier, this is a true memoir. If Jason Schreier writes about the industry as a gaming journalist, covering the stories of hundreds or even thousands of people, Walt Williams tells the story in the first person. This is a trick, and it is a little easier to read due to the minimal number of actors.
We’ll focus on a few icings on our cake: we won’t go through the whole story, so as not to give away spoilers, but we’ll put forward a few arguments in favor of reading. We believe that there is enough interesting in this book for gamers, screenwriters of all stripes, and simply for fans of the projects mentioned above.
The first argument: nostalgia
From the first pages, Walt Williams immerses the reader in nostalgia. He talks about his childhood, a game console made of a cardboard box from under cereal, his first gaming experience with Super Mario Bros. and Duck Hunt. And if the rescue of the Mushroom People and Princess Toadstool caused the young player conflicting emotions to the point of disappointment, then everything was much more successful with the second entertainment. “I should have grabbed the NES Zapper as I was suddenly transformed into Wild Bill Hickok. If only he pressed the light gun to the TV,” he writes. Zomeram probably doesn’t understand, but the author’s book contains a whole pond of such references.
The second argument: humor
It is clear from the title of the book that the story we will be told is not at all glossy, and therefore the author will most likely admit to failures and falls. At the exit we have a dramedy – at the expense of the fact that Walt simply makes an amazing joke. He’s okay with self-deprecation, and he’s a pro at throwing lines. Each chapter has dialogue that lets you imagine what’s going on in your head, and it’s often funny. In general, he remains in touch with the reader himself. “Everything is true: my whole plan was based on starting to build a career in mail sorting. Why? Because I saw it on TV,” he writes ironically about how he once brought his resume to the Marvel office at the start.
The third argument: psychology
Throughout the story, Walt Williams remains honest with himself and the reader. He touches on the topic of religion, prohibitions, temptations. Shares both childhood memories and deep adult experiences. He admits the motives of his actions easily, analyzing them in such a way that one does not argue. For example, recalling an innocuous plot from your youth: “First you persuade your mother to go to the mall. Not Dad, because he already thinks you spend too much time playing Nintendo games. If he finds out that you can also run games on the computer, he will most likely throw it out the window. At the mall, you outrun your mom so she doesn’t yell at you when you pass the teen section of a discount clothing store. Otherwise, you will have to spend an hour measuring pants. Besides, no one wants their mother hovering over them in a game store. Cool guys will laugh. After all, everyone knows: cool boys don’t have mothers.” Direct base.
Or here, reflecting on the evangelical narrative that was present in his life through living in South Louisiana: “If my mom died in a car accident, it’s only because God wants to make me stronger. If she left me a million dollars as an inheritance, it would mean that the Lord is testing my faith. And if I spent my mother’s savings on cocaine and whores, then by the will of God I have to fall so that He can pick me up from the bottom again. The whole evangelical universe revolved around me, and to my taste, that was great… No wonder I was so taken by organized religion. It was set up just like video games.” Such a shadow that breaks through to the outside, in the spirit of Jung.
The fourth argument: chips for those who want to get a job (or accept a newcomer to their team)
The gamedev community has its own ideas about hiring. No one will appreciate your suit if you come to the interview in it, but light creases and bright details can play into your hand. At the start of his career, Walt Williams himself naively felt these rules, and he was lucky: when he was hired at 2K, a colleague told him to take off his jacket, tie and roll up his sleeves, otherwise the outcome of the negotiations could be completely opposite to what he wanted: “No one in the game industry will hire a person who an interview You show that you don’t know a damn thing about how games are made.”
And then he himself once acted as an HR angel, telling a friend, “Put on jeans, tennis shoes, an unbuttoned shirt, and your belt with the GWAR logo on the buckle…Trust me. Put that damn belt on.” Thanks to this, a new game analyst appeared in the 2K team. We will not repeat the meaning, just for illustration we will give a dialogue between Walt and his boss Fox:
“- Uh-uh… He’s a good guy. I think he will fit in well with the team, but…” He arched an eyebrow thoughtfully and began to whisper: “What, is he wearing a belt with the GWAR logo on it?
“Then why the hell haven’t we hired him yet?”
Awesome brotherhood rules. This is where there is a place for heavy metal, freedom of thought and creativity.
Argument five: this is a book about video games
Apparently, on the scale of the meat grinder, the story of Walt Williams is inferior to what we read in Schreyer’s books – generally hardcore. But that’s a good thing: in this case, after reading, you don’t want to hang around and the desire to fly to gamedev doesn’t disappear either. The author writes about crunches, gold disc, alpha and beta versions, vertical cuts, scripts, the voiceover process, arguments with partners, insomnia and depression, personal life, friendships and projects, but in the end it’s all about video games. Like other screenwriters and designers, Walt lives by it, even if he burns out. And there are a lot of details of creating games in the book. If you are working on something original, get inspiration and ideas. Before writing the script in five days.
By the way, in his book about the game industry, Walt Williams refers to Stanislavsky’s method and the words of Leo Tolstoy. Our man is rummaging.
We recommend reading, but be warned: the directness of the author can border on arrogance.
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