I’ve been playing games off and on for 30 odd years! My parents had a Pong console, and I used to love playing it. I’d also hang out at our neighbours had a Coleco where we used to spend hours playing Pac-Man, and then when they got a home PC, it was all about Outrun. It never occurred to me that I could make a career out of making games.
My oldest game memory is watching my Dad type in a free puzzle game called Bulls & Cows from a magazine on his ZX80. This would have been around 1980, so I would have been 4 or 5. Back then you couldn’t download demos… you had to copy the code from a magazine! I remember thinking it was pretty cool that you take a load of text and use it to make something fun appear on the telly. I guess that made a lasting impression.
I got my first “video game” on my first birthday: the Little Professor owl calculator by Texas Instrument. I’ve been mashing buttons (but still hating maths) ever since. But due to hippie granola parents, that was the last electronic toy I got until much later. I was the last kid on my block to get a Nintendo, which I had to hack to hook up to a gigantic black and white television cabinet.
The 8-bit and 16-bit era is loaded with good and bad memories, that was the time I was between 5 and 12 years old and where my passion for games came up. Video Games back then had a sense of adventure that games nowadays don’t have anymore. I might also think this way because I’m making games myself nowadays and understand how they work on a technical level. The last big gaming adventures that felt like this were Sonic Adventure and Shenmue. After Shenmue II, no other game sucked me in like this anymore. However, this was also the time around which I started in the video games industry.
When I watch my 6 years old son playing games, I often see the same sparkling in his eyes as I had back then. This in general is one of the most beautiful feedback for me: seeing how the young generation is enjoying games and also the games we create.
The decision to make games immediately followed getting our first computer (an Atari), which came with Degas Elite (a drawing program) and a trilogy including Starglider and Barbarian II. Hunter and Alpha Waves consolidated my passion for 3D games and the surreal. I’m actually shocked (even a bit ashamed) at how these oldies quadrate how I design games.
I was playing (and losing) at Theme Park World, a roller coaster tycoon game from the 1990-2000s. I was young, so I didn’t understand why I was always losing money. Then, my dad saw me playing, and observed that every time someone was littering in my virtual park, I was hiring a new person to clean it up! He explained to me that work cost money, and that I needed to re-use the people I hired, to optimize cleaning the whole surface.
Boom, my world had changed. First time I got a glimpse at what the world was about, I was 5-6 years old. I felt so much smarter after discovering that — I remember the pure excitement of playing the game for real, for the first time. Understanding the balance to find to grow my park, and my fun!
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