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Why you should make your own game - Peter Ball

Recently, we sat down with Peter Ball - one of our 2023 Interns - to discuss their thoughts on why it's important to do it yourself, and how that drive is setting him up for success at XR Games.

From a young age, I’ve always wanted to do it myself.

Whether that was devising my own Rush Hour puzzles or ignoring the instructions in a K’nex kit, it was never enough to just enjoy a product the way the manufacturer intended. So I think that it was natural, having spent far too many evenings playing Mario Kart after school, that I’d want to create my own games as well.

I’m also a fairly logically-minded person, and when I was introduced to Python programming in Year 7 IT lessons, it kind of clicked. I recreated a couple of classics like Minesweeper in primitive text-based form, but the first time I decided I was going to make my own game was as part of my computer science A-Level. It wasn’t anything fancy – it was my spin on the tried-and-tested wordsearch formula. But it felt like a game. It had music, colours, a nice font, and it would tell you when you got a new high score. I think that’s when I decided that I really wanted to go for it.

In my case, ‘going for it’ involved opening up Unity and doing battle with it for a couple of hours until I managed to make a red square jump up and down on a blue platform. Then, the platform became grey, and there were more platforms, and spikes, and gravity switches, and unlockable doors, and my game Duo was born. It was a big project, partly because I was determined to do everything myself. That meant not just programming – but also writing a soundtrack, designing the levels, and coming up with a consistent visual style that was simple enough so that I could create the assets (which I definitely did not do in Microsoft PowerPoint).

Ultimately, making it was one of the most rewarding experiences I have ever had. Each time a friend tested it and gave me some feedback made it all feel so real. If I look back on the project file now, it’s a bit of a mess, but it taught me so much about all the different parts that go into producing a game.

Now that I’m at XR Games, and working on a large-scale project, I realise just how important it is to appreciate all those components. As a programmer, writing code is a big part of the job, but it doesn’t happen in a void; it always affects other people. I often have to ensure that my work is easily used by level designers, or that it is compatible with their existing tools. And when problems arise, they could come from anywhere, so having an understanding of what other teams are doing can really help. This ultimately results in an incredibly dynamic and close-knit working environment with a lot of team spirit, and it keeps the job interesting!

So, if I were to give one piece of advice to people looking to get into the games industry – especially programmers – it would be to do it yourself. Make your own games, see how it all comes together, and really explore all the parts you don’t know how to do. And importantly, enjoy the process.

Games are fun, and creating them should be fun too!

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