When my My Escape teammate and designer, Duane Beckett, initially proposed game developer marriage to me a year and a half ago, my immediate response of “A thousand times yes!” felt right, for I was eager to embark on such an exciting and complicated adventure. In good times and in bad, in sickness and in health bars, and until death do us game over, I vowed to commit to its cause, and, like any endeavor of this scope undertaken for the first time, I could only imagine what opportunities or misfortunes would come our way.
In addition to my compositional and sound design duties, I was requested to act as producer, which, for our merry band, meant more than just “producing”. Recruiting, scheduling, and requesting, initiating, asking, reminding and begging are just a handful of the whole host of duties of the role bequeathed to me. They were all, however, subsets of the central “task at hand”; leading. Questions immediately arose – “What games should we develop?” “Who do we need?” “Will people ‘get’ this idea?” Most difficult to answer, “Where are we going and when will we know we’ve arrived?” Responses to these inquiries never left me with 100% insurance that they were indeed the correct responses, but onward I pressed with optimism and hope.
Fast forward to today.
After re-watching an inspiring segment from “Ira Glass on Storytelling,” I realize more clearly now where our group operates on the continuum of indie developer existence; that is, from utter implosion to existential flourishing. I quote:
“For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit.”
Having been together now for nearly 18 months and completing two, going on three, small Flash games, it sometimes may feel like we’re the Wright brothers trying to get our plane off the ground, all the while O’Hare Airport has flown out its 2000th aircraft that day and Boeing has secured another $35 Billion contract. It’s overwhelming, too, being constantly bombarded with statistics of what new development tool is going to dominate the market this year, how many people are hurling avian creatures into their boarish counterparts, or how many times someone’s Twitter account was ReTweeted for that Tweet that was worth ReTweeting. #MyBrainWigglesLikeGelatin #BillCosbyDance
When taking it all in, the ego is humbled and the mind is quieted. After all, how do you begin processing this information, let alone interpret its importance to lead a virtual team down a healthy path towards its terms of success? Then I remember and my mind focuses –
- Our team’s taste to make video games is killer.
- The individual talents of its members are impressive.
- Our need to be creative is relentless.
I’m still amazed that; despite the half dozen people who joined and left;despite the projects that were abandoned after weeks of planning and work, and, despite the emails that resulted in mini flame wars from mistaken commentary, we are still willing to push ahead, to develop more efficiently, and to learn more about how we can better support each other. If we can weather these scrapes and bumps and still feel that surge of euphoria from the follow through, then leading becomes infinitely easier and exponentially more rewarding.
I don’t quote Ira Glass because I feel the “stuff” we’ve made is of poor quality. To the contrary, we’ve been able to secure licenses of our games for distribution and have received positive feedback from players stating how much they enjoy our little creations. No, I reflect on his words because I know that this group has not reached its true potential – not by a long shot – and its future is very bright. I know this is true because of the countless failed teams of which I’ve taken part. Until the formation of My Escape, I’ve not experienced the singular sense of camaraderie, thirst for creativity or drive to do great work as a team. It is my burden, therefore, that I remember his words and continue to nurture the capacity for this group’s growth. Come for the development; stay for the people.
As we move out of our initial steps of getting Kitty Hawk off the ground and into the phase of increased productivity, I know we still have much more work ahead of us. Its requirements are daunting, but its potential is inspiring. With the experience of the past and the energy to continue pushing forward, it’s much clearer to understand where My Escape is heading, but reminding the team of our taste to develop and focusing on the desire to improve have become the central tenets of leading that will push our team to its future point of arrival. Knowing I have the support of my fellow Escapees and knowing what they’re capable of accomplishing, it’s easy to see that the future bombardment of statistics of our success will be merely by-products of our passion for our work.
As producer at My Escape, George Hufnagl’s responsibilities include but are not limited to: recruiting and leading a team of 5-8 members, communicating with potential publishers, researching technological resources, setting milestones, accessing and monitoring venues for public relations and maintaining continued communication between all team members. In addition, he works with the team in developing a vision for the entire audio plan. Including music, sound design and voice-over work, he collaborates directly with design, programming and art to insure that the sonic substance works with both the local needs and creative direction of the group.