Sep 23 2014

I Make Games Again

The last one was a fluke, but now I’m really getting into it, making games like I did throughout my childhood. This one is called Wizard Pong, because it involves firing and blocking different spells that fly across the screen.

I’ve had a stifled desire to make games for many years, but I finally started again last year, teaching myself Ruby on Rails.

I used to program games in high school on the TI-86 calculator. I had to teach that to myself too, but it helped pass the time during the classes I was legally compelled to attend until graduation.

Before and during that time, there were Dungeons & Dragons and other role playing games, crafting adventures with my friends, arbitrated by dice.

But even before that, going back to early elementary school, I involved my friends in completely devised quests, adventures where I would describe a world where whatever friend I roped into playing would be a character. There were no dice. I decided what happened next based on rules I made up, which must have made perfect sense at the time.

I don’t think any of those early adventures were ever written down. I can only imagine what I would have created then if I’d had the resources I have now — and the patience to use them, of course. It involves a lot of frustration to make these things from scratch on the computer.

One of the main things that stopped me for many years was that during my senior year of high school, the calculator with all the games I made over those school years disappeared, probably stolen, and all the worlds I had built went with it.

I tried to set aside working on the toy computer inside the graphing calculator and got a book on Java. I learned a lot from that, but I was never able to recreate the kinds of complex experiences I had built in the BASIC world of Texas Instruments.

I turned to writing instead, and ten years went by.

Read If They Get Me was an attempt to use some game-like mechanics to break up the linear aspects of storytelling. It also led me, through reading about the new hacktivism, to discover all the tools created since I gave up on programming.

I discovered Ruby on Rails and how it’s supposed to be simpler to work with than other languages. I dipped my toe in again, but that pool was too deep for me to wade in and make the simple games I had to start over with. It was only by following game designers on Twitter that I happened to investigate a mention of Processing.

The game I couldn’t make real-time in Ruby became First To Draw…, with a downloadable version I stand by and a buggy preview version embedded in the browser. Now, my new game actually works when embedded.

But it’s not finalized. Like I originally tried to do with #RITGM, the game is in beta and needs more tweaks and balancing to keep it as much a challenge for the mind as it is for the nerves.

You can help, just by playing the game. Then use the feedback form to tell me what works and what doesn’t.

It’s taken a long time to reach this point, but I’m really excited about what might come next.