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  Climbing Hills
X You are probably thinking, what the hell is that wacky picture doing on this site! Well you know how it is when you are sitting in a meeting and you are overcome with boredom. I am sure most people only take notepads into meetings for doodle reasons, well someone did that of me. Every time I see that picture it makes smile and to be honest that it is all that matters.

The flying bikes thing is me trying to get fit, too much sitting down and not enough fresh air! I bought a bike off a friend last year and decided to climb hills in my spare time. The place where I live is rolling hills, endless telegraph poles along straight roads and oceans of corn gently waving in the wind.

I can't explain the lightning bolts, some things are just best left a mystery and this is one of those occasions. Quickly now, move on ...

  In the Beginning
Its hard to believe that when I was at school flicking elastic bands at teachers, PC's did not exist! All the fancy computer graphic oriented courses that are around today were just a dream then, instead art involved staring at still life and painting / drawing it. In fact the saying "oh that's as interesting as watching grass grow" must of had its basis in still life art classes.

Oh sure, computers did exist, but nothing like people take for granted nowadays. There was a computer lab at my school and the words 'computer' and 'lab' really did go together well. The pride and joy of the lab was a mini computer with rows of switches and various neatly stacked piles of punch cards. How anyone can describe this tower of plastic as mini is beyond me. The thing should of been in a museum but at the time it looked impressive, like something from a 60's sci-fi movie.

Space Invaders A new addition to the school computer lab was a batch of commodore pet computers. They were a lot smaller than the monolith of plastic in the corner and due to their size almost felt personal. I am not sure what stuff I did on them during class anymore but I do remember one thing, I use to play space invaders a lot! Even then I was mesmerised by the idea of computer games but never thought I would be creating them myself one day.

  The Undiscovered Country
Like all teenage computer geek's I studied on some random computer course at college and went straight into IT. The idea of me actually being employed to make computer games was just plain crazy. Just like all those millions of kids that dream of being astronauts or something equally beyond the average person, making computer games was on that list.

After a few years of various IT jobs fixing things for people and playing computer games, I remember things started to change for PC's. It is strange how one company can launch a whole new market but ID software did just that. Finally computer games were coming out on the PC that were fun to play, visually very cool and best of all, you could create new content with them for yourself!

Quake 1 Now I am not suggesting that you could not create new content at all, but I am saying at the time the ability to create new content was difficult. Making your own computer game was a daunting task that often involved lots of eye bleeding staring at computer code. When Quake 1 (and Doom to a lesser degree) came out there were tools like Worldcraft available to create your own content and it did not involve mad coding skills to work. This made me very happy.

Level design in the early days was liberating, nothing was defined, it was the undiscovered country. The whole idea of being able to use computer tools to create space, shape, form and not need good conventional illustration skills was freedom. All my dreams, memories and ideas locked away behind clumsy artistic hands were finally let out. Anyone with enough patience to learn the tools could create something and that was empowering.

  Digital Superstars
Getting a job in the games industry in the early days was more about luck than anything else and it often boiled down to being in the right place at that right time. With the emergence of the Internet and Games Companies website's becoming focal points for fans, it is not surprising that certain developers became digital superstars. With so many people wanting the game developer lifestyle (The internet hyped version) it is not surprising that so many fans followed the designers of games.

I remember when I was creating content for SIN and an IRC chat channel was setup so that fans could talk to one of the designers of SIN called Levelord. About 500 people turned up even before Levelord showed up and when he did come online, the chat channel went crazy. It must of been a weird feeling knowing that so many people wanted to talk to you and all you did for living was make computer games!

With so many new Games Companies being created a demand was growing for people who had the relevant skills to create this new kind of digital content. Internet communities became the breeding ground for new possible employee's of these companies and Games Companies were taking notice of who was publishing what. With so few college courses available and the industry still trying to climb out of the bedroom startup mentality it was an ideal opportunity to get noticed and get a job.

Eventually after a lot of IT jobs in different countries I got myself a job in the Games Industry as a level designer. It was a long journey but something I had always wanted to do as far back as my old Space Invader days.

  The Future
With the Games Industry coming of age and gaining professionalism through education, college students can now plan a career in games development which is amazing considering how quickly it has all happened. I think it is awesome how college kids can now start their first real job at a games company and not have to wait for the market to mature.

The future is bright for people wanting to work in the Games Industry and each year it is getting better. What with each new generation of technology requiring an even larger army of people the job market is good. I recently saw a survey in a paper of what school kids wanted to do when they grow up and I was surprised to see that games design was featured in the top 10, that made me smile.


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