Blood, Sweat, and Pixels - Jason Schreier

Review :

Just because playing video games are fun, doesn't mean making them is. This book is a fascinating testament to the dedication, difficulty and turbulence that goes into the creation of every single one of them.

Jason Schreier is a journalist who works as a news editor at Kotaku, a renowned blog that focusses on gaming related news. For this book, he set himself the task to give people a look behind the scenes by going round interviewing people at various studios to tell the story of their games' making. We get to find out what it was like to make games like the escapist Stardew Valley, the RPG milestone The Witcher 3, the rocky Diablo III or the triple-A title Uncharted 3.

You don't have to be a gamer to share this industry's fascination. I am, however. Many of the games that are being discussed I have played myself, which definitely heightened my interest, but even the ones I didn't care about I now want to play. Also, Schreier does a good job at not diving too deep into that very common gamer slang, where you start throwing around words that aren't part of "normal" people's vocabulary, but equally, if you know your rogue likes and shadow drops, you're still not going to feel like he's explaining things you don't need an explanation for, either.

What's fascinating about this, is how different each game's story is, and yet what they all have in common is that is was bloody hard to make it. We've got Stardew Valley for example, which was created by one single man who dedicated his entire day - every day - to making this for years, putting himself into a state of constant psychological distress, not knowing if it'll ever pay off. There's Pillars of Eternity, which relied on a Kickstarter project, meaning it had its audience invest in it before its production had begun, which then had to live up to people's expectations. Or there's Star Wars 1313, which had a couple of dozens of people work on it full-time - and still, it never happened.

I knew that a hundred-hour-week aren't uncommon in the gaming industry, but this deepened my understanding of the industry as a whole. It did show me how much can go not as planned. From creative differences on the team to publishers being difficult, the money not being there or the developers realising halfway through that what they're making just isn't fun - every game on the market is basically a miracle. A fascinating read!

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