How to Become An Indie Game Designer with Michael Block
March 16 — Michael Block is practical. He bikes everywhere, he dresses simply, and he chose to avoid getting his major in game development, even though he knew he wanted to make video games his whole life.
Block, who spoke at ChiTech’s most recent Power Lunch Series event to a room full of 10 young men, began his career in programming. Much like how ChiTech teaches coding, Block told the guys that having a strong foundation in software development will make them better developers.
Block loves his job. He loves creative problem solving and designing interesting games that have an impact on how people experience the world. His company, Culture Shock Games, just released “We Are Chicago” on February 9, 2017, a narrative driven game exploration of life on the South Side of Chicago. The game, derived from hundreds of interviews with residents of the neighborhood, puts players in the body of Aaron, who is a week away from his high school graduation when his best friend stops showing up to school. The narrative is gripping and drives the players through themes of trust and survival.
But owning your own game development company isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Block warned that this profession isn’t for people who want to play games all day. Being a game developer often means long 80-hour weeks, abuse from supervisors, and limited creative freedom. On top of that, having to deal with taxes and management while running a game company can leave you feeling exhausted.
“The hours are insanely demanding. As an industry, we haven’t figured out how to be good to employees yet,” he said.
But for ChiTech’s young men who feel they want to pursue the career, Block suggests they avoid going to school for game development. Instead, he suggests studying computer science and programming. Then, once out of school, just like he did, he noted getting a well-paying job as a developer and doing game work on the side is a safe way to ensure you’re provided for while pursuing your passion on the side. The reward?
“It’s and close knit community, and if you get practice now, letters of recommendation to document that you’re a good team player and you have the necessary skills, you’ll do just fine,” Block said.
After all, life is just a giant game and you are the player.
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ABOUT OUR SPEAKER
Michael Block is a game designer and programmer living in Chicago, IL. He is the founder of Culture Shock Games. He received a bachelor’s degree in computer science from DePaul University and worked as a software engineer before founding his company.