Great article! We definitely need more studios which approach game development like this. 🐟
Open Gamedev School
Here’s a snapshot from the Fish Fight chat some months ago:
I went to game design school twice. I had to leave mid-way through the 1-year intensive course the first time I enrolled, because my mother fell ill with breast cancer. (She got through it that time, but not many years later there was an aggressive recurrence and she passed.) The school was in Vancouver, Canada, far away from my home country of Norway.
One memory in particular has stuck with me from that first go of it. At least a month or two before flying back home, when I had just learned of my mother’s illness, there was an assignment due for hand-in. I hadn’t told anyone at the school what I was going through (big mistake; try not to do this) as I figured I’d just try to tough it out. But after days of struggle, no work had materialized. I felt terrible about it, doubly so because I was failing my duo project partner as well.
Maybe a day or two before the due date, or perhaps that very day, I was finally able to be vulnerable and open up to my instructor. I told him about everything that was going on, and asked for more time.
His answer was no. This was the wrong answer, but I have long since forgiven him for that, as he didn’t know better. He thought that the game we were playing together was so awfully serious that under no circumstance should we *ever* stop playing-pretend. He thought that there was some sort of lesson to be learned here – for a deeply frightened 21 year old in desperate need of comfort – about how ‘the gamedev industry waits for no one’.
He was wrong. Well, he wasn’t wrong about the game industry he lived in service of, but he was unequivocally wrong about what kind of game industry that’s worth serving.
To live in service of a righteous game industry
is a life lived earnestly in service of playful kindness.
I reject the notion that the art of game development comes hand in hand with pain and suffering. Long hours, crunch time, abusive leadership, brutal profiteering.., it’s all BULLSHIT! These afflictions are in no way inherent to game development and the loving art of play. They are merely symptoms of the underlying disease that is late-stage capitalism and the consequent loss of interconnection.
Lest we reclaim our sense of togetherness,
our creative freedom remains shackled.
That game design course taught me a whole lot. Rest assured, I have no shortage of happy memories from there that I gladly share when asked. But the issue remains that most game-design-education institutions are built on outdated, even corrupted foundations.
That might sound more alarmist than it intends to be, as I am not telling any current or soon-to-be game design student to “get the hell out of there before the corruption overtakes you!”. I am however saying: Pay close attention, and make your best effort to filter out the *wrong* lessons that your educational institution might be accidentally trying to teach you.
We must also acknowledge the immense privilege it is to attend such a school, as this type of novelty education is still only available to the fortunate few. That’s a real shame, especially since there’s no longer any technical reason why we can’t scale game development education to virtually **everyone** in the world who’s interested in it.
Here’s what I believe education (conversely also a good life) is all about:
Without openness there won’t be artifacts of knowledge to learn from.
Without kindness there can’t be a higher understanding of knowledge.
Without curiosity there is no urge to explore the un-known.
Open Gamedev School
We are a globally distributed community of on-going practice. There is no graduation day.
We practice the craft of game development, played out through being open, kind and curious.
We do NOT practice fake urgency, punishment or discrimination.
We believe in learning by doing, and so what we do is build games together. Lots of prototypes, but also published games, because that is a black box that needs opening.
Our faculty of volunteer teachers shall treat every student as their peer and coworker. We are all interns in a shared enterprise.
Maybe the most unusual way about how we operate is that we will pay students to work with us, so long as the student is capable of making production-ready content for one of the for-profit games that fund the school’s operations.
Our tutorship however is always offered freely, so learners of any level are encouraged to engage with us. All the fundamental teaching materials for how to develop games is already available for (mostly) free online. As such we can curate a common curriculum together.
Real Games with Spicy Lobster
The game studio coop Spicy Lobster is the first partner and designated incubator of the Open Gamedev School. OGS is looking to partner with any game studio that shares our three core beliefs about what makes a Good game development experience: openness, kindness and curiosity.
At this time we have 6 active game projects available for students to get involved with. By far the most mature (I.e. fully functional and documented) among them is the original Fish Fight, but all the games will gradually get to that level of accessibility and beyond.
- Fish Fight: Jumpy [aka the original] (Rust)
- Fish Fight: Sussy (C#)
- Shotcaller (Godot)
- Late Vision (Godot)
- RPG-Sim (RPG Paper Maker)
Want to enroll in the Open Gamedev School? All you have to do is get involved with any of the projects listed above, or do an open game of your own design in union with our community of practitioners. You can contact Erlend by email or the community at large on our Discord.