Joseph Nathan Cohen

Department of Sociology, CUNY Queens College, New York, NY

Creating Video Games (Rob Garfield)

This livestream was produced as part of the QPL Learning Series project.

Original Video Description

A discussion with Rob Garfield (Queens College Center for Teaching and Learning) on creating video games.

Transcription (Auto-Generated)

all right we are uh oh hold on we got some people coming in all right we are live and back for the final installment of the fall 2021 queen’s podcast lab learning series uh and today we are going to be talking about the business or the field of video game creation with our we have an in-house expert you might not know here at queen’s college uh rob garfield james is he’s listed as james on a lot of the communications rob james rob garfield from queens college’s center for teaching and learning is a video game creator and a learning expert here at queen’s college and uh we are meeting with him today to learn about the ins and out of the video game creation world if if you’re like me and you love gaming and you know you got a taste for programming or game design and you’ve ever wondered what what goes into video game creating you know what skills do i need to acquire is there any way to make a living out of it well luckily we have someone with first-hand knowledge of that space so uh welcome rob to uh the learning series thank you joe it’s good to be here uh maybe uh can we start off by uh uh getting you to introduce yourself maybe what you do here at queen’s college in your background in in video games sure um my name is rob garfield as just said i work at the center for teaching and learning my title here is instructional technologist and designer so um i work with uh with faculty to help them use technology purposefully in the pursuit of teaching and learning in the classroom awesome and and how so you’re you’re in you you’re you you help faculty learn to use technology to uh get better learning outcomes and you came to this position from the world of video games yes um there was there were a couple of stops along the way so um i originally started when i started my professional career i was in publishing i moved to new york and i was in publishing i’m a poet as well as a video yeah i’ve been through a number of different things although poetry is a line that continues to this day um and i was working at publishing for a while and i needed to get a job that paid more money i was living in new york city and i ended up getting i had a friend who worked for a bank and the bank hired me as a technical writer i had no tech background really at all and i started at the bank writing technical literature user guides and things like that and started absorbing technology and i’ve always been a gamer i started you know when i was fairly young playing dungeons and dragons with my friends and i wasn’t as much of a nerd as that sounds but pretty nerdy um and i i my family is very much into games i played board games card games uh competition was a big part of my my upbringing and um and uh i when computer games started getting big um i found them fascinating and very interesting and when somebody finally translated transposed dungeons and dragons into the computer gaming world i was hooked and at a certain point i decided hey maybe i should take a look at this and and see if i could uh if i could get into the industry and i had no idea i didn’t have a podcast like this to introduce me to to how it was that one got into the industry so i ended up going to a an entertainment arts college that had a game programming track in winter park florida and i got a degree an associate’s degree out of that and went into worked in the industry for a bit of time then went back to to that school and taught game development for a couple of years and then moved into the creation of simulations and i created simulations which is the gaming industry really it’s just the re you know for the real world and um and i missed academia and i was moving back to new york and i got a job at ended up getting a job at columbia doing educational technology and i’ve been doing that ever since so when you boil it first of all it’s interesting you did not come to video games from a programming background but from a writing background which is kind of interesting because when you imagine what goes into video gaming you think of coding uh but there’s there’s more to creating a game than coding well what else is involved then what do you what do you need to create to create a game so i mean there are all sorts of different so i i actually even though i came from a writing background in a you know a humanities background um there are i did go into programming okay but there are other options in the gaming world i mean games these days are um especially what they call aaa titles are made by over four or five years by by teams of a hundred right um they are programmers in that group lots of them they’re people who make uh three-dimensional assets uh models and things like that people make two-dimensional assets textures uh backdrops um ui elements things like that there are animators who take the 3d or 2d models and animate them and make them move realistically if the game calls for that there’s sound design so there are audio people involved art people programmers and people who do what i would call they’re sort of virtual architects level designers they create the spaces and the worlds that you move around in but on on the flip side you know i see very very popular text app games that like required virtually on the on the flip side there are people who appear to have made a ton of money on video games that have no no digital assets just about um yeah i think you know the computer games started with what they call muds which are multi-user dungeons and they were kind of like uh the text-based version of our massively multiplayer online role-playing games today and those were networks they were they were glorified chat lobbies in a certain way you know and when i say glorified i’m underselling it because you know that somebody wrote hundreds and hundreds of pages of uh content and and the logic that made the content intelligible so yeah there’s all sorts of stuff there are people um there are other models for this too right they’re they’re the the um solo game developers i don’t think there are a whole lot of them but they some people who are really just sort of you know renaissance people with lots of different talents who know about all different aspects of game development and our programmers and can create games on their own and they create games on a on a level that does not have the same kind of production value as a triple a title but it’s often you know you get the more hardcore gamers are into that sort of thing because these people tend to be more interested in really engaging so i i have a gameplay true there are young people who uh dream of creating a game uh and if they came to you and they said you know i’ve always wanted to create a game i’d like to try my hand on it where do i start what do i do how do i get started what would you say to them uh well you’re gonna you’re gonna want to um you’re gonna wanna learn programming and and to my mind i would uh recommend learning a programming language that’s fairly low level like a c or c plus plus um you can do things in python and things like that but they game games tend to be pretty demanding on your system especially if you have lots of fancy graphics or you need to load a lot of things into ram things like that um so i would learn i would learn how to program and how do you learn how to program so you have a number of different um avenues to doing that one of which is the sort of auto avenue which is to become part of online communities of programmers you know work on developing your skills uh taking on projects working you know with what we call passion projects you know working outside um on on developing things i would say work on set yourself a goal of work of making a game i think the first thing that i did was i made pong in windows and then i you know i fancied it up i guess it’s also like i would imagine that there’s such a wide range of games that the way you get started depends on the type of game and the type of strengths you bring to gaming right like so for example if you’re a storyteller and you have an rpg a role-playing game or an adventure game that tells a story then i guess you work on a script uh whereas if you want to make an action game then i guess you’re trying to think of like how to program i don’t know the physics of a game or like a an event simulator or things like that sure you you need to you need to under if you’re making a game that’s real time it looks like the highest level of this is this there’s a what you might call turn based and then there’s real time and a real time game has what the what’s called a game loop that’s constantly running right so you have to learn how to program a game loop what is that and um i mean i think even turn based games tend to have a game loop just um lower and simple some folks definitely yeah but i i would say also um i wouldn’t i would have in mind when you’re first starting out i would have in mind what you what you want to do ultimately but i would also make sure that whatever you start on um it’s creating a game and that game is complete and you do it and you finish it and you start your portfolio because what you’re going to want to do to get into the industry is show people that you can complete things that’s one of the most important elements of getting into the industry from a production perspective there are lots of people who can program right but are you the sort of person who can manage their time well enough um and are passionate enough about it to finish projects so the smart move to be like maybe start making some text games some text-based games just to sort of get get started and and create and then just sort of build out from there is that sure if you’re starting from ground zero i would say don’t take on the real-time game loop to begin with but just start creating interactions you know interactive experiences you can even do a browser-based setup if you want um but i would start by picking a a programming language like c or c plus plus in fact i would pick one of those two try to start learning it you could go to school for comp psi there are also schools that like the one i went to which specifically teach you how to program in a certain way and one of the big things that i understand is going on now is people are going to programming boot camps where you sort of you program for 10 hours a day for two weeks to a month or something right and i actually have to say my experience of learning programming i feel like that that’s a really effective way to learn it you really want to be in order to become a good programmer you need to be immersed in it we have a question for you from anthony borrelli anthony from uh wqmc hey guys how you doing um i’m enjoying the conversation i just wanted to ask a question you were talking earlier about how um if you want to get into this you’re going to need a nice setup like a nice pc hard drive good fans in your computer you’re going to want the works as it’s going to take a toll on your computer is there uh what would you say to help people who might not come from a household that have access to that equipment like what do you think are do you think there’s a way for people who don’t have access to or have the money to go out and buy that technology where do you think that they should start and do you know of any programs or any uh anything that could really help them get going in learning about this and learning about the subject and how to go about making video games or just coding in general okay so first i want to roll back the i don’t think you need incredible equipment to get started and um i think that if you’re going to if you’re if your thought is to make a graphically intensive game um then you probably need a good computer with lots of ram and a decent graphics card but i don’t think that’s necessary for making games you do need to have i think that you do need to have a computer that you can work with you need to have a modicum of ram that you can use but you can still be making creating interactions i think that what i was trying to say is that is that you want to start with a low level programming language like c or c plus plus java maybe even you want to be starting with something like that because games can be intensive and programming in those languages gives you the best bang for your buck in terms of using your computer’s resources so that’s what i would say as far as like i i’m not really up on what the best programs are right now for learning how to code um i think we could probably put some resources together for people who are who are interested in that i think one thing you you need to assess if you’re starting is like how much time do you have when is that time um is it something that you could integrate with what you’re doing right now for example are you an undergrad at queen’s and taking computer science classes if you are are there projects within those classes where you could make a game um if not you know when can you could you do a boot camp if you don’t have the money for that uh how could you get involved with um let’s say free code camp or something like that online to get free tutorials can i introduce just in my own experience uh for programming i in data science uh o’reilly books and stack overflow are the aspiring programmers two best friends and when i teach i i say go get one of those easy reference guides and then just run small projects and actually problem solve and like i’d imagine a video game programming is like data analysis then the real way to get good is to make a hundred games you know just make a just make game after game after game uh that leverages whatever you want to focus on like if you you want to make choose your own adventure stories by all means or you know some type of you like making simulations or things like that you know what i was thinking about though rob there’s there like video gaming is very complicated and there are roles in the video game creating world that don’t have a lot of uh that might not have that much computer programming if you want to take a certain role like for example there there’s a big board game creating you know enterprise or there’s aspects of creating uh dungeons and dragons story that can be completely on paper um uh can you speak to any uh of that aspect of it do you have any contact with that are you do any story writing are you more of a programming and simulation guy i’m more of a programming and simulation guy but i do have that background in dungeons and dragons and i did um i hooked up with um so the school i went to dave arneson who’s since passed away taught there and i became friends with him and and i helped him convert some of his modules between different versions of dungeons and dragons you know how the the new versions will change the rule sets radically like between two and three rules that change radically dungeons and dragons is a good sort of entry way into gaming though because it acquaints you i was also a dnd kid and it acquaints you with like random number generators and how those can be used and you get used to very elaborate rule systems which i guess is also part of it so there’s a lot of the dungeons and dragons experience i think that sensitizes you to the back end of what would be involved in creating a game experience of that sort an rpg adventure game experience yeah especially if you’re really into dnd and you you you like research you know how to optimize your character and things like that you know make the best two-handed fighter or whatever that that is the sort of thinking that goes into developing rule sets and understanding how rules get implemented and make a game fun yeah anthony uh did you have something to say yeah also thank you for answering my question earlier i wanted to bring up it’s a little a little off not off topic but um somewhat related there’s these things now called alternate reality games args that i don’t know if you’ve ever heard of them but it’s like um you know when a movie is doing a marketing thing and they’ll have you going a scavenger hunt on the internet it’s kind of stuff like that like i just watched this whole there’s a filmmaker online online named alex uh bailey and he makes these spongebob theories conspiracy theories about the show it’s very goofy but it’s also a part of this film series he’s doing where there’s some kind of horror monster controlling him and there’s multiple youtube channels connected and you go and watch them and make the connections they have a discord with a google docs like uh uh um archive of everything that’s happened so far and there’s code hidden on websites you know there’s people going scavenger hunts and use code to figure things out there’s a whole channel called inside the mind that delves into these args and it’s one of the coolest things i’ve ever seen because it’s like a mix of filmmaking it’s a mix of writing it’s a mix of coding and gaming and all of these people are having so much fun in this communal thing that affects the story it progresses it along and the filmmaker gets something out of it too uh i definitely recommend looking into one or two or just looking them up in general it’s one of the coolest things i’ve ever seen and uh the rapper and artist donald glover childish gambino when he released his album because of the internet or because the internet he did he was uh going on tour not tour going around for like interviews for the release of the album talking about coding and he coded in on youtube a whole movie that ties into his album and people had to go searching for the code so there’s many other uses and uh as you’re talking about dnd i was thinking about this because you’re right games games don’t just mean video games like you can do so much with that as a concept and there’s so many possibilities it’s really cool just uh yeah they’re my two cents in there yeah that’s that’s fantastic thank you for mentioning that there’s the whole uh augmented reality element to um i know people design tours that you can go through on the internet and in real life or and physical space and things like that and and all augmented reality has been with us in museums for decades so you see people walking around with the headphones on we got a couple comments here josh barnes uh is here with us says love turn-based games especially the earlier final fantasy games i’m with them on that one i love final fantasy sunk a lot of lifetime hours into the final fantasy franchise jason twogar writes i had the d and d phase two there’s a d and d plot in my memoir the one the the one you get it really gets into your consciousness i still think about it that’s jason and then we have a question from ryan sperry how do you think that streaming services like twitch of affected video gaming that’s a big question i’m not really sure i i mean one thing that the the explosion of of communication around games is done is is um it’s changed the way that people play them in particular i mean games that might be difficult or extensive um i think about uh mmos because we brought it up a little while ago um but these are these are games that are intended for people to play in perpetuity right and they’re often set up one of the major business models is the subscription model and so you pay x number of dollars per month so there’s a pressure there’s a motivation for the player to optimize their journey through the game and twitch streaming and um and other ways of sharing information on the internet have completely changed this around so you look at the way that world of warcraft i think it came out in 2004 and but just recently just a couple of years ago they released blizzard the company blizzard activision the company that makes the game they released world of warcraft classic so they they set up a whole bunch of servers they they all they did was update the graphics everything else was the same and so you went back and you played the first version of world of warcraft and and watching the way that people played now versus the way they played in 2004 through six it’s pretty it’s pretty intense it’s pretty done um people got to the end game so much quicker people were consuming all the content so much quicker because they knew the optimal routes they interacted with each other and things like that yeah so yes so that’s that’s a really cool um i mean twitches and other streaming services brought all sorts of games to people to the attention of people that become marketing tools that’s probably the biggest thing that they’ve done and um they’ve created a whole new market which is the gaming broadcasting market and esports and things like that so that we have a whole new um area of with lots of money in it and you see some of the top streamers are really really making a lot of money and they’re getting paid by game companies to basically advertise their games and um by playing them i think video games have assumed such a huge place in our culture now that it’s natural that there’d be a whole media that grows up right it’s like sports right people love the yankees people love world of warcraft and i bet you the world of warcraft audience is probably a lot bigger than the yankees audience so it makes the yankees are better than world of warcraft there’s no great well i guess a bunch of guys our age might say that right [Laughter] anyhow are there other questions for rob garfield rob i have a question so you’re sure let’s you’re a queen’s college student and you’re totally into gaming uh do you like what do you do where what what do you do you you say put out some games just throw your hat in the ring take some comp psy classes yeah i i would say that the other big thing and maybe the biggest thing is is to become involved in gaming communities game development communities so pay attention to what’s going on in the industry i i still think that places like gama sutra certainly the idga which is the international igda excuse me international game developers association and places like that are still the go-to’s um gamasutra i think is called game developer now i actually went looking for it in preparation for today and uh and i think it’s called game developer now but uh these are places where you can find out what’s actually going on in the industry i know that igda has communities that you can join online and people are talking about game design and game development all the time and i highly recommend that the other thing is to get involved with communities of modding modding tools development and or content creation it depends on what kind of what thing is your your uh your your shtick um i had when i went to school i had uh there was a guy that i worked with who was he wasn’t a particularly great coder he’s very smart guy but he wasn’t a great coder but he was so fantastic at level design and he was working in the unreal engine and he had developed levels for all sorts of different games that before we even graduated he was hired by raven software and he’s still in the game industry i’ve looked him up recently just to say hi he’s still in the game industry and one of the top level designers around so he was just doing that on his own and he was creating levels because he loved playing and he loved the idea of you know virtual architecture he taught himself all the tools necessary and participated in the community and people knew his name and raven came a call-in i saw i saw somebody who made a mod for skyrim eventually spun that mod off into a very very successful uh independently published game i wish i had the i have a good i have an interesting question this is uh uh from paulo uh lellas are there any uh wysiwyg type platforms that you recommend for gaming or simulation creation i’m interested in this for the purpose of workforce development simulation trainings perhaps even for prototyping these simulations before an instructional technologist is brought onto a project do you have any recommendations or do you know what the industry standard sort of front ends or wysiwyg uh platforms are to do this type of stuff yeah so i mean the the unreal engine is still a big one um and the unity engine is also really big and i think unity is free right you can download unity for free so that’s well there you go um and lots of games actual games and you know that are being sold and marketed now are being developed with unity um so these are i you know these are things that i know about but i’m not sure you know how you know uh you know what the learning curve is for them i think probably there’s a there’s a way well with unreal you can just jump in and start creating levels it’s not that it’s not that hard to get going it’s hard to get good but it’s not that hard to get going unity and unreal were the two industries standard engines and an engine for just people who’ve never heard of it an engine is it’s a platform that takes that sort of makes it easier for you to make games yeah so an engine is is uh something that’s sort of it’s like the uh the equivalent of blackboard for a game okay blackboard to a course is an engine to a game um engines will uh they tend to have baked in with them the game loop they have tools for creating levels they have tools for a scripting tools for creating logic you know like if i do this then why then that happens you know they have physics engines so you don’t have to you know you can just tap into those things that are there uh yeah i’ve got a question from jason tuca jason hey rob hey jason how’s it going um i have a question since here at queen’s college we have tons of students interested in the idea of working in the gaming industry but and and i have actually had a couple um get involved it and find a way in but most of them i think find it pretty hard to find a route into the industry and i always just think i don’t know i’m sure off the top of your head you’re not going to know this but wondering if you would have advice for people in uh who want to find internships in the gaming industry and then i’m wondering kind of like more pragmatically i wonder if we could set something up with the career engagement office to bring people in from companies who you know host internships yeah i think that that’s the thing that’s one of the things that i’m not so in touch with anymore certainly at larger companies they’re going to be internship possibilities so electronic arts has offices all over the country and there will be an internship opportunities there are they paid internships i don’t know the games industry is notoriously difficult on its workers really because yeah because a lot of people want to work in it in the games industry it’s intensive um it’s a volatile industry so yeah we don’t get exploited yeah so i think that yeah that’s so that’s one thing that i would say um there i would just say that if if you are an individual from the individual’s perspective you can reach out to companies and ask them if they have internships possible and that’s something that you know if something was set up at queen’s college in the career center or whatever um there could be somebody here who did that and compiled a list yeah that’s great i can talk to them about that the career center does offer internship stipends for unpaid internships so ah great yeah that’s a good idea okay cool thanks yeah but as as you know i’m sure much better than i do that it’s not just the unpaid it’s making sure that the students get valuable experience as well that they’re not spending all their time at chipotle getting people yes for sure anthony yeah um on your point about how volatile it is there’s a lot going on right now about that there’s a whole issue with triple a studios like ea and um activision and that’s they all like rockstar gets in trouble a lot because they put out these very dense video games filled with content but they work their employees to the bone for a product that’s gorgeous and amazing and sometimes it takes that level but there is some exploitation in the field and um i just looking at other people and knowing people who do this would say going independent in the beginning right now especially might be your best bet independent games that don’t have even like among us was huge last year especially during the pandemic because everybody got together this was like a mobile game basically it cost five dollars on steam and it blew up so just taking chances on your own and even doing basic things and then updating and working because you could put out which is something aaa studios do a half baked product and people still buy it because of the name and the company they complain about it it gets updated updated updated they’re putting out unfinished it’s like putting out half a book and then saying all right we’ll put out the rest of it when you guys complain enough but independent studios and just producers in general have steam they have which is if you don’t know what steam is it’s a video game uh platform where people can put their video games up to be purchased and bought it was made by valve who make half-life and portal and a bunch of other games left for dead they made so many but they shifted from video games to a video game platform for people and content creators to put their stuff up people go on there and they put up their alphas they put up their betas they put them up for one dollar two dollars for free you can put up your games for free it’s a great place for if you’re practicing with unity if you’re practicing with an engine and you’re making something put it up there and you get feedback that’s what a lot of people do and then you can either take it down rework it go back to it or just keep updating it while you’re going along it’s something that if you are new to the industry there is a small there’s a lot of volatility like you said in the community so you might get a lot of negative feedback but there is a core group of people who will look at your thing and say okay this is what you could do this is what you need to do they’re very receptive and open to people from my experience and and people i know who want to help you get good but i also have a cousin who graduated from rutgers university with a computer design degree a computer animation degree and he has yet to find work in his field so it is tough so that’s just something you have to if you want this you have to put in the work you can’t just expect a job right out of college even with an internship you have to have like most creative fields uh a portfolio and evidence like you said before rob you need to show them that you can do this i think that’s why and thank you so much for saying all that i agree with it i think that’s why it’s easier in a certain sense being a programmer starting out even though there’s more competition for the jobs but it’s easier to create games now if you’re an animator or modeler or modeler animator or a texture artist then you have to be in order to build up your portfolio you have to really be in on other projects a gaming portfolio but that’s what’s going to get you somewhere is so your friend who just graduated from rutgers lots of lots of luck to him but once he gets that first job then then things will change but if if you are a texture artist you can do mods right like mods are probably a nice way to uh practice your art and show that you can get downloads and stuff like that and if you’re a if you’re a uh a modeler and uh animator you can do machinima type things um which is you know taking taking models and turning turning them into like little skits oh i’m sorry anthony i see i graduated years ago and it’s in news television now video editing yeah so it’s it’s it’s still i mean it still doesn’t make it easy uh to do it you know but that’s a that’s a great outcome like you know we’d all love to be novelists or you know video game visionary speaking at e3 or whatever but like if you can find a great job ultimately where your bills are paid and you get to you know still operate in the world of stuff you love that’s i think that’s a win in the game of life so you know yeah working for news is not so bad and so back to the volatility thing um well you can think about it so um a company a big company invests millions and millions of dollars into a game and the game bombs and they’re out millions and millions of dollars and so as it sort of makes sense over time that as the market rises the uh the bigger companies are taking less and less risks and you’ll see the more innovative stuff happening at i don’t want to say lower levels because that sounds pejorative but at you know at the at the lower resource levels and that’s why that’s what i was saying before you have those hard hardcore gamers are really look to that layer for the best their best their favorite gaming experiences not to uh you know madden 45 um yeah where assassin’s creed 752. you’re right all right well thank you very much rob garfield from queens college’s center for teaching and learning we’re going to end the live stream but don’t hang up so to everybody who’s on the live stream thank you very much for joining us in our inaugural season of the queen’s podcast lab learning series uh if you uh stay tuned uh for our spring series which we’ll eventually put together uh and in the meantime uh hope to see you all around on the internet so goodbye to the live stream and take care