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Published: Harper Paperbacks - September 5th, 2017
Videogame development has often been described as a hellscape of dark rooms, tight deadlines, low pay, and lost social lives. The men and women (mostly men, sadly) in the trenches however, often say there's nothing else they'd rather be doing. Creating a game is an art form for the 21st century, turning 0s and 1s into sweeping epics that can rival the emotional impact of any Hollywood blockbuster.
In Blood, Sweat, and Pixels:The Triumphant, Turbulent Stories Behind How Video Games Are Made Jason Schreier , editor of games journalism site Kotaku dives deep into the development cycles of several major games of the past decade, bringing to light the very human stories behind these ground-breaking games.
Hardships are endured during nearly every game's development, often including mind-crushing periods of "crunch" often involving 100+ hour work weeks. One developer tells Schreier early on that "it's a miracle that ANY game gets made" and after following the ups and downs, often over a period of years of development, that becomes abundantly clear here. Egos are bruised, employees are fired, and things go "back the drawing board" so often that it is likely to give you whiplash.
During the development of "Destiny", a science fiction shooter from the makers of the best-selling "Halo" series, one executive tells media that it's lore and cultural impact will rival that of the Lord of the Rings, or Star Wars. Only weeks later though, the entire story is rebooted and patched together by the team after internal testing find its plot line confusing and, even worse, boring.
Another chapter follows the years long creation of farming simulator "Stardew Valley" which started as a one-man developed love letter to classic Nintendo series Harvest Moon, but quickly grew into nearly a decade of seclusion and financial strain for its programmer. All is rewarded in the end though, as Stardew Valley achieves mega success and near-overnight millions for the developer.
Not all stories end well here, as is often the case in videogames. LucasArts, the now-defunct game development arm of Lucasfilm, was hard at work on a game titled Star Wars 1313, which was revealed to the public in a massively successful demo at industry trade show E3 2012. Sadly, the game was ultimately cut, as was the entirety of LucasArts after Disney purchased Lucasfilm in 2013.
Hundreds of talented artists and programmers were suddenly without jobs or insurance. This was not an isolated incident. Recently, several movements to unionize this industry have gained traction, as major development houses and publishers cut jobs across the board. Schreier's warts-and-all look at the industry is a welcome look behind the curtain, and ultimately, and crucial document into the necessity of protecting the often young and hungry people in the games industry. A must-read for anyone interested in gaming, digital production, or behind the scenes looks at an often secretive industry. ~ Reviewed by Chris Linendoll