In the beginning it wasn’t too difficult to make a profitable business making games on app stores. In recent years, however, app stores have become flooded with games. The market now demands that game designers fine tune their design skills to a high level. At Casual Connect Asia 2017, Color Switch LLC Game Designer David Reichelt discussed what it takes to make it in this industry as a game designer and what every designer should focus on in order to make games that stand out in the market. “Work on being an inspired person because what you produce will be inspired and people cannot copy or clone your inspiration.”
David advises people hoping to enter his field of gaming to study everything and be a lifelong student. “You have to learn, apply, fail until you get there. So you have to learn something, apply what you learned, fail, learn from that failure, and then loop it endlessly until you get to your goal.”
In early 2016, David Reichelt founded Color Switch LLC where he not only leads the company, but is also the main content creator and game designer. His career has the advantage of allowing him to create his own schedule and work from anywhere, making it very easy to travel. David has always wanted to work for himself and travel and was constantly searching for a way to combine that with work he enjoyed doing. When he saw his new roommate building a game on his computer he was inspired to try creating games himself. It was clearly the right choice.
More Experiences, More Perspectives
Although David’s background is not directly related to developing games, he points out that all these experiences are important to the work he does now. “The more experiences a person has the more perspectives they can attack problems from; the more perspectives you have about a problem the quicker you can solve problems.” He considers the time he spent as a magician especially useful because he became very aware of the huge impact surprise can have on people. And surprise became one of the main ingredients in his game Color Switch.
David’s hobbies are as diverse as his background. He enjoys traveling, playing video games, hiking, weightlifting and reading. His reading is especially valuable, allowing him constant access to discovering new ideas that may impact how he thinks about game design in general. He says, “I read books on a variety of subjects within the game world and outside of it. It’s very important to create outside perspectives to look at your industry from.”
As a child, David was particularly influenced by the movie Tron, watching from about the age of two. Here was the enthralling story of a character who runs his own company and makes video games. Then, at age five, David started playing games on a neighbor’s computer and has been playing ever since. But it was not until 2013 that he became interested in game design.
Define the Problem and Ingest Ideas
David’s creative process begins with defining a specific problem he would like to solve and deciding the type of game he wants to design. Then he downloads many games of that type and, using creative thinking techniques, tears the ideas apart and puts them together in new combinations. As well, he ingests ideas from as many sources as possible: movies, music, books, conversations, sounds, memories and the world around him.
Frequently David is inspired by the things he saw as a child, including a lot of 80s media. In fact, if he could create any game, it would be a Tron-type game where you are in the computer world. And with AR and VR, that could be a possibility. He foresees that within the next several years, AR and VR gaming will be big trends, as will esports. So he is currently learning about all three and could be developing for AR and VR next year.
The greatest challenge for David in creating games is generating good ideas. But the greatest reward comes when these ideas resonate and connect with other people.
Interestingly, David claims he does not have creative blocks. He uses creative thinking tools and claims “with specific tools you will always generate many ideas. The key is to keep using them until you create the right idea”. He recommends the book Thinkertoys as a great resource for creative thinking techniques.
David’s journey to success in game design was definitely not quick or easy. He recalls being at least $80,000 in debt after making 40 games without having a breakthrough. He became very depressed but persisted, working 15 hours a day at the computer. He describes how he came through this difficult period. “Many times I prayed to God for help, and also I just kept working on improving how I thought about game design. I kept taking daily action until I had my breakthrough.”
Consistent Daily Action
Consistently taking daily action is essential to David. To this day he continues with thinking about his goals every day and taking some action toward making them happen. He emphasizes, “I’m always working on improving how I think about game design to this day. Only by improving how we think can we change and improve what we do in life.” And David credits this habit of consistently improving his thinking with leading to the proudest moment of his career, when the success of his game allowed him to start helping out his family.
David describes a game designer as someone who listens to everything to see the inspiration in front of them. The essential skills are listening, loving the work, being willing to be a constant student in improving your thinking and, of course, taking daily action.
Start Right Now
If you want to design games, he recommends: “Start right now. If you believe you are what you aspire to be then your actions will follow suit”. Even though he had no prior knowledge of game design or programming and was 33 years old, David told himself and believed he was a game designer from the first day he decided to make games. He insists, “just believe you are what you decide to be and take actions every day to make that a reality.”
To students considering game design as a career David advises working on improving how you think about game design and making games on a daily basis. “This will take you farther than you could ever imagine.”
Catherine Quinton is a staff writer for www.gamesauce.org. Catherine loves her hobby farm, long walks in the country and reading great novels.