[Book Review] Blood, Sweat, and Pixels

Blood, Sweat, and Pixels by Jason Schreier externalized my experiences with the videogame development industry. Though I wasn’t in it for long, and although I was only scraping by as an independent developer, I tasted just enough of it to wholeheartedly say this book will give you the ugly truth behind beautiful videogames. The work is arduous. If you’re not fully invested, it’s not worth trying, because you must commit yourself entirely. Isn’t that life?

Rating: ★★★★☆ [4/5]

Videogame development is wild stuff.

Game jams can show you the successes or failures of independent videogame development in just a 48-hour marathon. To succeed at a game jam and making any sort of videogame, you have to believe in your vision and have the tenacity to work 20-hour days, draining all other aspects of your life.

There is no easy way around that.

Through ten lenses, Schreier looks for patterns of videogame developers in teams of one or hundreds, and returns to a central theme – crunch, or, working excessively. Every developer in each story had to sacrifice to achieve their goals. It would be admirable except there is an insidiousness where it seems exploitative. It’s easier to do it all in one go than to leisurely tend to a passion project, but at what cost?

When it works, it’s fantastic.

It feels great working together as a team to accomplish a goal. I gave up hours of time to learn the basics of videogame development, fighting to insert my assets into a videogame, because I believed in it strongly enough to fight the adversity of time. No one else was invested in my vision as much, so if it wasn’t for my effort there, it would have been for nothing.

We went onto win the prize.

I’ll probably never receive my share of the prize money. They spent it on Minecraft and weed. After that victory, I felt less included in the group, ranging from being the door greeter, reading this book while they went and hung out, to being subtly ridiculed in meetings. We parted ways. I wanted to finish reading this book to cross it off the list, but as I read, I recognized patterns. People leaving companies over disagreements, people behind reprimanded for thinking differently, and all the conflict involved with working inside insular groups.

All they did was develop videogames.

Occasionally, you might get time to play a videogame, but that’s more work-centric. You might play something similar to your videogame to steal ideas than to relax.

This book is a warning.

Are you willing to crunch for months or years to create a videogame? If it’s not just wanting to tinker around for a lazy afternoon with an existing videogame, then if this book hasn’t dissuaded you, it might be worth a try as a part-time hobby on weekends, evenings, or when time permits. That time, for me, is occupied by writing. I was avoiding that consideration and self-reflection.

Blood, Sweat, and Pixels presents those developmental truths politely.

Quotes: None.
Sources: My personal experiences in addition to reading the book.
Inspirations: After finishing the book, I felt compelled enough to write about it. I don’t feel like I’ll ever want to re-read this book, because it’s not really relevant to my current self, although I might read the sequel when it’s released and sufficiently easy to borrow.
Also, my reading reviews:
[01] March 23rd – 4/5 – From cover to page 4.
Great introduction to a book that promises to be a good glimpse into game design.
[02] March 30th – 4/5 – From page 4 to 12.
Schreier presents a light biography of the failures and successes of two games studios. Since my knowledge of the games and the games industry isn’t as in-depth as maybe its core audience, I’ve been focusing on the lessons of successes and failures, and these still run strong.
[03] May 25th – From page 12 to 32.
Lost interest.
Borrowed again in September and wrapped it up over the course of about a week or two of reading.
Related: Other Book Reviews and Downsizing Zeal essays.
Photos: The closest background I could find to my relation to the videogame industry. I’ve drifted away from the community but I still respect my time there. There’s no feature on Double Fine Productions but the bag and the empty room of the photo below kind of complement the shot decently. I could have cropped out my hand more, but I really didn’t care that much.
Written On: September 26th [33 minutes, from 5am to 5:33am, mobile]
Last Edited: October 3rd [Minor edits, so, second draft; final draft for the Internet.]

My big goal is writing. My most important goal is writing "The Story." All other goals should work toward that central goal. My proudest moment is the most recent time I overcame some fear, which should have been today. I'm a better zombie than I was yesterday. I'm not better than you and you're not better than me. Let's strive to be better every day.