Tuesday, July 1, 2014

GJG Blog Interview #1: Sande Chen

Sande Chen
This is the Gaming Journalist Gazette's first interview and here I have interviewed Sande Chen. Sande is a writer and game designer whose work has spanned over 10 years in the industry. She is the co-author of the book, Serious Games: Games That Educate, Train and Inform. One of her credits includes 1999 IGF winner Terminus. She has spoken at conferences around the world, including LOGIN, South by Southwest Interactive, and the Game Developers Conference.

Sande Chen's Blog - Game Design Aspect of the Month:

Steven Vitte:
1) How were you introduced to the Video Game Industry? (first break)
2) How did you get your first break as a game writer? What are the requirements?
(I ask because I am an aspiring writer who is looking to establish writing material.)

Sande Chen: My very first video game was as a writer on Vicarious Visions' game, Terminus, which won 2 awards in the first Independent Games Festival (IGF) in 1999.

I graduated from USC's School of Cinematic Arts with a specialization in screenwriting and I basically sent out resumes to video game companies. Sorry, I don't have a glamorous break-in story, but I guess it's good for people to know that sending out resumes and writing samples does work.

3) How important is networking in your opinion? Any tips?

Sande: Networking can definitely help in a job search, but I would say that networking isn't always easy for people who are shy. If that's you, don't despair. There are ways to get better at networking.

My advice would be to approach people as people you would like to get to know better as friends, rather than as people who can get you somewhere. Maybe someday, that'll help you out. If not, you made a friend.

4) What is your opinion on Gaming and Autism?
(I happen to be a gamer who has Asperger's Syndrome, Autism Spectrum)

Sande: One of my regular PvP partners has Asperger's Syndrome and I have also played with others who have more severe autism. I haven't found autism to be an issue in terms of winning at PvP.

While the online socialization is fun for autistic players, my PvP partner cautions that online socialization is not as complicated as real-life socialization. She feels freer to act differently online. She apparently is very quiet in real life, but online, she is constantly typing in the chat box.

5) What kinds of games do you love to play? (Platformer, RPG, Puzzle, etc.)

Sande: I like RPGs, but currently, I play a lot of casual games because I've spent the last few years working in that segment of the industry...

6) What have you learned about gaming in the last 10+ years?

Sande: Technology and markets move fast. In 2009, I wrote that social games on Facebook would surpass casual downloadable games and now, we're seeing a lot of buzz in mobile and tablet games. Maybe in the future, we'll be working on integrating games into our wearable devices.

7) What does a game development/publishing team need to be successful?

Sande: Dedication and luck. There have been a couple stories in the industry about companies about to go under that suddenly landed that successful hit. Life is not always that dramatic, but you do need persistence and you do need the right team with the right project. By luck, I mean, serendipity.

8) What is your opinion on graphics, quality assurance and marketing? What matters most?

Sande: They're all important parts of game development although there are games without graphics so, for those games, graphics wouldn't be important at all. After all, many of the most cherished arcade games didn't have high resolution graphics and we still play them today. The graphics in Tetris cannot compare to the console games of today, but that doesn't matter to the players who play the game.

There is a standard of quality assurance that should be upheld for every game, but as we know, not every game ships without bugs. This is true for many software products. As long as developers continue to fix whatever hiccups arise, their product will get better. As a goal, we should aim to release the most bug-free game that we can.

Marketing is something that can really help your game along, but remember, there's also word-of-mouth marketing. If you have a good game and people like it, news is going to travel. Good marketing does get people to try new products, but if your product isn't good enough to keep people playing, then it's not going to stay at the top of the charts. And people aren't going to write rave reviews about it either. 

9) What is your opinion on video game reviewers/critics?

Sande: I'd like to see more thoughtful pieces, like you see for art and film criticism. However, I know it's trickier for game reviewers because games can be much longer than books or films. Even so, I wouldn't read a review of a film based on its first 15 minutes and I don't want to read a review of a game where the reviewer didn't even bother to play through the game as much as possible. 

10) What is your opinion on my blog, the Gaming Journalist Gazette? Have you read some articles?

Sande: I see that you've been updating. Keep it up! I find that it's always good to be writing. 


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