About me (and why I love games)

My name’s Marcus, and I’m an independent game developer with a passion for storytelling. Over the last few years I’ve been attempting to connect up a love of stories and a love of videogames.

My background’s predominantly in literature — something I developed an interest in while reading Edgar Allan Poe’s ‘The Tell Tale Heart’ for a class in Year 8. I was stunned by the ability of language, perspective, and storytelling in general to create fictional worlds and inspire emotions in their readers. I enjoyed analysing and taking apart the stories I read, eventually reaching the conclusion that stories create meaning. The narratives we create, tell, and subscribe to give meaning to the actions and gestures within them. Stories are incredibly powerful, and I firmly believe in their ability to change, however slightly, the people that read them. 

I later developed this interest by reading English at Cambridge, immersing myself in many of the literature and creative writing societies available. I created and ran a college-based creative writing society in my first year (‘Persephone Group’) before joining the newly formed Cambridge University Poetry and Prose Society (CUPPS) and publishing a short story in Notes in my second. After attending a lecture on the digital humanities, I was inspired to hear of certain Cambridge lecturers who were beginning to think and talk about videogames as a medium of storytelling. I later made a request to my Director or Studies, asking whether the lecturer I’d seen would be interested in supervising me for a dissertation and part of my Visual Culture paper. The supervisor accepted, affording me the opportunity to write a Part II dissertation considering videogames and the 20th century LGBT novel (provided I adhere to certain rubrics and guidelines). In short, we got away with it, and finally having the opportunity to think and write about games like this excited me. It was around this time that I reached the bittersweet conclusion that there was nothing that excited me about the future quite like videogames, and that if there was anything worth taking risks for it would be this.

I discovered Goldsmiths’ masters in Independent Games and Playable Experience Design while looking for courses which were both open to humanities students and specialised in the storytelling, artistic potential of games. I wanted a course which saw games the way I did: as immersive, interactive experiences with the potential to enrich those that play them. Or, at the very least, I wanted a course that offered me the space to continue seeing them this way (as opposed to thinking of them as marketable commodities, first and foremost). For me, focusing on indie games allows me just this, developing a mindset I can bring to a range of different creative environments (one that respects both the potential of games and the potential of gamers to create meaning). From a more pragmatic angle, this year’s also about me learning practical skills in game development, most notably with Unity and C#, 3D modelling and animation with Maya, and physical computing with Arduino. The degree, and perhaps indie development more broadly, encourages me to try my hand at a variety of different disciplines in game development.

With all this being said, I think my interests ultimately boil down to game design, narrative design, writing, and programming. I often work at a macro level, thinking in terms of play experiences, narrative arcs, game loops and themes, but I also find it refreshing and grounding to work some smaller problems: how do I get this mechanic to work? how do I make this feel good? And, sometimes, these smaller questions raise much larger design question: how can I work with this limitation in my design? how might this tweak change the gameplay loop and experience as a whole? I might not ever be a specialist programmer, but I believe it helps immensely to have an appreciation for the sorts of problems they address and the value of sometimes thinking on a more micro level.

I feel incredibly grateful to have this year. It’s an opportunity to learn new skills, take part in team-building exercises like game jams, and generally make the most of the events and opportunities available in London. And, for me at least, it’s about doing what I can to connect up two chapters of my life.