If you’ve ever found yourself pondering about how a video game finds its way from inception to creation, the likely answer is a miracle.
This is the overarching conceit which runs through Blood, Sweat, and Pixels, a new book penned by Kotaku US’ news editor Jason Schreier. The book hopes to peel back the curtain a little on some of the more complex and lesser known aspects of game development. By way of 10 longform-style case studies each focusing on a specific game, Schreier’s book earns its title, explaining why it’s easy for developers to burn out so soon after release. That is – as evidenced in the book’s final chapter concerning Star Wars 1313’s downfall – if they are eventually lucky enough see the light of day at all.
If the book has one major success, it’s that it provides plenty of much-needed context for anyone that’s ever been curious as to why games release in varying states of completion. It soon becomes clear that almost all video games (of any scale and ambition) experience some form of problematic development cycle, each for their own respective reasons. Perhaps it’s how solo indie developers struggle to market a product they’ve spent years working on; the forced redundancies which arise following investment collapse; or how the massive team at Naughty Dog turned around the bulk of Uncharted 4 in little more than a year and a half.
Schreier does an excellent job diversifying the type of games featured in the book while still revealing worthwhile aspects of an inherently secretive industry. Couldn’t care for Hack and slashers? Diablo III’s journey to winning back its devout series fans is still a page-turning read. Isometric RPGs not your thing? Blood, Sweat, and Pixels’ chapter covering Pillars of Eternity provides much food for thought about the different set of responsibilities that come when choosing to crowdfund your game.
It doesn’t matter whether you care for (or have even played) the particular titles under discussion here – each chapter offers a unique perspective and/or rare glimpse about the obstacles games are frequently forced to push through. Skipping one purely because you’re unfamiliar with the subject matter would be a true disservice, especially when considering how many eye-opening tidbits are just casually peppered throughout.
Not every story is all doom and gloom however. For as much as the bulk of Blood, Sweat, and Pixels reinforces the sentiment that it’s a miracle any video game makes it to shelves at all, the book acts as a source of encouragement: against all odds, success is always attainable. I’m a sucker for an underdog story at the best of times, so having already gained the knowledge that CD Projekt Red won the whole world over with The Witcher 3, it was immensely uplifting to learn more about how.
While the idea of video games being art continues to come up for debate, Blood, Sweat, and Pixels proves that they are at least the result of laborious time, passion, and dedication. And really, aren’t these the trademarks of any worthwhile artistic endeavour? With this book, Schreier has lifted the lid of Pandora’s box by offering readers insight into areas of game development many too often take for granted. Required reading? Almost certainly!