Today’s Game Developers Like You interview is with Celestipoo of Miami Beach, FL.
Q: What’s a typical day in your life as a game developer like?
A: I work gamedev contracts and we also develop our own software; some game related, some not. I wake up at 11am and make my way to the kitchen to get the kids some breakfast. Check my email. Check my sales. Tweet something. Three hours and lots of parenting stuff later, I may eat. Check my email, respond to any users on the forum. Do I get any work done? Yeah, between the hours of 2-4am. Work is sporadic when I’m off contract. On contract though, I wake up and start work by 9amish, work till about 3pmish.
I’m a mother of 3 kiddos and have a wonderful husband. He is also a developer! (My husband and I are the sole developers of our own company, Stay At Home Devs.)
Q: What’s your career been like leading up to having your own company today?
A: The two most notable games I’ve worked on are Age of Empires III and Words With Friends. AoE3 is an RTS for the PC that was released in 2005. The site is still up! I gained lots of career achievements on that team, among them: First Released Game, First AAA Title, First Crunch Experience, and First Time Giving Game Demos at E3. I also worked on Words With Friends. WWF is now available for just about every platform, but I was around for iPhone/iPad/Android, and a little bit of the Facebook version. Working on that team lead me to create my own company, Stay At Home Devs. If it wasn’t for Zynga’s shenanigans, I wouldn’t be here running my own gig.
Q: What’s your favorite project so far?
A: My favorite project is my own, Game Data Editor for Unity. GDE is a highly flexible visual data editor and data management system for Unity. It was recently a 24 Hour Deal on the Unity Asset Store. It broke into the top paid assets list at #8! It was also 3rd most popular for a while. Didn’t quite overtake Playmaker, but a girl can dream right? Working on GDE is so rewarding. All decisions are my own. The idea, the implementation, the marketing, the feature set, the copy… it all came from me and/or people that I commissioned to make my vision come to life. My career, up until this point, has been doing my best work for other people and their ideas. To see my idea living and breathing and enabling other gamedevs to do their best work is simply amazing.
Q: What role(s) do you typically serve on projects?
A: On the gamedev contract side of things, my work can vary widely. I’ve been tasked with bug fixing, gameplay, UI, devtest, build automation, anything and everything remotely dev related. By trade, I’m a programmer. In practice (especially on my own projects) I write code, I write copy, I think up marketing campaigns. The only thing I don’t produce is art (and that’s probably not 100% true).
Q: How and when did you start making videogames?
A: I never wanted to start making video games. When I was in 11th grade I met a boy. He was a gamer, much like I was, so we became close and dated for a long time. Longer than most marriages last! Anyway, his older brother had this idea of starting his own game studio. Throughout high school and college, with these boys, I worked on game projects, dreaming of making something amazing. It was so fun! I loved (love!) programming. Making games never felt like “work.” So, naturally, I never stopped doing it. Working in the game industry, it was never a choice. It was more along the lines of fate; if there is such a thing.
Q: What are the origins or meaning of “Celestipoo” and “Stay At Home Devs”?
A: I’m very literal. When I’m tasked with naming something, I’m not very good at coming up with a non word that morphs into something awesome. Game Data Editor. That’s what it is. The name of my company is Stay At Home Devs because I have such a hard time getting the point across to clients that I DO NOT WANT TO WORK IN AN OFFICE. And my nick is Celestipoo. Actually, I didn’t come up with that one. A good friend had a thing for adding ‘poo’ to the end of everyone’s name and it just stuck.
Q: How has making videogames been different from what you expected going into it?
A: I didn’t really expect anything. I knew some people and they got me a job at a really awesome game company as a tester. Six months later I was promoted to dev test. When I was growing up, I absolutely hated waking up early in the morning. High School was rough. Every day when I got home from school I would tell my mom that I was going to find a job that allowed me to sleep in. No earlier than 9am I told her. She would laugh. But you know, I went to college, got a degree, followed my friends, and landed a job at a game company. Start time? 10am.
Q: What advice do you have for people who are thinking about getting into videogame development?
A: Find a great reason to make games. Let me give you a hint. Money is NOT a great reason to make video games. Making great art, great music, you love programming, you love telling stories, these are excellent reasons. Let that guide you. Don’t be afraid. Put one foot in front of the other and put something out there.
Q: How would you describe your technique?
A: Our technique for idea generation is to listen to or watch something really funny first. It’s how we get in our Open mode. The more we laugh, the better. When we get to “business” we try really hard to stay away from words like can’t, won’t, don’t, dumb, stupid, hard, impossible, etc. We stay positive and run with any idea that comes out. Then we write them all down for consideration at some later date.
Q: Do you still play games? Which or what kinds? Has your experience or preference among games changed since you became a developer?
A: Rarely. With 3 young kids, there’s hardly any time to play games. Well, there’s hardly any time to play the games that *I* want to play. My kids love to play Battle Block Theater, Plants vs Zombies, all games Mario, and Cookie Clicker was a huge favorite recently. But if I had time, I might still be playing WoW.
Q: What’s something that you’d specifically like to say to players about the game development process?
A: Game developers are very emotionally invested in their work. When you have an opinion, be nice. You’re holding someones heart in your hands.
Q: What do you do to get word out about your games?
A: Twitter. Not just advertising though. What has gotten the most looks at GDE, is interacting with people. Also, being responsive. The few users I got in the very beginning, I dazzled them. Superb support; that’s what keeps GDE growing. Helping people and being nice.
Q: Any projects currently in development that you’d like to talk about?
A: Sure, its totally not game related, but lots of gamedevs are parents too so this might be of interest. We are currently developing SaveTheSparkles.com. It’s a service designed to help unschooling parents shift their thinking, build their confidence, and highlight the bright moments in their lives. We still have some features we want to implement before we call it “done” but the main system works. Give it a go, if you like.
Q: What’s the biggest challenge, struggle, issue or complication that you’re dealing with as a developer?
A: Finding work. Anyone interested in a rock star remote contract developer? Hire me.
Q: Any question(s) for me, the interviewer (Chris DeLeon)?
Celestipoo’s question : If the work environment was such that you were the sole male developer in an office full of women, how would you feel? Would you want more men working with you? If you found that you were paid less, had less accommodations, less opportunity for career growth, and had to work more and harder to earn promotions that most of the women seem to get more easily, what would you do to change that?
DeLeon’s reply: I’d feel uneasy from wondering why the place doesn’t seem to hire, promote, or retain any men. I don’t have a strong need to work with other men, nor any issues working with women, but it would lead me to investigate why there don’t seem to be other people who are like me working there. I’d want to figure out ASAP how or whether that might adversely affect my future, too.
If I find that there’s an understandable reason for the imbalance which no longer applies or won’t affect me, I’d stay. Maybe they actually hire the same percentage of men who apply as women who apply, but for some reason way more women apply to work here. Maybe the company recently became acutely aware of and sensitive to their severe imbalance, which snuck up on them without anyone noticing because it happened one person at a time, and I’m step one in them working to correct it. If I bailed on it merely for being the only guy, when the next guy came in then he would be the only guy, asking himself the very same questions, instead of having me there to relay on day one that we’re fine here.
If, on the other hand, my digging reveals simply that my gender (or my race, age group, whatever) is simply hopelessly mistreated here, I’d take that as a sign of managerial incompetence. They’re shooting themselves in the foot, not making the most of their talent, not only mine but other people’s as well. That will catch up with them.
To avoid being on that boat while it sinks, I’d first attempt to look for someone smarter to work for who has the sense to recruit and reward the best people, without an arbitrary filter of one kind or another leaving a significant fraction of the population out of the picture. Even if the same issue turns out to apply at many other companies within the same industry, surely some are better about this than others, and I’d make an effort to take my hard work there. Otherwise, short of trying to either start my own venture or changing jobs/industries, I suppose I’d do my best to work within it, pushing a little bit at a time for what seems to make more sense to me.
Anyhow, I encourage readers to think about the question for themselves.
Thanks for taking the time to share your experiences and thoughts!
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