Andrew Yoon: From Journalist to Game Developer

As he finds himself ensconced in a brand, new world, Founding Circle Critic Andrew Yoon writes insightfully about his past in game journalism and his future in game development.

by Andrew Yoon

I remember as a little kid, I used to say: “when I grow up, I’m going to
be a Yoshi.” Eventually, it dawned on me that such a dream wasn’t entirely
feasible.

That dangling-carrot feeling—knowing that something was just a little bit
out of reach continued when I started contemplating a job in video games
journalism. I loved picking up the latest issue of Next Generation
magazine from the newsstand. I would obsess over IGN, following the
exploits of Matt Cassamassina and the like. I never thought that I’d be
able to get a job like that—not until the day I actually got a job at
Joystiq.

I didn’t necessarily think myself qualified for the position. But it was
fairly early in the world of journalistic blogging, and we were making up
the rules as we went along. Things moved so fast back then: I remember it
didn’t take long before I became lead editor of the PlayStation Fanboy
sites and had my very first in-person interview: with Phil Harrison, a
giant of a man that literally had to bend down in order to enter rooms.
“You can buy a better sunset,” I remember he told me of his then-pet
project, PlayStation Home.

Thousands of posts later, talking with the industry’s most influential
individuals became a regularity. I remember beating Shigeru Miyamoto on a
level of New Super Mario Bros. Time to check that off my bucket list, I
suppose. I remember that a video interview I did of Polyphony Digital’s
Kazunori Yamauchi ended up being turned into hilarious GIFs on NeoGAF.
Cross that off the list!

But what else remained on my bucket list? Well, making a game. By the time
I had become Editor in Chief at Shacknews, I had accomplished nearly
everything I could want in games journalism. And so, like that little kid
that said he wanted to become a Yoshi, I told myself “I’m going to be a
game developer.” I didn’t know exactly how, but I thought why not figure
that out as I go along?

In January, I began prototyping early game designs for tabletop games. I
didn’t have any programming chops, but the idea of saying I did a “game
jam” sounded particularly satisfying. Out of those early experiments, I
created a game about imaginary numbers and a game about building (and
destroying) walls. The former would eventually become what I’ve released
on Kickstarter last week as Divorce! The Game.

The past few months have been truly revelatory, and even my limited
experience in game design has given me insight into development that years
in the games journalism side never offered. There truly is something to be
said about simply diving into the deep end and learning through
experience. The amount of iteration (and reiteration) required to make
something fun, balanced, and satisfying can be hard to understand without
going through the process yourself. Even now, I find myself constantly
trying to make tweaks—many of which may be invisible to the end user. I
wonder how different my perspective would be if I ever return to games
journalism?

To be honest, I never thought that my first game would be Divorce! It’s a
silly two-player card game that has a surprisingly satisfying
hook—you draw two cards, keeping one for yourself while giving the other
to the other player. Still, I had imagined that my debut would be a deep,
serious “art game.” But, I certainly don’t mind starting off with a game
that almost always makes people laugh. Seeing people react in the way I
intended for them to definitely empowers me as a designer.

I also thought that my gaming debut would be in video games. But, given my
limited resources—both in terms of technical talent and money—tabletop
provided a much more viable avenue to pursue. Not to say that I’m simply
“settling” for a card game. It’s a genre I love, and the lessons learned
from my first game are going to make way for even more ambitious game
designs from me in the future. Who knows? If Divorce! takes off, maybe
this actually could become a viable career path for me.

I may never become a Yoshi, but I’ve already accomplished one of my other
childhood goals. My life as a games journalist may be behind me now, but I
hope with the help of the community, I’ll be able to take a leap into my
next: game designer. I already have the business cards printed, so I hope
you’ll consider supporting this endeavor. Otherwise, I’m really going to
regret having made those business cards so prematurely.

 

4 thoughts on “Andrew Yoon: From Journalist to Game Developer

  1. Pingback: The Roundup: The Circle Speaks | New York Videogame Critics Circle

  2. Pingback: On The Greatness of Andrew Yoon |

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