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September, 2005

Many young people prefer imagining what their game biz aspirations would be like in a perfect world, rather than considering, realistically, what it might be like in the real world.

I'm an old fart, so I grew up reading Superman comics. The writers of Superman often had Superman travel to a bizarre world, which they called "Bizarro World," a cube-shaped planet where everything happened the opposite of the way things happen on Planet Earth. Round things were square, hard things were soft, black cats were good luck, and Bizarro women did NOT think men were the stupidest thing that ever happened to humankind (and verse vise-a). Since everything in Bizarro World happens opposite to the way it happens in real life, it could be argued that Bizarro World is "Perfect Land."

More recently, Homer Simpson referred to a similar place - a place where everything is the opposite of the way things work in Springfield, USA. It was episode 284 (DABF10), entitled "Blame It On Lisa." The Simpsons went to Brazil, and Homer was surprised to learn that the seasons were reversed in this seemingly magical place:

Homer: Wait wait wait, so in August it's cold?
Lisa: That's right.
Homer: And in February, it's hot?
Lisa: Mmhmm.
Homer: So it's Opposite Land! Crooks chase cops, cats have puppies!
Lisa: No, dad, it's just the weather.
Homer: So hot snow falls up?
Lisa (sighing): Yees.

Even more recently (OK, in the present), there is a TV commercial campaign that talks about what life is like in a mythical town called "Perfect." I don't know if this town is in Iowa, or what the heck these commercials are selling. Who cares? The point is, the town of "Perfect" is just a fantasy. I mean, we look at our kid sister as she prattles on about growing up to be a Fairy Princess who meets Prince Wonderful while out horseback riding in the Enchanted Forest -- and we kind of snort about how she's living in fantasy land.

Yet guess what, it isn't just TV viewers and little kids who fool themselves this way. I get emails every day from wannabes - high school and college-age guys - who think they live in Perfect Land.

Here, then, is how every wannabe's career would proceed if this wasn't Planet Earth but, rather, Perfect Land.


You're born with a silver spoon in your mouth, in a huge house with many bedrooms and bathrooms. Your daddy's rich and your mama's good-lookin'. Corn is as high as an elephant's eye... oh wait, that's just a song lyric. Anyway...

Your sibling likes you - s/he doesn't call you a "doo-doo head" every day (even if you really are). All your friends and relatives are nice, without any mental problems or embarrassing quirks, and they never develop any serious health problems or have any serious accidents.

In high school, you decide you want to be a game designer. Your parents applaud this brilliant choice of career. You briefly consider trying to start a game company by yourself right after graduation, but an inner voice tells you to take it slow, do it right, go to college first.

When you want to pick a college, you ask, oh, just anybody. And everybody tells you that there's one best school.

It turns out that the one best college for game design is within bicycle distance of your home! When you apply, they give you a scholarship! When you show up for class, the teacher is so impressed with your brilliance that he tells you to just go hang out on the beach, because everybody else has to work but you already understand everything.

However, if you choose to disobey and come to class anyway, every course is easy. You get straight A's without raising a sweat, and you're elected Class President, and you are chosen Valedictorian. All the girls want to carry your books to class for you. You know - the books that you never had to pay for, and that you don't have to read because you're so amazingly brilliant.

A game company recruiter snaps you up just before graduation. So just like that, you've already got a job lined up. The company tells you your first day on the job is one year after graduation, so why don't you go on a round-the-world vacation in the meantime. They even give you an expense account.

A year later, having become a travelin' man with a girlfriend in every land, you report to work. Your job is to come up with new ideas for games whenever somebody asks. Otherwise, you can just play games and read game magazines all day. Everybody loves you right away. Your creativity is greatly admired by all. Your bosses keep handing you raises and promotions.

Your office is within walking distance of the beach, where the waves are magnificent. When not being bothered to come up with new ideas, you can surf or skateboard or practice speaking Dolphin or catch tuna with your bare hands.

After just six months of working in this dream job, a venture capitalist comes along and offers you your own company! Or maybe your bosses, in awe of your spectacular talent, abdicate their jobs and turn over their company to you. You take to running a company like a tuna takes to jumping into your waiting hands.

Your employees all love working for you - there are no personnel problems, no money problems, and all your games sell like hotcakes. The people you partner with (your CFO, your legal counsel, etc.) are all honest and hardworking, having no addictions to drugs, gambling, or sex scandals. A couple of months later, you take the company public and get rich on the IPO.

Your company is talked about in the same breath as Pixar or Dreamworks. You're on the cover of Fortune and Time, and you get constant requests to appear on TV with the likes of Larry King, Ted Koppel, and Jimmy Kimmel.

At a Hollywood awards show (where your talent makes you Guest of Honor), you meet a supermodel who begs you for your phone number. You marry her after a whirlwind romance. The two of you become the media's darling couple. The paparazzi leave you two to your private lives and you both thrive in the happy limelight.

Your supermodel wife turns out to be a delightful companion who makes no demands, always supports you in your career, and becomes a spectacular mother to your two kids (a boy and a girl). Your kids are smart, good-looking, and nice. They do well in school and grow up quickly, then move out and become successful without ever needing any money from you.

Your supermodel wife ages beautifully, continuing to grace the covers of supermarket magazines, so she's happy, and you don't get jealous about that at all.

You age well too. You never lose your hair, you never grow a potbelly. Your low blood pressure and cholesterol, and your general excellent health, make your health insurance company very happy.

You build a beautiful house on the Hawaiian island of your choice - it's never affected by lava, mud, storm, tsunami, or earthquake. It ages gracefully.

By the time you reach the age of 50, you're so rich you don't need to work any more but you love making games so you do, and the AARP makes you their cover feature! "The old man of Games," they call you.

Oh wait, I forgot this is Perfect Land. People never age. There's no war, no disease, no germs, no natural disasters. Everybody agrees on everything, so there's no terrorism, no need for Band-Aids or mouthwash or governments, no such thing as taxes.

And so you live, happily ever after...


Many young people think that the above is the way life will eventually work out for them. (They don't think it might - they assume it will.) But only in Perfect Land is it likely to be so. Planet Earth, though, is far from perfect.

I am NOT saying that you should be discouraged about your prospects. I am NOT trying to dash your hopes of a perfect future.

All I'm saying is, you mustn't go into life with the expectation that everything will always turn out rosy and perfect - that your story will end, "and they lived happily ever after" for you, and all your friends, and all your relatives.

Look where my imaginary story started out - your daddy's rich...? Your mama's so drop-dead gorgeous that your daddy's always gotta beat the other men away with a stick...? You live in a freakin' mansion, your whole family is beautiful, intelligent, and "normal"...?? If that's the way your life is, then I'm really happy for you, but guess what? For MOST people reading this article, their life isn't anything like that!

And that's just the first couple sentences. The rest of the story I told is pure fantasy.

My point is that you have to be aware of the difference between real life and pure fantasy. A guy who manages to achieve his dream career of "game designer" is going to have to work really hard to get through school, and to get a job, and to keep the job. And he's going to run into problems and setbacks at various times in his life. Everything isn't always handed to you on a silver platter. Life just doesn't work that way. It's a nice dream, and you can read the one above for enjoyment now and then (heck, I enjoyed writing it!). But every line I wrote is fantasy - every single sentence contains multiple things that go against the grain of probability.

In these articles, I have stressed the importance of making a plan. By which I never meant, "come up with a fantasy, and it'll just happen, ya can have any life if you only imagine it." When I said "make a plan," I meant... a realistic plan. A good plan takes the vagaries of real life into account, and assumes that you will have to work hard every step of the way. Read the wise sayings in Article 47. And make a plan - that's a very different thing from having a fantasy.

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© 2005 Tom Sloper. All rights reserved. May not be re-published without written permission of the author.