Games

It Turns Out Video Game Developers Suck at Playing Their Own Games

Making a 'Battlefield' game doesn't mean you're good at playing 'Battlefield,' and arguably, it doesn't actually matter.
August 24, 2020, 1:00pm
A screen shot from the video game Battlefield V.
Screen shot courtesy of Electronic Arts

The trippy puzzle game Manifold Garden straight up broke my brain last year, and so when I recently asked designer William Chyr whether he was any good at playing other puzzle games, I was taken aback at his honest answer: "I'm actually pretty bad at puzzle games." Huh.

When I shared this story on Twitter, I jokingly shared this dare:

Thing is, people took me up on it and dozens of developers—designers, artists, writers, playtesters, you name it—bravely stepped forward to admit "I, too, suck at my creations."

"I have worked on two souls like [games, despite] having a big hatred for Dark Souls and others in the genre and never finishing any of them," said Mortal Shell combat designer Patty Shannon on Twitter. "I do love working on them though. It’s fun to approach the gameplay of a souls-like from the perspective [of] disliking most of them and learning to understand what people like about them and try to make it more accessible to others."

It's a counterintuitive idea: for some, the best way to understand something is to come at it from the outside, but it's something that was repeated over and over again.

"I somehow lack the attention span to play a visual novel, but have the attention span to write one," said Extreme Meatpunks Forever writer Heather Flowers on Twitter.

In a sense, it's inspiring and helps complicate the notion of "expertise."

One sentiment was almost universally shared by developers who worked on multiplayer games, where the moment their games were released into the world, it instantly became clear they were absolutely terrible at the game they'd spent years pouring their life into.

"One of my favorite experiences as an RTS developer was being absolutely slaughtered in online PVP within hours of launch," said Command & Conquer designer Sam Bass, who worked on several games in the C&C franchise.

"Battlefield players are really really good," said DICE head of design Fawzi Mesmar, before linking to a GIF that tried to summarize his feelings on overseeing the Battlefield franchise and constantly getting owned online.

The one that really made me feel better, though, came from Fortnite QA and playtest lead Ryan Rhinebarger, who admitted he "still can't build in Fortnite," despite working on the game since 2016. I could never build in that game, either. We're in this together, Ryan.

It's a really interesting thread, one that more and more developers have been adding to since the original tweet. Game developers, they're just like us! They're bad at games, too.

Here are some of my other favorites:

Follow Patrick on Twitter. His email is patrick.klepek@vice.com, and available privately on Signal (224-707-1561).