One evening after work, I waited for Greg at the Webster Groves Starbucks. Not many people are seeking a caffeine rush at 7pm, so it was relatively empty while I caught up on some work and drank a Green Tea Frappucino. About 10 minutes later Greg appeared around the corner looking slightly sheepish. We hadn’t recognized each other and had each been patiently waiting for the other to arrive. He ordered a Venti Mocha and told me that after many years of working for a company, he is currently developing his own game for mobile.
For a while now Greg has wanted to do something different from a lot of the video games that are out there, but that’s challenging to do on a small scale. It wasn’t until he took on a game development project for a client that he really learned how to program for mobile and that was eye opening for him. Nowadays… “If you have a good idea that’s original and you can execute that idea, you can do it with one to three people.” So he and his business partner are bootstrapping by developing games for clients until their company, minMOG, takes off.
Their first release (in the next few months) will hopefully create a new trend where games are more of a narrative, not short bursts of activity similar to Angry Birds. “It’s more about experiencing something. It’s possible to come up with an experience that has a sense of continuity to it,” he explained leaning back in his chair. “I’m really trying to break a bunch of cliches that have existed in the game industry for a long time. A lot of them come out of the history of board games.”
Greg is originally from California. Traditionally that’s where we think of movies and video games being created and Greg was at the center of that action for 13 years. First he worked for LucasArts where he produced the award-winning game ‘Secret of Monkey Island’. Then he started his own company and did contract work for Sega. He even won an award for “Best Producer” at a Game Developer’s Conference during this time. In 1994 he and his wife decided to move back so they could raise their 3 sons in the Midwest and that’s when he founded minMOG.
It’s not that Greg is anti-violence in games, it’s just that he doesn’t feel the need to add any more noise in that area. He would rather do something that makes people think a bit and entertains them in a different way. “The reason I feel the impulse to do things that are non-violent, is because I, I feel like there’s such an enormous contrast, disparity between what we experience in games, and modern media, movies and such and what we actually do in our daily lives. So, I’m, for my own benefit anyway and for the people I’m working with, trying to move the needle back towards a bit of common sense and normalcy and decency. This isn’t a morality thing for me, its much more about just encouraging people to have experiences and share their experiences with others.”
I’ve never been one for violent movies or games, so I asked how he thinks all of this violence came about. That question actually led us to a larger discussion about how gaming has changed and is still changing. He had four interesting things to say:
- It was much more complicated to develop games 10 or 15 years ago, now you can do it with a much smaller team
- Video games are violent because game designers were influenced by the movies they saw and as boys they were conditioned to think they were great, but mobile screens have reduced the number of violent games because it doesn’t translate to the smaller screen
- Games have eclipsed movies in terms of their ability to generate money, so soon you’ll see more movies designed after games rather than the other way around
- Twenty years ago we were relying on news networks and newspapers to tell us everything we knew about the world. Now we can customize our consumption and awareness.