Get to Know a GameDev: Benjamin Rivers

Game developer Benjamin Rivers has many talents: he writes and illustrates graphic novels, teaches at OCAD University in Toronto, and also makes uniquely thought-provoking games. You may have played his first hit game Home, an unsettling horror mystery set in a pixellated world.

BenjaminRiversBut the strangest part of game dev for Benjamin Rivers?

“[It’s] how much not-weird stuff you have to do in the course of a project. It’s not all foosball and tightening up the graphics on level three — this job involves a lot of organization, form-filling and note-taking.”

Along with his work ethic, Benjamin brings a real passion for development to his games; and we asked him all about it ahead of his upcoming PS4/Vita release, Alone with You.

Alone with You Game

What would be your title in the game industry?
Well, I’m the Director of Benjamin Rivers Inc., but I tend to just call myself a game developer, since I wear so many hats day-to-day, like so many other independent developers do.

Did you always want to be a developer?
I used to design fictional games and their instructional manuals for the Intellivision back in the mid-eighties, so somehow I think this is where I was always meant to be!

What did you do before you worked in the game industry?
Immediately previous to this, I worked in graphic and web design, as a designer, sort-of developer, and a would-be illustrator. I got used to business by freelancing, shadowing my bosses, and going to seminars whenever possible.

How did you get your break?
I got lucky by creating Home, my first commercial game. It hit at the right time and caught the right kind of attention, and thankfully I was able to take advantage of that and keep the balling rolling to where where I am now!

Have you faced any personal challenges during your career?
Every day is a new challenge! I like to say that if you aren’t fearing for your life every day, you aren’t living. Building a business — even a tiny one such as mine — and trying to make things you think are genuinely good is tough. I have no idea what I’m doing most of the time, until I suddenly need to do it, so that sense of challenge is always right in front of me.

What about major high or low points?
In terms of game development, I haven’t crashed and burned yet, and I hope that remains the case! But every day and week brings a new pendulum swing in terms of meeting deadlines, being satisfied with the product you’re making, and so forth. I’m very moody, so my answer to this question might change if it’s 9:00am or 3:00pm!

Do you have any industry heroes/role models?
You bet! I look up to the previous generations of renegades who made names for themselves and revolutionized the industry, but my favourites will always be the founders of id Software — John Romero, John Carmack, Adrian Carmack and Tom Hall. They were the first rock stars of the industry, and the trails they blazes still inspire and affect we developers today.

What is the most striking change in games since you first started playing?
There are now so many new avenues for playing games, more types of players and more players overall — you can’t just expect to design titles with one core group in mind.

Has any particular game made an emotional impact on you?
The aforementioned id Software’s Doom was one of the biggest, because it was everything I loved at the time — it was dark, metal, scary, and best of all, it let me make my own levels. It was my favourite thing in the world, and suddenly I could participate in a way I hadn’t been able to before.

If you could travel to any point in time for a single day, where would you go?
The moment of the Big Bang, to truly understand what’s going on in the universe!

Finally, any games you’re looking forward to playing?
Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst is one, since I loved the original game so much, and we so desperately need more beautifully rendered games with bright, blue skies. The other big release I can’t wait for is the new Zelda; there’s so much mystery behind this game, that looking forward to it is becoming a game in itself.

(WE’RE looking forward to Benjamin’s new game Alone with You, a sci-fi romance)

Do you know someone in the gaming community with a unique perspective, interesting project or creative take on the industry? We’d like to talk to them! Let us know who we should feature next:

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  • On June 30, 2016

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