Get to Know a GameDev: Alex Bethke

Website design and martial arts are both good ways to build discipline: just ask Alex Bethke, the developer behind over 100 video games including Fate Tectonics, LongStory and many more.

Based in Toronto, Alex got into the gaming industry by employing a great strategy. “Using a combination of my work experience and the games I’d made in my spare time I was able to impress some people at what would later become Ganz Interactive,” and opportunity grew from there. “I like to say that it wasn’t so much of a conscious decision to get into game development as it was a siren’s call I was compelled to answer.”

Thanks to a tip from one of our other featured gamedevs, we seized the opportunity to chat with Alex Bethke about his experience:

Blog-digitalroninWhat would be your unofficial title?
Digital Ronin was a term I was always fond of. Officially I don’t have an unofficial title because I have some official titles. heh. At the end of the day I make games and help other people make games, that’s the best description.

Did you always want to work in games?
I’ve pretty much always wanted to be a game developer but for a long time it didn’t seem like an achievable goal – until one day it was. I like to say that it wasn’t so much of a conscious decision to get into game development as it was a siren’s call I was compelled to answer.

What did you do before you worked in the game industry?
I’ve always had some skill with computery things and had been making websites professionally for a number of years before the game making opportunities came along for me. Right before I got into game development full time I was also pretty focused on being a martial arts instructor, apprenticing at my dojo for about a year before I came to a crossroads and had to make a decision. I still do martial arts, but game development definitely took center stage in my life from that point forward.

How did you break into the industry?
I got into the industry through a combination of luck, opportunity, and my own hard work. Building upon my website development experience I got a job making some javascript and flash games for St. Stephen’s Community House. Around the same time I started making some small flash games of my own.

BLOG-webkinzUsing a combination of my work experience and the games I’d made in my spare time I was able to impress some people, at what would later become Ganz Interactive, and ended up working on Webkinz World as their dedicated game developer. Once my time there was over I had developed a very impressive portfolio and had a lot of opportunities moving forward.

Have you faced any personal challenges in your career?
This is a tough one for me to answer since each person faces their own challenges and what I may have found challenging over the years might seem trivial to others. One well known incident was when there was an explosion in the basement of my apartment building (while I was home) which ultimately had me living out of a knapsack in a hotel room for 60 days while still trying to honour my work obligations.

How about your most memorable highs or lows?
As high points go, there are few things that compare to the excitement and joy my team and I felt when we found out our game Fate Tectonics had been Greenlit on Steam. That was definitely a kick ass moment in my career.

Low points, well… aside from battling burnout over the years, and a few abusive clients, I’d have to say one of the worst times was when my dad died and within 24 hours I was back working on our main project at the time, trying to deliver on a deadline for a major potential backer which ended up in a blown demo because the server team couldn’t get their system working consistently. That sucked.


Is there anything weird about your job that most people wouldn’t know about?
Professional game development can turn into a life consuming obsession if you don’t manage your work/life balance properly. I think most people outside of the industry don’t realize that, thinking that making games equates to playing games all day long.

Has your job or other life choices ever forced you to be apart from close friends and/or family?
Absolutely. [But] you do what you gotta do and learn to make time for the things that matter.

What game has had the greatest emotional impact on you?
For me it’d probably be a tie between two games: Final Fantasy 7 and Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver. Both games had very powerful moments which resonated with me.

What games are you looking forward to?
New World of Warcraft expansion and whatever the next Fallout 4 DLC turns out to be.

What has been the biggest or most striking change in games since you first started playing?
From my perspective I think one of the biggest changes has been the rise of the mobile gaming market and the related devaluation of games as a result of that and other factors.

If you could time travel, where would you go?
I’d like to travel 100 years into the future in the hopes of seeing a more socially conscious, environmentally healthy, and politically stable world. Also I’d hopefully still have some family alive to see how they turned out.

Do you have any game industry heroes/role models?
Not specifically but I’ve been very fortunate to meet and know a ton of very talented and passionate people in my career, each of them inspiring in their own ways; which makes it really hard to single any one or two people out.

(Ain’t THAT the truth!)

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 July 08, 2016

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  1. Pingback: Get to Know a GameDev: Tabby Rose – GameDev Cafe

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