Finding Answers in Always Sometimes Monsters
By Justin Amirkhani, Creative Director
Always Sometimes Monsters started as an attempt to find the answer to one of the biggest questions I had ever come across. What else could my life be?
Whether the game was ever able to successfully answer it, or if it was even able to pose the question to players is not what's worth talking about here. Over the course of producing ASM I have come to understand that in life there is no certainty in anything, and possibilities exist only in the realm of curious wonderings. No matter what angle I analyze the question from, or how I use the game and the experience making it as a filter, I will be forever uncertain whether my life could ever be anything other than what it is.
This is the real heartbreak of the game.
In many ways, the story of ASM is the story of making ASM. Like the protagonist we set out on a mission with a hard deadline, no real clue how to progress, and mired in the tedium of work. Here and there we'd find lessons and misadventures, all in pursuit of a highly intangible goal we only really appreciated in dreams. As we pull to the end of the journey, sacrifices need to be made, and we come to an ending that is equal parts celebratory and gut-wrenching. A guilty feeling overtakes as the credits roll and we think of all the ways we could have done things better, and we want to play again.
Being happy with what you've made is probably the most difficult thing about creating any form of art. Even when your praises are being sung, it can be hard to believe what people are saying because you know how much better it could have been given just a little more time. Sadly, with a game like ASM there is no "done". No matter what you do or how much effort you put in, you will inevitably release something that may be good, maybe even great, but will always feel incomplete to the creator.
It's like running on a track by yourself; only you decide how many laps is enough.
Still, I look at myself and my life now that we're through with our first game and things look good. We're comfortable and fulfilled, making a living doing something we love. Nothing is perfect, our naive ideals are unmet, but everything about life is better than it was before we started. Perhaps this is what the game was trying to teach me all along.
What else could my life be? With persistence and effort, it could be better.
Seeing an idea of yours come to life and success from scratch leaves you with no doubt that hard work has its rewards. I now know that regardless of circumstance, I can always improve my station with the will to endure. That's a valuable lesson to learn, and probably the most important thing gained from making a game.
As we move forward from Always Sometimes Monsters, and on to whatever comes next, it's with a confidence that we never had before. With luck it bolsters our ability to deliver games that continue to impact people emotionally, and never cripples us by turning into cheap hubris. Vagabond Dog has only started telling its stories, but now that we know someone is listening, there's all the more reason to keep talking.
Day 8 | Vagabond Dog