Ep. 17: Triple A Blues

What does it mean to work in AAA game development? In the gaming community, the term “AAA” (pronounced “triple A”) comes with a lot of baggage. While at face value AAA is just an informal way to classify games and games studios that have the highest development and marketing budgets, the category also comes with negative connotations. You’d think more money meant less problems for game developers, right? Wrong! AAA studios are often seen as giant, painfully selfish corporations that care about one thing and one thing alone: money. From “lazy” to “immoral” and “untalented”, game developers at AAA studios are often accused of having a myriad of moral failings, regardless of how much control they have over the final product.

Rachel Hammond, a ten-year veteran of the gaming industry, explains the big ol’ sad bits that are part of these big ol’ games projects. From dealing with bad decisions made by top executives and being unable to respond directly to fans because of corporate gag orders, to emotionally coping with the vitriolic comments and death threats directed towards AAA studios (and the people that work there), Rachel has seen it all!

But it’s not all bad. Rachel’s love for programming video games (which started when she was 5 years old), hasn’t been squished by the pressures of the AAA space. Rachel, even after all this time, still loves her work in the games industry, even if the games industry doesn’t always love her back! Seriously. It’s amazing. She genuinely loves making games that other people will love. Tune in to Episode 17 to learn about the issues that face AAA developers, and what we can do to help make the gaming community just a TEENSY WEENSY bit more empathetic.

Rachel Hammond has been making video games of all sizes for more than 10 years, and she still remembers the game review “Congratulations, you made a 6 year-old cry”. She currently works in the AAA game space at a company that will inevitably be a poorly kept secret as the podcast goes on.

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This episode is part three of the “Developer Doldrums” series, a collection of conversations with game developers about the not-so-happy bits that pop up when making play objects. For part one, check out Episode 15: Grief, Game Development, and the Emotional Significance of Oatmeal with Andrea Ayres of Lemonsucker Games to learn how the loss of a parent and an eating disorder (plus therapy) can lead to making a video game. Or, for something with a little less death, check out part two, “Episode 16: Long Distance Bromance” to hear from indie game studio Hydezeke on the pleasures and pains of being in a long distance game dev relationship. Oh, did I mention there’s also a mini game in that episode? It’s games, all the way down!

Stuff we mentioned…
AAA (video game industry)
SpongeBob SquarePants
Transmedia storytelling
Ratatouille (video game)
Rats are very smart and gr8 at games
Sesame Street: Cookie’s Counting Carnival
Video Game Crash of 1983
The funniest joke in the world
Warren Spector and the Denius-Sams Gaming Academy
John Romero
Reddit thread: Game programmers: What game mechanic are you proud to have implemented?
Dunning-Kruger effect
SXSW Gaming 2018 Panel: IH8URGAME: Fostering Empathy in Gaming Communities

JD (The Broad)
Website: GamingBroadly.com
Twitter: @JayDeeCepticon
Instagram: @JayDeeCepticon

Rachel Hammond (The Cast)
Twitter: @xespera

Gaming Broad(cast) is the official podcast of GamingBroadly.com. Thank you to everyone who has liked, subscribed, and commented about Gaming Broad(cast) on iTunes! You can also follow this podcast on SpotifyPodbeanStitcherGoogle Music, or subscribe directly using our RSS feed. Want some gamey goodness in your email inbox? Sign up for some occasional(ly) playful newsletter updates. Thanks to Los Kurados for the use of their song “Rojo Y Azul” for the intro and outro music of our podcast.