The wild east in the 1980’s. No things like computers or smartphones. The solely „high tech“ around was the TV. It was different to the programmes nowadays. My TV entertainment was dominated by shows like Maya the Bee, Mouse TV or documentaries made by Heinz Sielmann.
If there was nothing on TV I enjoyed some outdoor adventures. Bad weather conditions forced me to stay indoor. There I was constructing buildings and vehicles with my Lego Bricks. Today, it reminds me on some hours exploring new zones in a MMORPG or working on builds in a RTS Game.
The school I went to was focused on natural sciences. That was good, because it was what really interested me. Sometimes there were tasks like collecting leaves and seeds from trees and other plants. In the gaming world we would call it collections or achievements. It was fun and there was a lot to learn about our environment.
After a few years there was the political change in Germany and we got access to more high tech products. First, I got a Master System II – an 8bit console from Sega. In this time, I got my first experiences with Jump’n’Runs, Adventures, Arcade Games and many more.
In 1994 I got my first Computer – a 486DX40. You don’t know about this alphanumerical? Yes, I am very old – sigh. Well, this computer wasn’t mainly used for serious work but for playing games. The game types changed to economic simulation and strategy games. Do you remember in Sim City 2000, Transport Tycoon or Battle Isle? They were milestones in the gaming history and many of their mechanisms we can still find in games today.
Meanwhile playing these games, I always tried to understand their mechanisms. Try and error was just the beginning. Then I started to analyze the game systems and tried to find weak points or advanced strategies to improve my player’s performance. This was the time my deep interest for game balancing and system design was born.
After finishing the school I had to learn a profession. Unfortunately, there was no possibility for me to get into the IT business. There was only one was to do this: To study at an university. At this time I wasn’t qualified for that. So I did a normal apprenticeship for electronic technologies. I got a lot knowledge about technologies and workflows. Post-graduate I worked a few months as an electrician. My professional qualification offered me a possibility to get the missing qualifications for the studies. The decision was made easily – to obtain these qualificationss an go to a university.
I started my studies of media informatics to get into the IT business. There were no thoughts about gaming industries, because it didn’t really exist in Germany at that time. I finished the studies and began to work. In my spare time I played mostly MMORPGs. On top of that, the games I mostly enjoyed playing were Diablo, The 4th Coming and Dark Age of Camelot. Nope – no World of Warcraft so far.
These games were more complex than any other games I played before. Due to the fact that they were all online games, I found myself in a community with other gamers. Here were these games very often discussed. This was really interesting and theory crafting became some kind of hobby to me. Some of the games had competitive parts. To stay competitive it was necessary to understand the game mechanisms.
Joining these online game communities led also to community gathering events. Some of the content wasn’t doable alone. I took part of raids as participant or leader and I organized some RPG events. Also I was active in community boards. There I got information and gave a helping hand to others.
The Working Life
After finishing my apprenticeship, I worked as an electrician until I decided to study as described above. Then as a IT specialist I did a few short-time jobs as programmer, administrator and project manager.
A few years later I noticed the gaming industries which was grown in Germany. I decided to give this dream a try.
It didn’t take that long and I got my first job as a game balancer at a company producing browser games. There I was responsible for the numbers and mechanisms behind the scene. I was involved in different games such as a duel game, farming simulator, poker game and strategy games with medieval and sci-fi settings.
After this I moved to a smaller company creating a gambling like portal. My responsibility was the gamification. I had to define possibilities and flows for it.
Every time I was working in the gaming business I was deeply involved in the technical development process. I had to communicate with the developers intensively. This was never a problem due to my former educations. Also I was speaking with artists and interface designers about frontend issues and I enjoyed some question and answer rounds with product management and other departments.
During the last years I learned a lot about producing games and I am always interested to broaden my knowledge about it.