A rooster crowed as Jack rubbed his eyes.
“Wait, what? When did I get a rooster?”
Sure enough, the rooster crowed as it pecked at a carpet of newspapers laid out on the floor.
Then he rubbed his temples and the fog cleared in his mind. Now he saw clearly, as the light streamed through the windows, that his apartment was a disaster zone. He remembered only fleeting images of a booze soaked nights, but the empty bottles and greasy pizza boxes refreshed his memory.
Jack Smith, a video game developer, tip-toed and carefully lifted his long gangly legs over the mess. The rotting, fly infested garbage inspired Jack to do something great.
“I decided on making a game called Happy Pizza Beer Party then and there. I hadn’t fully planned out what the game was yet, but I knew my life would chang forever. My previous games hadn’t worked out. I alienated friends, co-workers and teammates during production with my boorish behaviour. I figured I was about due this time for success.”
Smith liked to party, to take risks and gamble. He had saved up enough change after years of playing cards to create this game. “I felt like nothing could stop me from making this game,” he said.
Smith spent half of his money to work on the concept alone. To do it, he went to the local bar. The bartender asked, “What will you have? The usual?” “Nah, I’ll have a cocktail napkin,” he replied.
The bewildered bartender handed over the white square. “Something wrong?,” he asked. Smith was busy scribbling down the game’s concept on a napkin and ignored the bartender. He wrote these words “drinking and pizza eating simulator and/ or competition.”
After a couple of drinks, Smith fleshed out his central idea. Players would have to balance their health meter while they aimed to guzzle the most beer and devour trays of pizza. They could tap buttons at a certain speed to pace their digestion and stay alive. Players would need to balance health with the urge to eat.
To realize his plans for the game, Jack assembled a team of game developers in New York City. First he had to test their mettle in a drink-off. He subjected the winners who still stood after downing a keg to a pizza show down. Smith thought the nine winners of these competitions had proven their dedication to him, and by extension, his video game. He hired them and they started developing the game in March 2012.
Sadly, a wave of misfortune hit the team as they worked. They couldn’t afford to hire extra staff so each team member had to work twice as hard. When the team lost government funding, they let go of two employees and lived off of ramen. They had hit rock bottom. But Smith refused to give up and forced the team to work on weekends. In fact, finishing the game became his obsession destroying his relationships with everyone.
As one ex employee said “He was like a dictator, and we followed orders to stay alive. All hands were on deck to finish the game.”
The team finished a prototype one year after they started work on the game. They paraded the game at local conventions where the air was thick with nerd sweat. The feedback they received led them to revise the game, submit it to publishers, then throw it out and start again.
Two months later, the team squashed all the bugs and released the game. Jack’s team spent $2 million dollars making the game and sold it for $10. Jack and the team received universal praise from fans and critics. The fans wrote love letters to the team. Almost every critic had something positive to say about the game.
Video games Nebula called it “…a breath taking revelation, an electrifying experience made all the more intense because I accidentally dropped a toaster in the bathtub while playing.” However, some guy in pajamas in his parent’s basement called it “sub par” and said he’d “rather spend time with his blow up doll.” But that guy was the exception.
The game went on to sell millions of copies worldwide. Jack summed up the game’s significance best: “Wow! I can’t believe it worked. Never has so much creativity come from binge drinking.”
Sometimes I wonder about the origin stories of my favourite games. Did any of them have similar stories? I have immense respect, though, for the hardworking developers who make games.