Over the coming months we’ll be catching up with developers from all over the world to ask them how games and gaming have made them who they are today. From their first memories of holding a controller, to the mind-blowing games that challenged the way they think about the medium, we chart the titles that have shaped the top developers working today.
First up, it’s Tarsier Studios’ David Mervik, lead narrative designer for not one, but two acclaimed titles out this week on PS4: surreal VR puzzler Statik and creepy adventure horror Little Nightmares.
We sat down with Dave and asked him to cast his mind back to…
1. The first game you remember playing
“It’s actually a game we used to play at school called Granny’s Garden. I was only like six or seven and the teacher wheeled in this thing on a trolley she told us was a ‘BBC’.
“We all got right into it and every week we’d form into pairs and go after that witch again. At the time we had no idea they were sneakily making us learn things – it just felt like we were getting to skive for an hour!”
2. The game that made you want to be a developer
“I honestly don’t think there was one – I kind of stumbled into the games industry! There is, however, a game that made me never want to be a game developer.
“My brother used to follow an Acorn Electron magazine called ‘Input’ that featured programming code for a sort of DIY ‘Jetpac’ game. He and my dad stayed up for weeks programming it and then, after all the hard work, it just crashed. They spent ages trying to fix it, but never could. I remember thinking what a waste of time it was (which is just one of the many reasons I am not a programmer!).”
3. The game that you wish you had made
“Portal. It proved that game dialogue didn’t have to be vacuous; that it could service the game whilst establishing its personality. You can feel the writers’ confidence in creating GLADOS and although it would have been easy to homogenise her, instead they created a benchmark for smart, funny characters in games – annoyingly…”
4. The last game you played that made me rethink the medium
“Papers Please takes that credit. Other than being surprised that a passport control simulator could be so much fun, it was how it subtly shifted in my mind-set that stayed with me. I grew ever more suspicious of the characters that appeared in front of me, wondering what they were hiding and what threat they presented to my ailing family.”
“To me, that aspect of the game design is a work of art. It showed that there is so much to be gained from dissolving the wall between the player and the game, which is why I’m so excited by VR.”
5. The last game soundtrack you whistled in the shower
“Bloody Stardew Valley! Right now, when I’m not playing the game, I’m whistling the (wonderfully catchy) soundtrack and it’s slowly driving me around the bend!
“I had brief respite after watching trailer for the Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap (another childhood love!) and couldn’t stop whistling the ‘Monster Town’ theme… which also drove me around the bend!”
6. The last game that you saw the end credits for
“I think it was Firewatch – and I didn’t want the end to be the end. It surprised me with its ability to grab your attention with a premise that, on the surface, seemed unexciting. How utterly wrong I was!
“By the end, it had created such a weird, dreamy atmosphere that I just didn’t want to let go. When the credits rolled, I hoped there might be a little something extra – a reward for those people that watched to the end of the credits (like in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off).”
7. Your favourite multiplayer game
“Circuit Breakers, without a doubt! When I was studying, this was the game we played more than any other and I’ve never found anything that beats it.
“We only ever played one track over and over again: Egypt 2 (I think). There was something about it – we just couldn’t get enough. Alliances would form and dissolve within seconds and no amount of driving prowess could ever compete with a perfectly-timed shunt over a cliff edge… that’s when you realise that you only need one multiplayer game in your life (and probably only one track, too).”
Statik – Tarsier’s first foray into virtual reality gaming – launched earlier this week and Little Nightmares, a creepy haunted-house-cum-puzzle-platfomer launches Friday 28th April. You can download both from PlayStation Store.