Making games is hard. But playing a game about making games is anything but. Game Dev Story is a lighthearted sim that's lets you run your very own game development studio, doing everything from negotiating licensing deals with console makers to choosing the genre and theme of the games you're going to make. It's the type of game that you pick up to play for a few minutes before realizing that a few hours have already passed. Fixing bugs in a game has never been so fun.
You start off with a tiny studio and just two people: you and your secretary. You can hire up to four additional employees to start with, but as you progress through the game your studio will slowly grow in size and, hopefully, popularity. Once you make your hires it's time to start actually making games. You'll have a small budget to start with, enough to make a modest PC project. You get to pick the genre of the game as well as the subject matter, and there's really no limits: so if you want to create a gold themed audio novel, go right ahead. You'll be able to open up more possibilities and game types by leveling up and training your workforce and the sheer variety is pretty impressive.
From there it becomes a continuous cycle. The money you make from your first game can be invested in your next project and, if everything goes right, things will continue to get bigger and better. New consoles and handhelds will come and go, you'll have to invest in advertising and trade shows to keep your name out there, and there are special power-ups that can be used to improve different areas of your game like graphics or sound. You can choose to do everything in-house, which is free, or you can outsource work to more expensive but more talented artists, writers, and musicians.
Analysis: It may seem like there's a lot to manage in Game Dev Story, but the game does an excellent job of making sure you never feel overwhelmed. A lot of this is due to the pacing: things move fast. Like, really fast. From conception to completion, developing a game takes a matter of minutes. This gives Game Dev Story an extremely addictive, "just one more turn" feel. When you finish a game you'll want to stick around for a bit to see how well it sells, and then maybe just get started on a new game. Before you know it a few years have gone by and several games have hit store shelves and your audience is aging.
Now also available for Android!
It's more than just its fast paced, addictive gameplay that makes Game Dev Story so fun though. It also has an incredible sense of humor and charm. Over the course of the game you'll see the release of numerous game consoles and handhelds, each of which is based on a real-world system. So after years of creating PC games you may just be successful enough to develop for the Senga Uranus or the Intendo Whoops. You can also advertise by marching bands or by writing on the moon and when one of your employees gets on a hot streak they'll literally catch on fire. It's these small touches, coupled with some adorable pixel art graphics, that make the game so endearing.
Even if you have no interest in game development, Game Dev Story is still an excellent way to whittle away the battery life on your phone. It manages to take the process and streamline it to make it both fun and interesting, and it does so with a wonderful sense of humor. And much of the fun comes from simply coming up with and naming the craziest games you can think of and then seeing how well they're received. It may not teach you much about how games are actually made, but Game Dev Story is a perfect example of what a great game looks like.
This game was previously featured in Mobile Monday.