#WeMakeGames interview series:
- Name: Dennis Gustafsson
- Age: 45
- From: Originally from Nybro, Småland, currently living in a small town north of Malmö
- Interests: “Programming, cooking, and all the practical things of living in an old house on the countryside”
- Favorite games: Inside, and Firewatch
- Profession: CTO and Lead Programmer at Tuxedo Labs
What is your background?
“Ever since I got my first computer as a kid, a Commodore VIC 64, I’ve been more drawn to making games rather than playing them. In my teenage years I spent nearly every weekend with like-minded friends making demos and games on the Amiga computer. I studied Media Technology at Linköping University. Game educations didn’t really exist back then, otherwise I might have considered that.”
Why did you start working in the game industry?
“At university I got interested in interactive physics simulation, which was still quite uncommon in games at the time. I did my masters thesis on that topic together with a friend and we formed a company around it afterwards – Meqon Research AB. We traveled around to different conferences showing our technology and got to know a lot of people all over the industry, so it was a pretty straight path from there. I worked with tools and middleware for about ten years before moving on to making actual games when I founded Mediocre together with Henrik Johansson, one of the like-minded friends from my teenage years.“
“Ever since I got my first computer as a kid, a Commodore VIC 64, I’ve been more drawn to making games rather than playing them.”
How has working in the industry been for you?
“If I didn’t make games for work, I’d probably do it as a hobby. This is likely true for a lot of game developers and it can certainly be both a blessing and a curse. The work aspect takes some of the enjoyment out of it, but spending every day doing what you love makes up for it. I can’t imagine another job I’d rather have, so I’m really grateful that it’s a viable career path.
I have mostly been doing indie projects, either solo or with a small group of people, so I don’t have any experience working at a larger studio. I like the freedom, but it can be stressful at times.
One thing I really enjoy about the games industry is the open and welcoming attitude. At least on the technology side, most people are very open and happy to discuss and share ideas, which I think is unusual in many other industries.“
What is a day in your work life like?
“It has changed a lot over the years. During the first years with Tuxedo Labs, I spent most of my time on research, programming and game design. As the project grew bigger with more people on board I gradually spent more time doing project management, planning, reviewing and playtesting, which I didn’t enjoy nearly as much, so last year I decided to take a step back and focus on programming again.
We’re still a small studio, so there are a lot of hats to wear, but on a typical day I spend at least half my day programming. I’m working on updates to our game Teardown as well as research for future features and new titles. Nowadays I usually spend three days a week at our office in Malmö and two days working from home. When I work from home, I’m usually more productive, focusing on the code and when in the office I have more meetings and discussions. I find it to be a good balance.“
“Video games is the ultimate composition of everything I enjoy – programming, art, music, challenge and storytelling, all made interactive.”
What’s best with your job?
“Video games is the ultimate composition of everything I enjoy – programming, art, music, challenge and storytelling, all made interactive. I can’t imagine something more interesting to work with!
I also really like that the end product is for actual people and not other companies. That’s the biggest difference I’ve experienced working with actual games compared to tools and middleware. It’s just so rewarding to create something that brings enjoyment and satisfaction to other people. Nowadays with online communities the feedback loop is also very short, which makes it even more interesting.“
How would you advise others that want a job like yours to pursue it?
“Nowadays there are a lot of good educations around, but I still think the most important aspect is a good portfolio. Find out what you enjoy and what you’re good at. Finish what you’ve started. It takes a lot of stamina to reach the finish line, but one finished game in the portfolio is worth more than a dozen unfinished prototypes.“
The #WeMakeGames interview series allow individuals in the game industry to tell their story, about their current work, how they got to where they are and why they believe the games industry is such an enjoyable industry to work in. We move beyond programmers and level designers, to showcase the wide range of roles making up the studios creating some of the world’s best games – right here in south Sweden!