Making of Prince of Persia

I’ve been reading Jordan Mechner’s The Making of Prince of Persia which is selections from his journal in the period from 1985-1993. It’s fascinating in a way that I don’t think it would be if the method of delivery was a retrospective or biography. His entries are deeply personal as fits the journal method. He names names of people he feels are incompetent or standing in his way. He has a task to do; he wants to make the greatest game of all time and he gets frustrated when people aren’t on the same page as him.

But what really stood out to me in the journals is his single-mindedness that this was just a step to becoming a filmmaker.  What Jordan will always be known for is Prince of Persia, yet so many of the entries are about wanted to be done with it so he can move onto films. Perhaps it is because he grew up in a time before video games were something you could be respected for, yet for most of the time that the journal covers he cannot see that he is on the top of the world with true creative freedom and control and mastery over an area of creative expression! The grass is always greener. I was literally frustrated when I was reading the period just after POP released and Jordan became a gopher for a student film and was nothing but excited about it. He went from the very top of one industry to the very bottom of another. I can’t criticize him for following his dreams, but I also cannot help but be sad for what was left on the table. I guess it is part of a great dramatic arc that you want to yell and scream at the main character.

There’s tons of fascinating stuff in here, especially if you’ve been a professional game designer. It’s amazing in this day and age of the willy-nilly aspect of just throwing things into a game without documentation or process or just taking six months off because you feel like it. Of course, it is also unreasonable in this day and age to actually expect to own anything you make AND get paid for it.

It is inspiring in a number of different ways. One, it makes me wish I’d kept a true personal journal during my EA and Gameloft days. Two, it reminds me that even the names in the industry face the same insecurities and setbacks.

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