Co-op Gaming: Jake Evans on the Importance of Collaboration

We’ve all been through the grueling experience commonly referred to as “working in a group”. In high school, those words are either a blessing or a death sentence. It’s a blessing for students who thrive off of the work of others, whereas it’s a death sentence for those whose work is thrived off of. The strife doesn’t stop there. Even amongst those who do the work there often exists differences in procedure. The way a project should be done, how it should look when it’s finished, and/or how work gets delegated are subjects of disagreement amongst motivated group members. It’s brutal.

But Rome wasn’t made in a day, The Beatles weren’t a solo act, and the Iditarod race isn’t run by just one husky. Teamwork is crucial in every field, and game development is no different. Developer Jake Evans is all too familiar with this, as his career of choice thrives on the cooperation and contribution of many great minds. But for Evans, this was a difficult change of pace, one that differed greatly from his career’s origins.

Riding Solo

For Evans, or “Crayz” as he’s affectionately known, his foray into game development was fully reliant on himself. He started at 15 by doing web development, creating websites with his friends that gave Myspace users more freedom of choice. “We created a few websites where people could grow their MySpace friend count and customize their profiles with designs and whatnot. Eventually, we got so good at it we had multiple profiles with tens, even hundreds of thousands of friends (nowadays you call them followers).”

In this space, Evans was king. Sure he was working together with some friends, but at the end of the day, he controlled what did and didn’t happen with his websites. He had full say over content, design, and features. This was a valuable experience, as it equipped him with the confidence and tools needed to succeed further down the line. After this experience and graduating high school, Evans found himself working in the oil fields of North Dakota for four years before he went back to the development world. From here, he spent six years on his own, educating himself on game development and honing his craft. It paid off too, as Evan’s had his first game published to Steam in 2018 to positive reviews all while selling thousands of copies.

Personal accountability and work ethic were taking him far in his chosen field and it was paying off. Yet, even with all of his studying and practice, Evans had another big hurdle to adjust to. The hurdle we all love to hate, that hurdle being “group projects”.

Solo No More

After finding success with his first self-released title, Evan’s got a position as a game developer for the notable studio Facepunch. Facepunch has achieved plenty of success up to this point, with games such as “Rust” and “Garry’s Mod” dominating the PC gaming landscape. What’s unique about their games, and in particular the two aforementioned titles, is their emphasis on multiplayer and group work. “Rust” is a multi-player-only survival game where everything is trying to kill you and cooperation aids your chances at survival. Meanwhile “Garry’s Mod” is the most popular physics sandbox title in the world, giving players the tools to develop their own virtual space and create wild things through group collaboration.

The running theme amongst their games is not subtle, the world is difficult and cooperation enhances your chances at success. Evan’s got to see this firsthand not only in his new employer’s previous products but in his working environment as well. This is a change for Evans, who directly acknowledged this shift. “I’ve recently started working with a professional team of developers after working solo on my own games for many years. Proper collaborative effort is important now, whereas before I sorta just did what I wanted.”

Value in Teamwork

As a result of this change, Evans has had to adapt, which is something he’s done plenty of already. Working with a team of professional developers who have deep and varied experiences has allowed him to grow as a developer and push himself in ways he previously never had to. It hasn’t always been easy, something Evan’s directly emphasized himself, going on to say that “One of the most important traits is to be able to take constructive criticism the right way. Don’t be upset when you do something wrong and get called out for it, mistakes in a way are little victories. Learn from it, grow from it, move on.”.

There is powerful truth in that clarity, even if it’s difficult to embrace in our own lives. Holding ourselves to a high standard is important for achieving personal success, but success cannot be measured only by how much we do right. Confucius once said that “our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” This holds true for Evans, whose foray into group development has pushed him in ways he previously never experienced. By allowing himself to be open to suggestion, criticism, and group dynamics, Evan’s now finds his career blooming in ways he never could have possibly imagined.

You can follow Jake Evans (crayz) on his IG, here.

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