Co.Design

Filmmaker Spends Half His Life Designing A Video Game No One Will Ever Play

Adam Butcher spent 13 years designing an eight-bit video game. Was he driven by creativity or madness?

In 2001, as a Smashing Pumpkins and Lord of the Rings-obsessed 14-year-old, filmmaker Adam Butcher embarked on a mission to create the video game of his dreams. He was an avid member of Click Community, an underground online network of indie gamers, and was in awe of then-cutting-edge adventures like Destruction Carnival, Super Bubble Blob, and Butterfly 660. The British teen was intent on creating something even more epic.

Flash forward 13 years. Butcher is 27, and has only just finally finished his game, dubbed Tobias and the Dark Sceptres, in which a blond, mouthless character battles the Source of All Evil in the Universe. But since the early aughts, the world has moved on from amateurish indie games to sophisticated technologies like the Wii. At 27, Butcher realized he’d spent (wasted?) half his life designing a game likely no one would ever play.

To try to prevent others from making the mistakes he did in this comically drawn-out design project, Butcher tells his cautionary tale in “The Game that Time Forgot.” This hilarious short film is as frenetically animated and soundtracked as his puzzle-adventure. He attributes the length of his project to outsized ambition, perfectionism, ADHD, and the fact that he had absolutely no idea what he was doing when it came to game design. “I couldn’t just give up on the game,” he says in the video. “I’d already come so far.”

Though it has facepalm elements, Butcher’s story is ultimately one of success. He now works as a creative with Red Bee Media, directs promos for BBC, and is an award-winning filmmaker. Though it's not as fancy as anything Xbox has to offer, the video game wasn't a complete waste of time--Butcher spun the project into a self-teaching moment. As he says in the video:

Maybe this doesn’t hold up to modern standards of an indie game. Maybe it is just an amateur project that got stuck in a time warp, and maybe that means some people will hate it. But maybe some people will love it as well.... I love it. Despite all its flaws, it’s the game I always wanted to make. And no one, not even the grown-up 26-year-old version of myself, can tell me otherwise.

Tobias and the Dark Sceptres is available for download here.

[via Vimeo Staff Picks]

Add New Comment

14 Comments

  • Admittedly this game is a little old, but I'd add Apathetic to the list of A's. That many hours of effort in a project yet he didn't... bother spending how to make a bit of money and community around the game you created over 13 years.

    The company Click Team that made the game-making creation tool Multimedia Fusion has updated the product to allow you make games for Windows, iOS, Android, Flash and XNA for windows mobile phones and the Xbox. Apathetic people don't give a shit and they just release without a business plan. Whatever.

  • Michael von Meißen

    Most likely, he did a Google image search and found it. that's pretty cool, though XD

  • Michael von Meißen

    Most likely, he did a Google image search and found it. that's pretty cool, though XD

  • cox.gerald

    John, wow, you weren't kidding. I just found your Flickr account. You just happened to come across this?