Breakdance McFunkypants is the pseudonym of Christer Kaitila, a prolific game developer and gamedev Twitter presence. Known for his imagination, positivity, and constant flow of interesting and creative new works, Christer is dot big bang’s first ever gamedev-in-residence. We sat down with him to ask about his process, ethos, and bright “gamedev optimist” outlook.
Hey Christer! Could you introduce yourself?
Hello my name is McFunkypants and I love my life! How couldn’t I, what with the fact that I get to make games for a living? For me this is literally living the dream – I used to spend entire summer vacations daydreaming about being a professional game developer.
I started making games seriously when I was about 13. I spent every lunch hour in the local arcade. Since then I’ve made a three digit number of video games, including creating 24 games in 24 months. I’ve also been a lifelong musician, visual artist, and tech book author, so I guess I just love to create stuff. I’m also a very silly dad and romantic husband.
You describe yourself as a game dev optimist. That’s a nice title! How would you describe being a game dev optimist, and how did you become one?
You have to be an optimist to be a game developer! To embark on such difficult journeys full of unknowns; to shoot for the moon with an unclear view of the destination. The chances of making good money in the games industry is lower than most other industries, because it’s a creative dream job in a hit-driven industry. Lots of good games make little money. To continue in this industry long-term is to accept the risks and unknowns, and to reject your fears and the likelihood of success.
Optimism is the fuel that creatives use to succeed. Not skill! Not experience! It is optimism that most affects the outcome most of all; or at least how you feel about it. When you don’t roll a perfect twenty and your game isn’t a hit, that’s when optimism really helps. Optimism maximizes joy, and joy is the profit I seek – I don’t measure success in dollars.
How does this ethos reflect in your work and your approach?
I’ve learned that the true benefit of hard work is the actual moment you are doing it; the joy of the journey, and the craft itself. Not the finish line! Not the end product! And not the accolades or paycheck. I suppose you could say I aspire to be a zen master when it comes to game development.
The process itself must be self-sustaining or you will burn out. I try to leave the inner critic and the performer behind, along with the past and future. I don’t min-max my productivity – I focus on today’s fun creative project in a gentle, non-stressful, “sustainable” way. I go slow and do unnecessary things. I like the “doing” part of creative pursuits – that’s what I “get out of it”.
My key life philosophy is “SHOHIN”. Some people call this “beginner’s mind”. It means having an anything-is-possible, intentionally naive and optimistic can-do approach.
You’re a very active, positive presence on Twitter. Is sharing what you do a natural part of your process?
I love having a legion of free game testers and art critics to fill me with ideas and feedback. I also adore helping others, either through encouragement or teaching or shining a light on their work, so I tend to want to “help people”.
I always ask myself, what does the reader get out of this? It can’t just be about looking for compliments. The true benefit of social media is the ability to offer kind words to others at just the right time to positively impact their lives. Maybe my tweet will make one person not give up that day, give someone a cool idea, or simply make them smile on a tough day.
I cling to a primary aspirition; to increase the joy and relaxation of the world. If I can help one person feel less anxious, less unloved, less bored, or less sad… then whatever I created has been permanently validated in my mind, no matter whether it is popular or not.
It sounds a bit corny, but if you spend your whole career being kind to people and helping them, saying yes to things, showing up over and over, and making others feel appreciated, it adds up to a bazillion cool opportunities that just fall into your lap. That, in a way, is how I got this fabulous gig!
You’re dot big bang’s first gamedev in residence. What does this mean, and what have you been making?
It’s been a real joy to explore dot big bang’s tools and try to make awesome things with them! I’ve coded in almost every language and game engine in the universe and I have grown to dislike any friction in the iterative process of “edit code, test game”. The faster I can do that loop, measured in seconds, the better.
A live coding dev environment, where you can actively program while the game is running live, with all tools in one place, is my PERFECT workshop of fun! I can change a line of code and see the result immediately in real time. That’s pure gold for me.
Being a gamedev in residence means pumping out tons of minigames, tech demos, templates, remix-friendly assets, new art, complete games, and janky bug-filled experiments that failed miserably, all mashed into a single rolling snowball of creative risk taking abandon! I plan to push against the very cutting edges of the dot big bang engine, and make example games as a way to help others learn how to do it themselves. My goal is to show the world how easy and fun and exciting making stuff here is, and I plan to do so by leading by example: not merely talking about it so much as truly diving in and really doing it and sharing the results for all to see, sharing all my secrets along the way.
How have you found working on dot big bang so far?
The best part is the rest of the team! So chill, no stress, no big demands or politics or crunchtime or harsh deadlines: this is a creative place with total freedom. The trust I’m given is something I value, and I try to return it by doing my best work.
Were there any surprises?
I thought it would be way harder to get up and running. It took only one month for me to feel extremely comfortable and empowered to make anything I could imagine. At this point, working on games and templates designed for remixing is fast and easy. I never need to Google anything, load any external tools, or struggle with anything other than the creative journey and bugs of my own design. I think of dot big bang as a small set of well-honed tools, and I like it that way.
How do you find working in a browser?
It’s no different than working in Unity. Lightheartedly I would argue that EVERYTHING’S a browser these days anyways. VSCODE, anyone?
Have you any exciting ideas for things you wanna make on dbb?
Heck yeah! I have pages and pages of ideas in my notebook, some really small and cool, and others are unrealistic and massive! This engine is ideal for trying out cool game design ideas rapidly, and I can envision making one of every possible genre of game; not just third person exploration, but top view, isometric, side view, 2d, visual novel, tactics, puzzle; you name it.
Specifically, I hope to make smaller and smaller things that are single-function “templates” designed for remixing by dot big bang users: small demos that I then invite other people to extend and hack into larger, mind-blowing games. To that end I am planning on creating a “game jam template” with a minimal set of features tailored to rapidly creating simplistic arcade-style games. A main menu system. A scorekeeper. Simple AI. Cool special effects. Silly ideas.
Who knows what the future will bring? Overall, my plan is: “big ideas, small projects.”
Where can people find you if they’d like to see your previous work, and follow what you do?
I have a boring old portfolio at christerkaitila.com and a 100% full Soundcloud that I can’t add more songs to. So the very best place to see recent work is on Twitter, where I generally post one gamedev screenshot per day to a shockingly large number of fellow coders and artists who inspire and encourage me in this amazing adventure.
Follow Christer’s work on dot big bang here, and be sure to try out his first two dot big bang projects, Downward Dog and Dark Cycles.