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Introducing Hello Games

Sean Murray offers an exclusive insight into indie development.

Really close friends have a special laugh, and we were doing it then. Doubled over laughing, gasping for air. Setting each other off again.

The four of us were looking at our PR photo. That first image the world would see of Hello Games, our videogames start-up. I think we were supposed to be walking nonchalantly through a park - or at least, that's what we thought we had done.

The first thing everybody notices is what my eyes are both looking at (apparently two different things). Grant has his hands behind his back, nose in the air - I've never seen him do that. Ryan and Dave look like they are holding hands.

We're laughing hard now, looking at this photo. Then someone spots what must be my foot, which is somehow above my waist. I'm taking the world's largest stride, thumbs hooked in my belt. It's so obvious I was thinking 'someone is taking a photo, how do I walk again?'

In the end we airbrush one of me pretending to play a game (it's actually a screensaver). A horrible fake of me deep in thought, or taking a dump - it's hard to tell. We even make it black and white... God I hate it.

Six months later I'm in a dingy cafe in Guildford, and we're showing these photos to Gareth Dutton. He's a photographer. I'm telling him we're afraid of his type.

Gareth doesn't look very scary though. He's a mixture of laid back, and full of energy. Always starting a dozen sentences and finishing none of them. He tells me that a year ago he was trapped in an office job he hated. Games and photography were his real loves, and he wasn't doing either.

So he left, and knocked on the door of every games magazine he could find, offering his services for free at first. His pitch was that games photojournalism was boring, non-existent really.

Normally the same PR shots reused over and over, just like we do. He wanted to change that. It works, and since then he's shot everyone from Peter Molyneux to Suda51. Right now he's making the same pitch to me. He wants to follow Hello Games around for a year and capture a game in development from start to finish.

I explain about our inability to be in a photo. If I don't have my eyes closed, then I have my mouth open. Apparently I have 'Camera Face' - Gareth tells me it's common in developers. The only known cure is to be in lots of photos, so many that in a day we'll forget he's there. After a solid week there might actually be a shot worth keeping.

Then I explain the real reason this is a terrible idea. Hello Games isn't that interesting. An everyday developer, pretty boring really. Most of the time I sit at a desk, programming silently. If he visits regularly he's going to notice I don't even have that many clothes. Besides it's too intrusive, not our thing.

The more he pushes it, the more I back away, so we change the subject and just talk. After a while Gareth shows me a photo of id Software from their early days. I remember seeing the same photo alongside an interview of theirs, back when I was thinking of getting into games at 13.

There's Romero playing air guitar. McGee bouncing off the walls. And jesus, is that Carmack wearing a purple tracksuit? It's goofy kids looking tired but full of energy. There's no way a PR company was involved in this shot, but it makes it look so much more interesting. You want to know more.

"It captures more than any developer diary I've seen lately," Gareth says.

And Christ I hate what developer diaries have become more than anything. Whitewashed videos of people reading scripts about how this is "the best iteration of the franchise to date," diligently scrubbed of anything real.

If I was 13 again now, I have no idea where I'd look to figure out if I actually wanted to make games. I'd kill to know what it's actually like to work on Assassin's Creed day to day, but instead I have a man sat in front of a poster telling me about tomahawks, pretending to be a developer. It kills me. So like that, I'm in. Let's do this.

Gareth moves in and over the next few months we go to Gamescom, PAX, GDC, Eurogamer Expo and E3 together. We work all night and sleep under desks. The game is terrible. We despair, we fight, we make up and we make it better.

We read every forum comment, and react to every preview. We navigate badly through publishers, exclusives and platform wars, trying to keep our sanity and failing. We travel the world, eat terribly, sleep less and get lost in Tokyo. Most importantly we forget about our photographer. Better yet, he becomes part of the team.


Gareth has taken the photos, and I'm going to try to explain the story behind them. Here on Eurogamer, if you'll have us.

Leafing through them now I know he was right though. Hello Games mightn't be interesting, but making games is.

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Sean Murray