Readers expecting a history of gaming will be pleased to discover this entertaining autobiography from a celebrated pioneer instrumental in the development of Assassin's Creed, The Division, Avatar, and other popular games. Born in the late '60s, Polfeldt grew up in Sweden wearing black and hanging out with weirdos, got his master's degree in painting, accidentally wandered into a job at a web agency, met some programmers—and then his real life began. Dividing his story into two parts, 1998-2008 and 2008-2016, Polfeldt shares insights about his creative process, collaborations, business dealings, marketing pitches, celebrity anecdotes, triumphs, tragedies, and personal adventures that parallel the development of video gaming from kid stuff to a multimillion-dollar entertainment industry. A great storyteller, Polfeldt comes across as truthful and self-effacing, provides ample context and juicy details, and occasionally wanders into entertaining sidebars. His culminating chapter poetically sums up his life thus far as an artist, emphasizing his never-ending search for magic and excitement. Polfeldt is a dreamer indeed, and gamers are lucky to be invited into his creative worlds.
Art erupts from the crassest of commerce in this rollicking memoir by a video-game studio chief. Polfeldt recounts his path from being a dreamy Swedish art-school grad to head of game developer Ubisoft’s Massive Entertainment subsidiary, maker of mega-seller The Division, in which special-ops fighters battle bad guys in a plague-ridden Manhattan. He paints the industry as Hollywood without the movie stars (his meeting with James Cameron to explore an Avatar-based game is a study in unspoken power-plays), but still full of temperamental creatives—software engineers, artists, scriptwriters—whose egos need massaging and executives who put profits ahead of quality. (“[E]veryone knows it's great, but no one wants to pay for it,” says one suit of a gorgeous but mediocre-selling war game.) Amid the money-grubbing and high-pressure coding crises Polfeldt recounts miracles of immersive visual art and epic storytelling his team managed to pull off (such as jumping in at the last minute to help finish an Assassin’s Creed game called Revelations). Polfeldt delivers insightful commentary on gaming tech, as well as piquant character sketches. (“He was a smoker, the kind who smokes with no guilt, as if to signal I am killing myself and I like it,” he writes of a “closer” sent to crack the whip on a project.) The result is an entertaining and nuanced look at the human side of digital media
All businesses will be organized like the movie/gaming industry. That’s why I love David Polfeldt’s easy-to-read book The Dream Architects which details the rise of Massive Entertainment, a division of Ubisoft, one of the most successful gaming firms in the world (Assassin’s Creed, Clancy’s The Division, and more). But first, go right to the end of the book and learn about a “secret” Italian approach to playing pool. Then read the last chapter of the book second. And if it were easy, this would be the perfect book to read backwards. One key lesson – an unbelievable focus on quality, to the nth degree, is how Massive won over James Cameron to build the Avatar game, coming soon!