Five Minutes with a Gaming Guru: Lucas Pope

Lucas Pope set out as an indie game developer in 2010 and released his "dystopian document thriller" Papers, Please in 2013. The game was nominated in four categories at the British Academy Games Awards in 2014, and won the BAFTA for Strategy And Simulation. Lucas spent five minutes with Guru revealing how he did it...

Published on 30 September 2014

How did you get started in gaming?

Unofficially, I was learning to program and making small games and software toys in the 80's as a kid. Officially, I started a small game development company with a few friends in the late 90's. I grew up playing Atari and NES games but my original interest was in robotics. When it became practical to integrate robots with computers, I took more of an interest in the software side.

Tell us a little bit about your job on a day-to-day basis.

I work from home with my wife and son in proximity. Usually I just wake up and work all day, taking breaks for family or food. My actual scheduling is pretty loose. I spend time on one task until it's done, then switch to something else. This keeps me moving between programming, art, audio, and design which helps to stay productive without getting burnt out on any one thing.

Looking back, what one piece of advice would you give to your younger self?

"Buy Apple stock."

Can you tell us about how you came to make Papers, Please?

I live in Japan but most of my family is in the US so I travel back and forth pretty often. In general I get inspiration for game ideas by just observing the world around me. At some point I noticed the short procedures that airport immigration inspectors follow when checking entrants and thought it would make a good game. There was no concept of how to take that farther at the beginning; just the idea of checking and correlating documents.

How did it feel to win a BAFTA?

It was incredible. The BAFTAs are well-recognised awards outside of the games industry. I usually have to explain the other gaming awards but everyone's heard of the BAFTAs.

What would you say to anyone out there who is thinking of entering next year’s awards?

Good luck!

What advice would you give to someone who is considering a career in the games industry?

Start by making your own small games. It doesn't (and shouldn't) be anything huge. General schooling is important too. But just taking an idea from start to finish teaches you so much. Make lots of games.

What three skills do you think game makers need to have?

Good, unique ideas, production skills, and social marketing skills. Even if you only focus on one of these in your career, it's invaluable to have experience across the entire spectrum.

What’s next for you?

Right now I'm working on my next title: "Return of the Obra Dinn." It's a first-person 3D mystery game set in 1807 aboard an East Indiaman trade ship. It’s different from Papers, Please in almost every way.