Veterans in Game Development: Victor Burgos of Burgos Games
By: L. Sahara McGirt
E3 online brought many exciting updates on up-and-coming games. One of which was Neko Ghost Jump!, shown during E3's indie games showcase. Fans watching the show voted Neko Ghost, Jump! the best indie trailer showcased at E3, with a 34% cut of the vote.
After learning Victor Burgos of Burgos Games, the developer behind Neko Ghost, Jump! is a USMC Veteran, I reached out for an interview which Victor Burgos granted. This is hopefully the first of many interviews, especially with veterans who have gone into game development.
Hello, I'm Sahara McGirt, Stack Up's Social Media Manager and Blog EIC. I'm a Navy Veteran. Thank you for agreeing to this interview. Introduce yourself. What did you do in the Marines?
I’m Victor Burgos. My company is Burgos Games. I joined the Marines in November 2001. Enlisted as an Aviation Ordnance Technician. You probably saw us as the redshirts on the aviation deck. The stuff we worked on included hornets, joint strike fighters (which, at the time, there were not too many around.) I worked mostly on F-18s. There were two specialties within the field, but Ordinance Techs stored weapons, ammunition, worked on putting bombs together, which is not as cool as it sounds, and made deliveries to the mags, aircraft, and pilots, and worked on aviation ordinance. I did that for 12 years.
Was game development always something you wanted to do?
As a kid, I grew up on Nintendo in the 80s. I was addicted to video games. I played video games all night long. I would go outside with the other kids, and it would be like, let’s go back and play some Zelda. Started taking programming and doing basic stuff in high school.
I was stationed in Japan which was like the video game capital of the world, which was really cool. When I got out of Marines, I wanted to do something and get back into video games again.
I don’t know if you have ever heard this, but back in the 90s, Westwood College Online had these commercials where they would talk about getting into game development as a game tester and had a number 1-800 something, stupid information to remember, but I remember wanting to do it. In 2002 there were barely any game design or development degrees. Not like how many degrees are out there now.
How did you become a game developer?
Around the base, they had these college courses we could take. Somehow I ended up getting a degree in computer engineering, which was close enough to video games, but it was definitely not something I wanted to do. I used my G.I. Bill to attend Savannah College of Art and Design. SCAD. (chuckles) I ended up getting my Game Development degree in 2017.
I did game jams, and I got a job with a company and did that for a while. I was working on a VR game project and I kind of burnt out. Then I wanted to work for myself, so I started Burgos Games.
How did Neko Ghost, Jump! come to be?
I did a Game Jam in 2019. I gathered 4 other people, and we entered it. We ended up submitting the game after 5 days, the game was a hot mess now that I think about it, but it’s different now. I told myself I could polish it up and ship it out in a year. It’s been two years, but yeah, we’re getting there.
We did the Kickstarter last year and raised $20.000, and we also got an Epic MegaGrant. We just want to get it out there and see what happens, especially as my first commercial release for my own company.
It still hasn’t gotten enough traction as I wish it had gotten. We’ve gone through a bunch of gaming conventions. Last year we made it to PAX East & South, a bunch of Dreamhacks, and PAX Online. We get more traction on digital events than physical events. And then E3 happened last week. I’ve been answering emails and doing random interviews ever since. It’s been crazy.
How does it feel to have won best indie trailer at E3?
There were actually 2 best E3 indie trailers. One is the official winner from judges, which a different game got, and we got the other which was the fan-favorite. Which makes me think, which is better? The 34% of the millions of viewers that watched the showcase? Or getting picked by 5 judges? I was shocked, to be honest. Is this rigged? I kept wondering while watching people vote because, at first, we were losing, and then we won.
I tried to keep the game really cute. It was a sort of validation of the game. We put in time and effort into it. And people want to see it and play it and love it, and hopefully, that means people will buy it. It’s been a crazy ride.
People often think of Marines as these super tough guys. I know better because I was stationed on a Naval Air Station with Marines & Naval Airmen, but why cute ghost cats and ghost dog pirates?
Let’s be real, Marines are super tough and hardcore when we want and need to be, but we’re all soft teddy bears. The cuteness thing was part of a trend that I noticed at the time. Cute things have an aesthetic that seems to last longer. Stuff nowadays is pretty crazy. Maybe in a few years, people will think it’s ugly. But it’s stylized, and people will still like it anyways.
Cats and dogs are natural enemies. It was more about what makes sense marketing-wise. What would attract the most diverse audience? At conventions, We had kids up to grandparents interested in the game. I didn’t want it to be very niche. I wanted to capture the widest net of the audience.
Just so you know, I’m very bad at platformers. I downloaded the demo of Neko Ghost, Jump! and played it. This game was no exception. I could not get far in. I’m sincerely awful at them. But I like the cute little cats. I’m even worse on PC, so I can’t wait to play this on Xbox.
Any advice for veterans looking to go into the gaming industry and/or gaming development?
So, some of my nicer contracts were military sim games if you’re too rough and tough to do cats vs. dogs games. Lots of games do military simulation and are always looking for military veterans for their wide range of experiences. If you did anything cool with tanks, were a grunt, or worked on helicopters, they’re always looking for people with those experiences. If you’re looking to get into development, you don’t need a degree, but you should use that GI Bill.
It’s also good to build up a network of contacts. If you want to specialize in something, get that degree. There are plenty of jobs out there, though, that don’t require them. Do game jams, homebrew, experiment, most of all, build your portfolio and use your experiences. Really build that portfolio because that’s what developers will focus on. The degree gives you a leg up on the competition, but it won’t do that if you don’t have a portfolio.
Thank you for your time. This was a great interview. It was a first for me because we’re primarily a charity, and we have this gaming blog, and getting interviews isn’t always the easiest.
I appreciate what you all do for Military and Veterans. I’ve spoken to some of your people before but have never really been able to do much for you all.
Do you have any socials/links you would like for us to share?
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Join the Neko Ghost, Jump! Discord.