Some fans do cosplay. Some fans create and post pictures on DeviantArt. Eric Ruth makes video games.
The self-taught one-man show has made a name for himself over the last few years by creating 8-bit-styled "de-make" mashups of games like Halo and Team Fortress 2. He's done it on the side, as a hobby. To date, he's given his games away for free because, for Ruth, creating video games is a labor of love.
Eric Ruth has a dream, a plan and a goal — but not a job.
His dream is to develop games for a living, but developing full-time takes money, something he's not drowning in right now after leaving his day job to focus on development. He's executing on his plan now by taking an original game to the crowdfunding site Indiegogo. His goal is toto raise $35,000 to develop a multiplayer, 2D side-scrolling MOBA hybrid called Hauntlings.
"It's like an introductory course to MOBAs, utilizing a style that people are already familiar with," Ruth told Polygon in a recent interview that covered his history, his new game and what he hopes Hauntlings can help him do with his future.
Eric Ruth has always been creative — his parents stocked the house with coloring books, sketchpads and colored pencils — but when he got his NES in the late 80s, he found that video games offered the ultimate creative medium. Interacting with stories and accompanying characters like Link in The Legend of Zelda allowed him to take control and lose himself in the worlds they created.
They also told him about his future.
"Long story short: I knew since I started playing video games that I wanted to do something in the world of video games when I got older," Ruth told Polygon.
Combining his love for art and video games, he's been programming since he was young, starting out on TI-82 and TI-92 calculators, teaching himself Visual Basic, all the while working toward that childhood goal. He programed the games he's best known for after work, overnight, sacrificing sleep for coding and the love of the games.
"While I don't make what we in the industry refer to as, 'money,'" he said, "I still try my hardest to create and develop and come up with ideas in hopes that maybe other people that play my work will make me feel the same way that I felt when I played other people's work."
Still, five years of developing at the cost of sleep and money eventually took its toll, and he told Polygon that he had to make a choice.
"I either had to give up on game development, or I had to drop the daytime stuff to work on this full-time, and hope that the love of my life understood," he said. "And she does. She is the greatest in the world."
Hauntlings is Eric Ruth Games' first paid game, and what he hopes will be a bridge between a hobby and a career. For Ruth, it's a slightly uncomfortable transition, but one he hopes is amenable to his fans.
Like the games that made him internet famous, Hauntlings incorporates something old and something new. It's a graphical callback to the classic console days mixed with a genre that's gained popularity in recent years.
"Hauntlings is a really great project that I'm proud of because it combines two of my favorite genres of gaming: the beat-em-up — the old-school, Streets of Rage, beat-em-up style — with MOBAs, which are now one of my new favorite genres of gaming," he said.
"What I'm really excited about is [that] a lot of people try to get into MOBAs but can't because the learning curve. It's not even a curve. It's a learning wall. In order to get good at a MOBA, you've got to scale the wall."
He's out to sand down that learning wall. Hauntlings will have only a handful of characters, unlike games such as League of Legends and Dota 2 whose character rosters can be a formidable barrier to entry.
If fully funded, Hauntlings will be available to play in browsers on Windows, Mac and Linux. But Ruth said he's going to keep developing the game even if it doesn't reach his funding goal. Although Indiegogo allows campaigns that haven't been fully funded to keep what its raised, it will likely lose its multiplayer component.
Even in Eric Ruth's works case scenario, he's still going to be making games because that's what he loves to do and that's what he loves to share.
"If I can make anybody happy in the way a game made me happy, then I have succeeded, money or not," he said. "I promise you."
You can check out Hauntlings on Indiegogo here.