Watching people misinterpret the last few parts of the Tale Of Tales Sunsetting-Sunset post as pointing the finger has made for an uncomfortable day or so. One of the hardest lessons I’ve learned in videogames, one of the most uncomfortable truths I had to come round to accepting was that invariably, I was wrong.
Take this place, for example. There’s some very nice, some very kind people who comment about what I write here and about how right about things I can be. I thank them, I appreciate them but I know that at best, I’m maybe less wrong than someone else who’s slightly more wrong and probably less right than someone who is more right. It’s kinda a mess, really. Mainly, I’m grateful for having folks who’ll pull me when I’m way off base but I’m digressing here.
When I read the Tale Of Tales post there, I don’t see fingerpointing, I see stuff that’s really close to home. I see how alluring it can be to think that things can be just boiled down to a series of simple steps, a series of things that clearly point to how wrong something is and how if it wasn’t that wrong, it could be right. I know how alluring it is because even when I try so hard not to fall into it, sometimes it just kinda happens. Unthinkingly, naturally.
I know that trying to do everything right, trying to play by what looks to make sense, what seems perfectly reasonable, can work for that person over there but not that other person over there. Videogames are funny like that. Art is funny like that. Music is funny like that. Films, books, culture is funny like that. We haven’t stumbled upon a universal formula yet, or at least not one that doesn’t require huge amounts of capital to try and force its way into the public conciousness but even that, it turns out, isn’t guaranteed.
But success in videogames is, mainly, just about being less wrong at the right time. What’s right now may not be right in six months time, in six weeks time, in six hours time. It might not be right for you because it’s right for me. It’s a fucking mess, basically. A fucking mess.
In videogames, the most we can do is to try and be as less-wrong as we can be. We’re all just trying to stack the chips in our favour the best ways we know how, with the knowledge we have at the time. Yet…
Sometimes when we’re wrong, we make for a magnificent success.
Sometimes when we’re wrong, fucked it. Soz.
And the same goes for when we’re right too. Which is awkward.
Which is why we just sorta do what we can do, mainly what we’re comfortable with. But sometimes we step outside that, sometimes we feel we need to, sometimes we really do need to. Sometimes stuff just doesn’t work out when we do. When that happens, so many people know clear as day the precise things that went wrong and the precise things that would have made it go right.
Over the years I’ve seen so many people told how they could improve their lot, what they needed to do to make things right. To make things more right. Polish your game up. Add more levels. Make it more user friendy. Take out those there sound effects.
I stopped giving that advice myself and I’m sorry if you were one of the folks I ever tried to give that advice to. I stopped because it’s shit awful. I stopped because so often it’s close enough to “stop being you, stop doing what you and only you can do” that it’s kinda heartbreaking. It’s well meaning but the road to hell and all that. The truth is, I don’t know if it’ll make things any better really. I don’t know if it’ll make things right. I’m just flailing wildly in the dark because I want better, I want a thing to succeed or sometimes to tell myself that the universe is ordered and I know how it works.
Everyone knows what the public wants but so often, that’s stuff the public can get anywhere so why would they even want it from you? And sometimes, sometimes, the public do want it from you. The public really don’t make this easy, the fickle bastards.
It rarely occurs that as Tale Of Tales point out, being wrong sets you free. And well, there isn’t necessarily much use in always being right, always trying to be right. Failure is rarely quite so simple, no point treating it as such.
If nothing else, if you are wrong at least now you’ll know that was definitely the wrong thing for you. Check something else off your list of learning experiences and all that jazz. Time to move on. It’s one way we learn.
But from the other side, I get the want to fix this, to sort it, to find answers.
When I watch something like this play out, I sometimes think maybe we need to adopt the John Waters school of thinking that maybe we all need to make a Hairspray, something that we can use to carry our flags without the public realising quite how subversive a thing it is and then use that money to go off and do what we want. But even then, I don’t know if that’s right. It just sort of seems like a good idea right now so maybe? Maybe not.
I got to thinking about the Pet Shop Boys last night, massive pop act with videos by Derek Jarman, made a film with Jack Bond. About maybe people need to start sneaking people in too. Get them to work on their projects, like Croteam bringing Jonas onboard for The Talos Principle, y’know?
But again, I don’t know if that’s right. I couldn’t say for sure it’s right for you or your work or whatever. It’s just my brain trying to fix things, to order things, to make them better.
But really, whilst Tale Of Tales games were never really my bag, I wouldn’t wish the debt, the weight of watching something you’ve poured yourself into, the fallout, on anyone and it’s my hope that they’ll be able to pick themselves up, dust themselves off and be able to make new things, somewhere, even if that’s not videogames. That’s my biggest hope from all of this. That some folks can get on, carry on, keep carrying on.
And I guess, it’s my hope that they can and really, that’s the one thing I’d like to hope I’m definitely, definitely not wrong about.
Me of seven or eight years ago would have probably disagreed with me of today on that too but that’s because, well, sometimes I’m really wrong y’know?