“You’re just jealous that it’s me and not you”
They weren’t the exact words in the tweet but the implication was there. Me. Looking in and looking up at this guy, wishing for what he had.
I thought about it for a moment.
“Fuck off”, I typed. I reached for the block button and pressed it. I didn’t really feel any particular anger, just a sort of sadness. The kind of sadness that comes from someone who judges you as if your world view is their world view, y’know?
I couldn’t resist. A sneaky peak back after the block. Words to the effect of “you know it’s true”. I go and put the kettle on, it’s time for a hot chocolate.
I’d been reading an article on what the next year would bring for games and the conclusion? Nothing is going to happen. It’s been one heck of a five months previous, it’s showing no signs of letting up. Nothing is going to happen.
I can’t remember a time in videogames where nothing much happened, where time passed and little changed but this? Now?
In some ways, sure, I was jealous. I wasn’t jealously eyeing up an interview spot, mind. I was jealous of being able to be so oblivious to the world around me.
That must be sorta comforting, I thought.
I drank my hot chocolate and carried on making a videogame.
I’ve struggled for two years now to make a videogame and it weighs heavily on me. Sometimes it’s the weight of self doubt. Two years on and off development, two years scraping time together where you can, so preoccupied with getting through that self doubt creeps in further.
“Am I good at this?”
People tell me I’m good at this. Logically and realistically, I know it doesn’t matter if I’m good at this. What matters is that I’m here, I get through, there’s another side and there’s things I enjoy doing.
Some nights are darker than others.
“I’m me. I’m happy with that. I don’t know what the future holds but as long as I’m happy and the people I care about and love are happy, I’ll settle for whatever life throws at me. If that’s being the next big thing, so be it. If it’s not, I’m sure I’ll live. I can’t quite see it somehow though, not unless the universe turns inside itself and the entire fabric of reality bends around me.”
That’s me. In 2008. A cheeky interview in The Guardian and my first real proper interview about me, about the stuff I do, not the stuff we’d organised around other people. 7 years on and my answer would be kinda similar, I guess. But 7 years on and no-one now would ask any of us “are you the next big thing?”.
I ran up to a few folks, I apologised for having to leave and I threw myself out the door.
For a while I figured it was just the painkillers. I’d been out of hospital for a few weeks and was still huffing them like no bastard else just to get through the days. Maybe going to London to give a talk and to sit on a panel wasn’t the smartest possible thing. But you know, the thing about nearly snuffing it is that it makes an already strong appreciation of good humans even stronger and sometimes, you just know you need to be around good humans. More good humans.
I count myself lucky that for most of my time in games, the vast majority of people I’ve encountered have been and are good humans. Kind people. Gentle people. People who consider other people. I’d met plenty that day who I’d meet again and shake their hands. Their work means so much to me, them being good humans means so much to me.
But I didn’t want to be in that room a moment longer.
It was the last two talks, see.
From hearing people enthusiastic about their work, their craft, their loves within and around videogames, the last two talks marked a severe shift. You have to make Facebook games! You should totally do that! But I don’t want to make Facebook games! I’m here because the only thing I want to do is make the games *I* want to make. I don’t care if it’s good business practice or it’ll teach me something about metrics, it’s not me. I didn’t get into this to make Facebook games. You can’t make me.
The last, how to wring more money from your fans with special editions. Just like Trent Reznor wot did. A lesson in whaling. This isn’t the world I want to be in. This isn’t why I got into games. This isn’t what games mean to me.
I didn’t want to be in a room listening to this, I’m probably going to tell someone to fuck off anytime soon. Best I leave now.
I made my excuses. I left.
I want what I always wanted.
I want people to be safe and to be happy. I want people who want to make videogames to be able to make videogames. I want people who want to play videogames to be able to comfortably play videogames.
And I want people who want to have a shot at making a living from videogames to be able to have one.
I wanted that when I started. I wanted that in 2008 and I want it now.
In some ways, we’re closer than ever before. In other, the same plague still lingers. For the better part of the last year I’ve watched more friends, more peers, more colleagues and explorers in the videogame dimension come under fire. It’s still going on today, rarely relenting.
I’ve watched videogames become an even more hostile place than before.
It was a late night. I hadn’t been working on videogames all night, I don’t do that sort of thing anymore. Health first and all that.
I’d spent a few hours tweaking numbers because gamedev is an extraordinary amount of time spent just tweaking numbers. I punted the results over to the devkit, the blackness turned to the glow of laserlight, purples, blues and reds. A white light in the centre as the player landed onto the screen.
“Yeah, I am fucking good at this”, I thought and closed the computer down for the night.
Five years ago, if someone would have said to me that I’d be sitting here with a console devkit, I’d have laughed in their face. Yet here I am.
Because everything changed. We fought for this and we got to the point where the industry, the videogames industry couldn’t ignore us because there was an appetite, a desire for what we made.
Sure, a lot is still on industry terms but now? So much is on the terms we set. A long, long way from ideal but baby steps and all that.
Five years ago when I ran out of that conference, it felt like the industry would knock forever at our door, success on their terms not ours. Be like them if you want to succeed. Do what they do if you want to succeed.
Five years ago I knew full well you didn’t have to make a Facebook game to get better at making games. Five years ago I knew full well that you could go out there and do business without worrying about how to bleed extra money from the people who loved and respected your work. Fuck. I knew this ten years ago and I know it now. You can take all that and fiddle it around a bit now because damn right there’ll be people saying “but you can’t x without y” to stop folks from stepping up, there’s always something.
I’ve been patiently pushing forward year in, year out watching videogames open up for more and more people, more abilities, more talents, more voices, more people. I can’t think of a single year in all the years I’ve been doing this when nothing happened, when no major changes or shifts occurred. Not one. From how games are made to how games are sold, videogames don’t sit still. I’m watching people now, new folks not old white bearded men like me, bring their own quality stuff to videogames and it’s amazing to watch. They’re going to make so many things so much better as they do. Sure, mistakes will be made but hey, humans and all that.
But y’know, if you tell me that this year will be dull, that this year nothing will happen when we’re riding out the back of one of the largest attacks on the people who work within videogames…
…yeah, I’m going to tell you to fuck off.
Because this has to change and we can’t afford to wait. We need to make videogames a better, safer space for people to work within, for people to be better within and we need to be doing it, like, yesterday. Because videogames aren’t just money, how you sell videogames, they’re not just products. Videogames are the result of people and people are important. Videogames as industry has spent years edging away from this, throwing a few figureheads to the press to keep a face on it whilst talking about SKU and IP and monetization and and and… maybe that’s how we got in this big old fucking mess, yeah?
I just hope we don’t lose too many of these good people before it does change, y’know? Right now videogames, you’re breaking my fucking heart.