Signal Boost: TJ Thomas
Short Version: Read this article by TJ Thomas. It’s titled “EXPANDING THE TALK, pt. 1: How sales are used to exploit indie developers”, and it’s definitely something to think about. While you’re there, also check out Joylancer, a cool-looking game he has in development.
Long Version: I’ve decided that every now and then, I’m going to draw attention to a game or gaming-related article I find interesting, especially if it’s made/written by someone who (relatively speaking) isn’t in the spotlight. It kinda goes back to my thoughts when I wrote about the Queer Games Community, where I basically concluded 1)there isn’t one and 2)more should be done to promote and welcome talented people who… well… aren’t already popular or well-connected and/or who don’t necessarily fit a given mold.
Later, though, I reached another conclusion: there’s no real need for a “queer games” community per se, at least not the way I thought of it when I thought it might be more than a preformed social group. (Please note that I’m not putting down the folks in that particular group. I even owe one person my thanks for having indirectly gotten me started designing games in the first place, and it’s silly to say that people don’t have a right to choose their own friends.) What’s needed is for indie devs in general–especially those of us who are typically underrepresented such as women, people of color, and LGBT folks–to look out for each other more, and for games journalists to give a little more attention to devs they’re not already close to/familiar with. The last thing I would want is for anyone to be shut out, and since I want to be successful myself, I certainly don’t want people to be penalized purely for being visible or successful. What I do want is for everyone who has a good idea to have a reasonable chance of seeing that idea succeed, and a big part of that is exposure.
Here, I’m doing my small part to help things along, starting with bringing attention to this article by TJ Thomas — who is also developing a neat-looking game called Joylancer. (You get to name your own price on the demo, though a $10.00 donation lets you pre-purchase the game.) It’s a thought-provoking look at how Steam sales and such can affect the earnings/lives of indie game developers as well as some other issues endemic to the game dev community. To whet your appetite, here’s a taste of what he wrote:
sales entice a wider audience, because the wider audience doesn’t actually care. sales are a temporary veil of success– and even that isn’t a guarantee. putting a game on sale lowers its value, and when that value goes back up, people tend to not give a shit, or deem the game “not worth full price.” and this leads full circle into the problem: we don’t value indie games anymore.
a history of needing sales to survive, Humble Bundle cannibalizing indie developers and severely lowering the worth of multiple games in the process, poor support from publishers and digital distribution networks (itch.io has been the only one that’s been consistently reliable in my experience), and indies making it big and forgetting about everyone under them have essentially created an ecosystem where people like us cannot survive without constantly risking our (mental AND physical) health.
wait– Humble Bundle? why drag them into this?