Deary me! People are watching Indie Games:The Movie and thinking “I can do this” and they’re probably going to fail because making games is super hard. What ho.
I’ve heard that and variations on it so many times recently, there was a variation on it in a recent Parkin piece that put the shits through Twitter for a morning. That was fun. I enjoyed the piece btw, but hey.
Doesn’t fucking matter, right? Doesn’t matter. It’s not all about business. Fuck business.
What do we mean when we say “fail” anyway?
Fail to make a living? Fuck me, I know loads of people in games and in games journalism who manage to fail to make a living anyway. Let’s not go there, right? The deep dark secret no-one likes to talk about is that there’s thousands of developers struggling just to make rent and of them, a portion make absolutely vital videogame things. You will know their name. Is that failure? I dunno. I’d like for them to make rent though, that’d be nice. I’d like everyone to make rent.
Fail to get rich? Pfft.
Fail to make a videogame? Oh man, like no-one has ever done that before, right? Everyone who ever sits down to make a videogame finishes one, yeah? That’s how it works? And so what, right? So fucking what. If someone doesn’t manage it, that’s OK. I’ve been failing to make a videogame for a year now due to wobbly health moments, I can’t exactly talk. It’s OK to not reach the finishing line.
People will have unrealistic expectations of what they can manage to make, they’ll aim too high and fail, start small. Or fuck it, start big, think big. Think ENORMOUS if you really want to. It’s OK. Maybe you won’t make it but as long as no-one gets taken out on the way there, no harm, no foul. Maybe it’ll make it, right? Maybe it will. Yeah, start small is sensible advice but sometimes, fuck sensible. Be grand. Be MASSIVE. Why not, eh?
And hey, never mind failure, this influx of people coming into making videogames after Indie Games:The Movie? That’s one fuck of a narrow view of what’s happening right now anyway. There’s loads of people fucking around with videogames anyway, it was happening without a film. So IG:TM brought a few more in, oh well.
Thing is, we’ve been making tools more accessible for years now, pricing of tools more accessible too and they’re affordable (or free). Thanks to the many years of the last console cycle, PC upgrades aren’t the thing they used to be so we’ve had reasonable spec hardware that most people can target too.
The people making games thing is going to happen regardless. That’s amazing.
It’s going to happen all the same because what are videogames now?
Videogames are the new punk.
Videogames are the new rock and roll.
Videogames are the new let’s get the fuck out of town.
Videogames are the new escape.
Time was, you’d grab a guitar and paint your face and be Bowie. Time was, you’d grab a synthesizer and try not to dance like Andy Mcluskey. Time was you’d buy a drum machine and call it Doktor something because you sat in trees by graveyards for waay, waaaay too long. Time was you thought you could make a noise like Trent Reznor until you realised that Trent Reznor only had one noise and that got old real fast and maybe you should make a new noise instead. Shame it just sounded like a squirrel farting.
Time was you would buy a guitar and hold a pint of lager in your hand and sleep the sweetest dreams about Noel Gallagher that were probably really weird but weren’t the nineties weird? What was that Mike Flowers thing all about anyway? Man. Anyone remember Mr Blobby? Choon. Time was you’d buy a sampler and huff some drugs and put your hands in the air. You should probably do that anyway, come to think of it.
People will still grab an instrument and make some noises, people still do although it’s probably not any of that anymore because I’m old and there’s kids on my lawn. I hear they wear mice heads these days or something. Not like in my day when we used to stand spreadeagled with a flying v and pose for black and white photos for the local paper who’d invariably spell your band’s name “Banana Custard” instead of the seriously cool name you’d come up with for the pub gig you’ll play at the end of the week before you disband because who was the drummer shagging last week and why is he sleeping with the bass player’s sister now oh god this will never work out.
Yeah, yeah, thing is, Albini was right. The music business is full of shit and the money isn’t there for most people. People fail. People get screwed. People fuck it all up. People get fucked up. The deep dark secret no-one likes to talk about is… oh come on, you already know this. Get a proper job.
Thousands of the people who’ll be inspired to make videogames on the back of something like Indie Game:The Movie or through using an accessible game making tools will be teenagers. They won’t paint their face to be like Bowie, they’ll paint their sprites to be like Superbrothers sprites. It’s a thing now. Videogames are a thing. Videogame stars are a thing. Why is Jon Blow so big? Because of videogames. Why is Pewdiepie so big? Because of videogames. And also because Bruce Forsyth is too old.
Videogames are cheap. You don’t even need 30 quid to buy a second hand guitar. You can do it all from home. Yeah, you can do music from home too but that you know, VST, software, the whole kit and kaboodle to do it legit (yeah, I know, I know, like “legit” is a barrier) costs thousands and videogames? You can do it for next to fuck all in your spare time. You can make them after school. Dave can do the doodles. Bernard off the message board can do the sound. Videogames. You don’t have to go put your videogame machine into the back of a little transit van and go tootling round the local pubs with it either, just throw that stuff up on the internet and mail a few people and cross your fingers and you’ll probably get ignored but maybe you won’t, right?
Maybe it’ll pay enough to get the fuck out of town. Sure, it won’t have the sex and the glamour and the booze and the fireworks (pro tip: you can add these yourself later) but there’s a hope. Who has that hope with music now? Who do you aspire to be? Fucking Coldplay? Naw. Besides, you might have to leave the house or something and fuck that. You can make games in your pants. How cool is that? And grow a beard too. In your pants.
But the thing about using something as an escape? Fuck rational. It’s about hope. It’s about dreams. It’s about wild expectations. It’s about ego. It’s about sod it, let’s do this. It’s about discovery. It’s about falling on your arse in the most cataclysmic way because what am I doing again? It’s about finding out whether you are actually any good at this or maybe you’re just a bit rubbish, it’s about finding out whether you want to do this for work or for shits and giggles or for both, it’s finding out about yourself. It’s about being inspired by other creative works. It’s about ignoring everything and carving your own way. It’s about taking inspiration from other creative works. It’s probably about whether you can get some sex too because teenagers and stuff.
Many folks will fail at making their thing. Many will flounder. Many will think “fuck this, I want to be a chartered accountant instead” and go off and work at Burger King and some will think “fuck this, I want to go and work at Burger King instead” and end up as chartered accountants and oh man, that’s life. It’s weird. I wanted to be an astronaut. What am I doing here?
It’s about success but it’s about failing too. It’s about being allowed to fail. It’s about being allowed to fail because you don’t have to take it seriously, you don’t have to be all business, you can piss around and fuck it up.
It’s about fuck you, grandad. I’m coming through.
Rather than being the metaphorical old guy in the suit and tie who says “well, really, actually videogames are really hard and things and stuff and you shouldn’t probably and…”, maybe we should shut up and be more understanding of this. That videogames are the new escape in a world where people are thinking “where the fuck is my future anyway and who sold me and my friends down the river?” and that people will fail and that’s OK. We can give a leg up to those who want to do this seriously, we can laugh along with those who do it for a laugh (with the caveat that their comedy punches up not down because otherwise, come on). We can help pick people up when they fall. We can put the information out there about how hard videogames are for those who want to find it and read it but leave the rest alone because they’re not doing any harm.
We already understand that if someone buys a guitar, they don’t necessarily need a shitload of business advice, they might just want to play some sweet smooth jazz licks to themselves or some of those popular hit parade gems.
We’re not there yet with videogames but we really should be because this generation coming up? They won’t give a fuck. Not when videogames are their new escape.