I don’t really want to go into much about how we still seem to be stuck with the idea of an indiepocalypse because I’ve exhausted myself (and thousands of words) on this before.
I still maintain the fundamental flaw with the concept of the indiepocalypse is that it assumes there was a time where it was sunshine and roses for developers. I honestly don’t know how many different ways I can say “no, really – for most of us, it was never that great” but I’m sure if I got really desperate, I could find at least one more way. Like I just did there. Ooh. Get me.
I’ve made no secret that sticking my head into the worst parts of videogames for a few years left me burnt out and exhausted, something that’s only lifted somewhat in the past couple of months. In that time, I won’t say I’ve found the talk around existing here increasingly negative (although it does remind me of the Indiegamer Forums circa 2007 but on a larger scale. anyone there will know what I mean, this reference is for them) but I will say that it increasingly seems like we have an inability to see further into the future than kind of about now and a little bit and that really warps how we talk about being in games.
To be fair, I don’t think this is restricted to videogames. It’s very much a 21st Century malaise in general. See usual “I write about videogames though”, yeah?
I’ll admit, I’m not immune to all this stuff. Partly because so much of business in 2019 appears to be every person for themselves, get what you can whilst you can and partly because the current political climate in the UK reflects exactly that. The endgame 40 years in the making where the only thing stopping the government from completely trashing everything is, erm, human rights acts and the like. And unlucky for us, they appear to have found a way to both stir up the extreme right *and* get us out of that. Hooray!
And, crucially, everyone I know is struggling.
Essentially, when everything around you is in perpetual danger of falling apart, it really does make it difficult to think about anything but what’s falling apart around you. So I do get it. I kinda understand how we’re here. Understanding it doesn’t lessen the rot any though.
It’s definitely changed how I write about games. I don’t really have the same hopes that we’re going to push hard enough and change things for the better. I still believe we can, I believe we are improving the space that is videogames in ways I could have only hoped for even just a few years back. But when I sit down to write about what we can do to improve something or what’s happening now, there’s always that nagging “yeah, but we won’t” feeling to it. All this is accentuated by the fact we’re still dealing with 2014 in 2019.
There’s a cloud hanging there and it’s a dark one.
When you throw all this on top of a bunch of very corporate landgrab operations at the mo, really, I can totally understand why the prevailing attitude is take what you can get, where you can get it. Especially when people in huge companies are throwing around absolutely reckless amounts of money on making their corporate ambitions come true and not one of them doing that appears to have any plan that doesn’t involve just taking more and more from us over time.
It would, of course, be prudent for a lot of people to not take the money and try and steer ourselves away from the worst outcomes but you know, we’re back to “but most of us need money” again with that. Which brings us back round, again, to an inability to see a better future of videogames because we all know what’s going on, we all know where this leads even at its most optimistic and it’s not going to favour you or me. But right now, things are tough enough that fuck it, offer me the cash so I don’t have to worry about things crashing down around my ears for another twelve months and I’d take it too. Of course I would.
So yeah, it’s no wonder it’s hard for folk to visualise a better future in games. It’s no wonder I end up looking at the way everyone talks about videogames as business and feeling a bit sad. This wasn’t really the future I was after when I, and so many others, went kicking and screaming to get smaller works reaccepted back into videogames again. It’s the one we have though so I guess I best just deal with that.
But! I haven’t lost all hope for videogames in the future. There’s incredible, diverse, work being made now often in spite of videogames as a space. There’s more people making more amazing things than any time I’ve been alive. It’s incredible and I’m absolutely spoiled rotten by it all. There’s been new folk after new folk transforming, terraforming what games are and can be and so many of them are so bold, so wonderful. I’d stick around just for games being able to be compassionate works in the mainstream now, Molyneux only knows that’s desperately overdue.
The main reason I haven’t lost hope though, even allowing for the dark cloud, is that this isn’t the first time I’ve felt like this in games, where I’ve seen so many people just trying to catch a break and struggling to see what’s next. It’s happened a few times in my existence and you know what? Videogames changed. People did that. And whilst we’ve still got good people here, I’m always going to have hope.
That goes for the wider world as well too.