The Indie Ego

The Wrong Image

Since starting Indie Gamer Chick on July 1, 2011, I’ve met literally thousands of people involved in indie game development. Typically, they are the coolest men and women on the planet. The type of people I would want to be friends with. Humble and grateful, eager to please and excited by the prospect of improvement. They strive to be better. They relish the thought of being the underdog. They wow me with their intelligence and awe me with their creativity. They inspire me to be better at what I do. And I’m not talking about two or three standouts. I’m talking the overwhelming majority of the community.

So, why does a perception that indies are aloof, pompous, self-indulgent, out-of-touch, thin-skinned, egotistical fart-sniffers exist?

Well, because a small handful of indie game developers are aloof, pompous, self-indulgent, out-of-touch, thin-skinned, egotistical fart sniffers. From my experience, they’re not at all representative of your typical indie dev. They represent a stereotype that I find damaging to the community I love, so I figure I should try to eliminate this mindset.

The first developer who contacted me was the developer of this, A Hard Game Without Zombies. My review was not a positive one. Developer MasterGroke took it with grace and humility. It was a sign of things to come. After 500 reviews, only five developers ever showed a lack of grace in handling it. Read the types of reviews I write and then ask yourself if the indie perception is accurate.

The first developer who contacted me was the creator of this, A Hard Game Without Zombies. My review was not a positive one. Developer MasterGroke took it with grace and humility. It was a sign of things to come. After 500 reviews, only five developers ever showed a lack of grace in handling it. Read the types of reviews I write and then ask yourself if the indie perception is accurate.

You Don’t Get Me

Any creative medium will attract personalities that have no concept of humility. It’s the nature of artistic expression. You see it in movies, television, stage, music, and modern art. Indies have been around since the dawn of games, but it’s only recently that mainstream attention and ease of distribution have become prevalent. So now, you see a lot more people with that artsy, pretentious, “nobody gets me” personality. Thanks to Indie Game: The Movie, many people believe the scene is dominated by this type of character.  It’s not. Most indie game developers are humble and friendly. I wish more people watching that had come away saying “man, those Super Meat Boy guys were awesome!” instead of focusing on the developers who were, for a lack of a better term, unlikable.

The indie scene has grown a few prominent stars. Some of them are, by most accounts, really cool guys. I’ve heard a lot of people tell me Minecraft creator Notch is a good dude. I’m pretty good friends with Thomas Was Alone developer Mike Bithell. He’s one of the nicest guys I know. As for Notch, while he might have eccentricities, he certainly doesn’t carry himself like he’s better than anyone or that people don’t fundamentally “get him” or his artistic vision.

There was some scuttlebutt over Braid when it was released. It was a hugely critically acclaimed game. It was probably my favorite indie that I had played before I was Indie Gamer Chick. But developer Jonathan Blow wasn’t happy with the feedback, because he felt reviewers and critics didn’t get what he was aiming for, either reading too much into it or not enough. Jonathan Blow does a lot of great things for indie developers and is a wonderful advocate for the community. Unfortunately, the way he handled the reception of Braid made him come across as incredibly pretentious. Because of his visibility, that’s done a lot of damage to the image of indie game developers.

People are going to have different interpretations of your work, reading into it all kinds of things you never imagined while you were developing it. Lord of the Rings creator J. R. R. Tolkien spent most of his twilight years shooting down any and all theories on what Lord of the Rings might be a social commentary on. Nuclear weapons? Class warfare? Race relations? He had none of that in mind. “I cordially dislike allegory in all its manifestations, and always have done so since I grew old and wary enough to detect its presence” he often said.

Sooooooo...... you're telling me Braid isn't an allegory for the East-Asian industrial revolution?

Sooooooo…… you’re telling me Braid isn’t an allegory for the East-Asian industrial revolution?

So when you put your work out there, be ready for people to not experience it exactly how you envisioned. When this happens, have a laugh over it. If their misinterpretation has had a positive effect on their life or outlook, why would you want to shoot that down? Most developers understand this. The few that don’t, that get very possessive of their vision, they’re the ones that bring the whole community down. I roll my eyes at a lot of attempts at gaming as art, but I’m just one person. I know people who were genuinely moved by Datura, which I hated. Many of my fans read a lot more into Limbo than I did, to the point that I went back to play it, actively searching for a way to see it the way they did. The thing is, they’re not wrong, and neither am I. Art interpretation is always in the eye of the beholder. As a developer, once your game is out on the market, you’re not the beholder anymore, and you have to accept that.

The Indie Bubble

Many of the more image-damaging indie developers live in what I call the “Indie Bubble.” It’s a bubble almost completely removed from the world you and I live in.  Where developers can imagine a world where their insecurities can be addressed without having to incorporate things like “reality” or “facts” into it. Unfortunately, the Indie Bubble still has access to Twitter or blogs, meaning their delusions get exposed to a group of people who live in what is known as the “real world.” And the people living in the real world are so not ready to play along with their fantasies.

Earlier this week, while discussing the economic problems of the Wii U (as I did two weeks ago in this editorial), a developer from within the Indie Bubble told me that indies could, no, WOULD, save the Wii U. I responded by saying that indies can’t move consoles. Indie Bubble developer responded by saying he knew people who had bought a Vita just for the indies on it. I responded by pointing out that the Vita isn’t exactly the most successful game machine out there. In fact, it’s doing quite poorly. More over, if indies could significantly move consoles, the Ouya would be a runaway success right now, instead of being, well, the Ouya.

Remind me: how is indie-centric console Ouya doing?

Remind me: how is indie-centric console Ouya doing?

The developer responded by saying I was coming across as anti-indie. Not because I said I hate indies, or that indies are crap, or that most indie games suck. No, I had committed the sin of being realistic. Also, it’s hard to convey exactly what I meant in 140 characters. Yes, there are people out there who will buy game machines just to play the indies. Most of these people stick to PCs, where the majority of high-quality indie games are at. On the console side of things, those who are primarily looking for indies will simply not be statistically significant. Anecdotal evidence of “I know people who bought a Vita just to play indies” doesn’t mean that’s how most of the world works. Especially when you and the people you hang out with are in the bubble.

Journey was probably the most critically acclaimed game of 2012. It’s my all-time favorite PlayStation 3 game. The most common response to my review of it was “man, I wish I had a PS3!” Not “I’m going to run out and buy a PS3.” Journey simply didn’t move consoles. It didn’t when it was bundled with Flower and Flow and released on disc. Indies just plain aren’t good at that. Blockbusters move consoles. Indies are a wonderful side dish. They serve to provide content that is not on-trend, so that gamers of all stripes have something for them on a gaming device. The indies that get promotional effort from the manufactures often tend to be released outside of peak-seasons, assuring top-quality content year-round. So indies serve a function. I would dare say, indies are essential to the modern console business model. There’s no need to boost your egos and placate your insecurities by making absurd claims like “indies move consoles.” That makes you sound like a lunatic.

Absurd claims are a running theme with the fringe Indie Bubble crowd. Another one I got this week was “all games come from indies.” I responded simply with “Madden?” The developer’s response: “Never heard of it.” That’s the Indie Bubble. And the Indie Bubble is the most dangerous thing the community’s image faces. “Never heard of it.” Oh please. See, there’s nothing wrong with being proud of being in the indie community. But when you’re not grounded in reality, it makes you tough to root for.

Just to quickly clear up the “all games come from indies thing”, the first video game console was developed and funded by a defense contractor. Video games evolved from people within the military industrial complex. The man behind it, Ralph Baer, was meticulous in his methods, making sure every little detail was profitable and patentable. When Atari came out with Pong, his company successfully sued Atari, who ended up a licensee. By signing the license, Atari assured that the military contractor would stomp their competition with great zeal, protecting their patent. Does this sound indie to you? Because it doesn’t to me. I bring this all up because, when I called out the theory that all games are inspired or come from indies for the bullshit that it is, they typically reach back to the origins of gaming, when a model railroad club designed the first PC game during recreational lab hours. If you have to reach that far back to make your point, you have a weak argument.

"I thought Braid was talkin' about me!"

“I thought Braid was talkin’ about me!”

The ultimate asinine statement is “Indies are the only REAL artists in gaming.” It’s a shitty attitude to have, and it completely undermines your own contributions to gaming, because it makes you guys look like beret-wearing. art-house assholes. The kind of people nobody likes, that nobody wants to see succeed. Chances are, if you work in the game industry, you’re a creative person. Even the most design-by-committee titles like Call of Duty or Gears of War are built by people who do their best to put their personal touch on their work. Indies have built an “us versus them” mentality that shouldn’t exist. You’re all artists. Don’t allow the freedom you have as an indie developer turn you into an elitist.

With Fans Like You..

Criticism is subjective, and not all my reviews are popular. A recent trend I’ve had to deal with is, when someone disagrees with one of my reviews, I’m called a “Call of Duty player.” For fans that have entered the Indie Bubble, this has become the ultimate insult. It’s like “Yo Momma” for people who love the scent of their own flatulence. This idea that people who play indies shouldn’t play mainstream games is so damaging to the community. Gaming is a big tent. Indie games should tackle issues that mainstream games can’t possibly do, but the community at large should be welcoming to gamers of all stripes. When the hardcore, indies-only crowd starts using games like Call of Duty or Gear of War or Halo as pejorative insults, they’re telling people “you’re not welcome at our party.” That’s bad for developers, because the hardcore fans are making their work less accessible. Would you want to be part of a community populated by people who regard the games that inspired you to buy your console with contempt? Of course, like developers, the majority of hardcore indie game fans are not assholes. They don’t consider the act of playing a game like Madden to be an affront to the scene. But for those in the bubble, they would rather see games sell less than have people like me, who enjoy all aspects of gaming, from being part of their community. When I reviewed NES Remix, someone outright called me an enemy of indie gaming. When I said that review brought all kinds of attention to my blog from non-indie fans, who then were exposed to an entire different crop of games as a result, the person responded with “I don’t care.”

Back in 2012, when Halo 4 was released, I spent a few weeks inviting my fans to play with me and my friends online. Those living in the Indie Bubble, especially non-developer indie fans, were hugely insulted that someone called “Indie Gamer Chick” would play such a game while actively promoting the scene. I have done similar events with indie games, and a big problem with those is getting participants. Indie games typically fill specific niches. When myself, my fellow XBLIG critics, and the developers at Milkstone Games had a little impromptu Little Racers STREET event, we had trouble filling all the spots. Even though we were actively giving away free copies of the game to get enough players in. When Brian and I were looking for fans of Terraria to trade items with, finding interested parties was shockingly difficult. For Halo, the moment I said “anyone want to play?” I had a queue that lasted for days. I was able to expose more people to indies just from the ease of access Halo offered than I would have literally handing out free copies of an indie game.

Little Racers STREET supports up to twelve players online. Even bribing people to play, we only had seven or eight at most at any given time.

Little Racers STREET supports up to twelve players online. Even bribing people to play, we only had seven or eight at most at any given time.

But, because I was preaching the gospel of indies from a Halo pulpit, I was the enemy. People were calling me things like “fraud” or “poser” simply because I was playing Halo. If there’s one thing I hope people take away from this piece, it’s that those inside the Indie Bubble don’t speak for the community. The majority of indie fans and developers are amazing people who welcome newcomers to the scene with open arms. It’s one of the few online communities where newcomers are so readily accepted. Those fans who want us filthy mainstream game players to stand clear? They’re not part of the indie community. They’re in their own world. The difference between their side and the side I’m on? My side wants them, and everyone, to be a part of our community. The more, the merrier. Indie fans who say things like “go play Call of Duty” are essentially telling the millions of Call of Duty players that them and their money are something indie developers can do without. On behalf of the indie developers who you did not consult when saying that, kindly shut the fuck up, please.

In Conclusion

There is no such thing as the “Indie Ego.” The majority of indie developers are down to Earth and humble, while indie fans are normal gamers just looking for ideas off the beaten path. I wish the perception of the scene was more in line with reality. Yes, some developers are egotists who insult fans, throw tantrums, and sniff their own farts. Yes, some indie fans are obnoxious, elitist, uptight dorks. But they are not the standard bearers for indies, and gamers need to know that.

Indie gaming doesn’t breed these kind of personalities. Some people are just born to be douchebags. While I was catching shit from those in the Indie Bubble, an indie music critic fan of mine told me “welcome to my world.” An independent film-maker friend of mine said “you could change “console” to “studio” and publish this as critique on the indie movie scene.”

A friend of mine took a look at an early draft of this editorial and hypothesized that success is a factor in “the Indie Ego” perception. It’s been known to change people. You’ll notice that a lot of the guys I would label as being type-A personality developers, IE the kind that are most in need of a good slap across the face, are the ones that are typically the most successful. It’s been suggested to me that my positive experience with the community is in large part because most of my developer friends haven’t had a large level of fame or recognition.

I don’t think its true. When you see a developer meltdown over a bad review or people talking shit on his game in the Steam forums, success has nothing to do with that. I’ve had developers who have never caught a whiff of success threaten me with lawsuits or try to organize a Reddit mob to “get me.” Some people are just not capable of handling the type of feedback you receive when you’re a creative person. That’s why some developers laugh and tell disarming jokes when they’re accused of being a hipster, while others declare that they’re cancelling their next game, like a bratty eight-year-old taking their ball and going home. It’s very unfortunate that, in such situations, the response from those outside the community is “well, that’s indies for you.”

No. The correct term is “that’s assholes for you.”

I heard someone say this week "I wish more developers were like (Thomas Was Alone creator) Mike Bithell." Um, dude. Most developers are. He's an amazing human being, like most indie devs. If most indies were more like Phil Fish, I wouldn't be doing this.

I heard someone say this week “I wish more developers were like (Thomas Was Alone creator) Mike Bithell.” Um, dude. Most developers are. He’s an amazing human being, like most indie devs. If most indies were more like Phil Fish, I wouldn’t be doing this. Hell, there wouldn’t be an indie scene.

So, if you’re a true fan of indies, make sure you set the record straight whenever you get the chance. Indies are not about elitism or self-glorification. They’re about freedom of creative expression. They’re about childhood dreams realized. Indies are community-oriented, helpful to a fault, and anxious to excite fans of all shapes and sizes. That is the real indie community, where you’ll find most fans and developers. Those other guys? They’re in the Indie Bubble. They might tell you they speak for the community, but they don’t. They claim to love indies, but their behavior does not show that. They insult those they perceive as “not indie enough.” They have no tolerance for anyone who doesn’t interpret their world view. And they willfully drive away new people from the scene. Guys, you’re not helping. I know you’re not capable of realizing that, but I figure I should try. Indies need a thriving, growing community to succeed. You guys are essentially advocating indie obsolesce. If you’re in the bubble, you need to quietly reflect on if that’s the community you want to be a part of. And while you reflect, crack a window or something, because the lack of oxygen in the bubble seems to be affecting your brains.

About Indie Gamer Chick
Indie game reviews and editorials.

33 Responses to The Indie Ego

  1. thehellblazer says:

    this was a well constructed opinion and I am 100% in your corner on this one. Unfortunately this elitist thinking is found in all genre of gaming – including tabletop. I’ve been playing D&D since 1978 and the amount of players I’ve met who heap derision on the heads of those gamers who would DARE to play another system is just shocking and sad. Assholes be assholin I guess.
    Good post.

    • I went daily to an autism support group (the Autism Center as I call it) as a kid, and myself and a few of the kids there played a lot of Magic: The Gathering. There were kids that were higher-functioning than us there who played AD&D. I totally know what you’re talking about. The counselors there had to warn them to tone done down their taunting.

    • Interesting that you bring up roleplaying – that’s the other sphere in which I’ve witnessed this degree of elitist assholery. I was a member of my university’s roleplaying society for months, but no one (except one guy) would play with someone who was inexperienced. They advertised to bring in new members but then shut them out when they actually turned up.

      Returning to indie games, I think a lot of this attitude comes from wanting to be ‘in’ on something. In an elite club. Like religion (apologies to any religious devotees) indie gaming offers the chance to be one of the people in the know, following the ‘right’ path. And, like religion, anyone who questions that threatens the fragile self-worth of the people who rely on that exclusive club for a sense of identity. They don’t have enough sense of their own value (i.e. enough emotional maturity) to feel secure and worthwhile if they don’t have a club to cling to, so anyone who seems to criticise that club, or in some cases to dilute it with people who aren’t True Believers, is a blasphemer to be destroyed.

      The irony, as Cathy points out, is that these hardcore devotees aren’t the real deal. For them, it’s all about themselves. It’s about what they want and how they feel about it. They don’t care that exposure benefits the indie scene because that’s not why they’re involved. They don’t care about the industry, the developers or even the games. They just want to be on the inside of something and, as such, they leave themselves permanently on the outside. Unfortunately these people are usually the ones who shout the loudest.

      As to assholey developers, they are in the minority but, again, they’re often the most vocal. Jonathan Blow is more vocal than the many non-Blows. (As an aside, I actually found Phil Fish the most sympathetic dev in Indie Game: The Movie. He didn’t strike me as obnoxious or pompous; he seemed like someone who had overreached himself, striving for an idea that he’d lost control of, and basically reaching a state of panic and exhaustion. I sympathised.) Remember also that there can be a world of difference between the way a dev comes across in certain forums (e.g. Indie Game: The Movie, Twitter) and the way they actually are. I thought DJ Arcas (Fortresscraft) seemed smug and condescending on Twitter but he’s not like that if you meet him.

      It can be hard being a creative artist in any medium. When you create something, you put part of yourself into it. When they misunderstand it, they misunderstand you. When they insult it, they insult you. With those emotions flying around, feelings of people you’ve never met hating a part of you that you put out there into the world, it can be hard to remember that the creator only brings 50% of the experience. The other 50% comes from the audience. Whatever effect it has on a player is just as valid as whatever effect the creator intended. That’s an important lesson for devs to remember, but also a difficult one to bear in mind when bullets start flying and all you want is for people to like the thing you’ve worked so hard to make.

  2. Random Ken says:

    Have to agree with thehellblazer, very well constructed opinion and a great read.

    • Thank you guys both so much.

      I’ve put in a lot of hours and work for the indie community. These are my guys and gals. I hate that the world has the wrong perception about them. I also resented being called “anti-indie” from someone who has a lot of followers on the scene. But, in retrospect, I should thank the guy who said it. Without that, I don’t think I would have had this feature. Just about three hours later and it’s already my most read feature in six months.

      • I had to laugh (bitterly) at the bit about people calling you a Call of Duty player as an insult. Firstly it’s weird to think that “you’re someone who enjoys this game” can be an insult, and secondly it’s one that is often used in stupid contexts. I once received an insult about me being a Call of Duty lover in response to a comment in which I said explicitly that I personally don’t enjoy Call of Duty. Nonsensical.

  3. Very good read-up.
    Only some minor flaws in the whole thing – in my eyes, that is; i.e. I’d have addressed some things differenty – but of course overall it’s an important point well made.

  4. Paul Huxley says:

    I like pretentious egocentrics. They make the best games.

    (I wrote a really long reply, then deleted it. The above sums it up though.)

  5. Great read, you are so right on so many levels!

  6. I want to third that. This is the best article I have seen from you yet! I would have thought that ALL indie developers would appreciate having you around to give constructive criticism and help them make a better game. After all, dont they WANT people to buy them? People arent going to buy a shitty game. WHY would you get pissed and threaten the person who is listing the reasons that no one wants your piece of shit game? That should be appreciated. I think the attitude is a shield to prevent having to admit defeat. Its easier to say “they just dont get me” than it is to say “I have failed”. I come here before making any indie game purchase because lets face it, you have to dig through a lot of coal to find a diamond. I like that there is someone who is willing to invest the time that I just dont have. Im a fan of good games, period. I will play Orbitron Revolution then NBA 2K14 then Little Racers Street then Red Alert 3 then Arcadecraft then World of Tanks then Smooth Operators then Burgertime World Tour then…… Well, you get the point. If its good, I will play it, plain and simple. I dont need It kinda bums me out that I missed the invite for Little Racers Street. If you ever want to try that again, count me in.I love that game!

  7. Back in 2003-04 a programmer friend of mine and I worked on this small MMORPG that was essentially WoW if only 10-15 people could be on the server at once without it almost crashing every few seconds.

    We didn’t make any money on it as it was mostly just us practicing as we were both still in college at the time but people sometimes THOUGHT we were and would make random accusations…one in particular stood out.

    I received a 2 page letter from one of our players angrily telling me that we should quit because no one would ever be as good as WoW and that we were idiots for even attempting. There were some other quite violent threats in the letter but that’s the gist of it.

    You can change “Indie” in “Indie Bubble” to anything really and you’ll be able to find that group somewhere…I think a lot of that can be helped by educating people as this blog seems to be doing quite well enough.

    My personal experiences at game jams and expos and artist alleys have been all positive so far so I haven’t dealt with anyone in the bubble quite yet…

    Thanks for writing the article! I felt a bit of pride for being an indy dev/artist after reading.

  8. fargofallout says:

    This was a mostly reasonable editorial, until it got to the caption under Thomas Was Alone. Maybe you have met Phil Fish and can speak to who he is, but you realize comments like that are why he’s supposedly not making games any longer, right? Yeah, maybe he isn’t the best at being a public figure, and he has unpopular opinions he’s willing to share, but assuming he’s an asshole because of his public persona, and then using your position to tell other people he’s an asshole, is pretty irresponsible, and sort of dickish. Am I allowed to assume you’re an asshole now? I mean, as long as we’re basing our opinions on very limited public comments, it’s pretty reasonable for me to think you’re an asshole if you’re willing to publicly call someone else out as an asshole.

    I guess I wish people didn’t take what other people say and accept is as fact. Just because other people say Phil Fish is an asshole doesn’t make it true. Everyone just accepts it as some sort of fact now. Like I said, maybe you do know him, but good god, give the guy a break. I doubt many people fully appreciate (myself included) what it’s like to be on the wrong side of the Reddit (or whatever) hivemind. The internet can be an awful place, and I sure know I wouldn’t want the vitriol of thousands of random people directed my way for no good reason.

    • I had a similar thought at that point, actually. Phil Fish hasn’t actually done anything wrong, other than being too open and honest on social media about his personal feelings. See my longer comment above, about how hard it is to create something and then have people stick the boot in.

      Phil Fish has made mistakes but I see no sign that he’s an asshole other than his reputation and, as you said, this article itself points out that repuations aren’t always accurate.

      • I’m a little lost as to how its reasonable for an individual to censor themselves just in case they might damage someone’s fragile ego. Phil Fish certainly never held back in his commentary. Before going any further I’ll say that I enjoyed Fez very much; its not the innovative masterpiece that some players make it out to be, but its a fun game and I don’t feel that I overpaid for the enjoyment I got out of it. That said, there are plenty of “assholes” out there who have no problem continuing to be assholes despite the amount of vitriol/criticism/mean words launched at them from the internet. Grow up and be receptive to criticism, and learn to ignore entirely content that isn’t constructive.

        It was said that its not fair to judge someone by their public persona. You’ll have to forgive me if I continue to fail to understand, seeing as that’s the only observable constant that I have to go on. Its perfectly reasonable to make an assumption given the information the public has been provided. In fact, that’s generally how things work in the real world when it comes to perception (and reality). People are responsible for their own image and the words they say, and saying otherwise is akin to insinuating that a drunk driver is not responsible for his actions.

        In short: if you don’t want the “vitriol of thousands of random people directed your way,” refrain from staying stupid shit.

        • I don’t necessarily disagree, but I like to offer alternative perspectives where they seem to be lacking. Inability to see someone else’s point of view is one of the marks of a sociopath. Just saying.

          • What is the critical “point of view” being overlooked, in this particular case?

            Why is looking at an asshole exhibiting assholish behavior and addressing it as such is considered dickish? Its simply accurate classification. Personally, I can easily separate an ego from its body of work as they’re only tangentially related from the perspective of a consumer/hobbyist, but lets call an onion an onion, please.

            Phil Fish was obviously free to take his ball and go home, which he did, but I dislike the prevailing attitude that games journalism (ha) and the internet were somehow at fault for that.

            • The point of view is that Phil Fish is human, which means he sometimes makes bad choices and sometimes has poor judgement. You could pick a handful of asshole moments from the life of any person on the planet. We all have them. It doesn’t mean those moments define our whole character.

              You know, there’s a reason that things like compassion, mercy, tolerance and forebearance are considered virtues and being an ignorant fuckhead isn’t.

              • Okay okay, let’s keep it civil please. I take pride in the fact that most discussions here are rational and civil. Let’s not make me feel bad here.

              • “Sometimes.” I actually agree with you for the most part, but when patterns of behavior repeat themselves they’re generally considered an inherent flaw rather than an isolated moment of weakness. Which part of my assessment is ignorant? Why should my assumption be that he was simply having a bad day…over and over again? I guess that would be “nicer,” but that has no inherent value other than being more consumable to those that can’t accept the idea of being the bearer of a negative concept or thought. Conflict is not an inherently negative thing, and how you deal with things like criticism, insults, and general human interaction is pretty important in the grand scheme of that terrifying thing called “adulthood.”

                I’ll repeat: his ability to create a product/form of art has zero to do with his personality or characteristics, but the latter is what is being repeatedly excused.

                By the way, tons of other devs (all human, by the way) manage to succeed and thrive in the same “toxic environment” that broke down poor Phil. All the apologia over his continual lack of professionalism has become nauseating, and you’ll have to excuse me if my sympathy isn’t running rampant. To his credit I’ll say that he realized he couldn’t deal with the public in a suitable manner and made a tactical retreat. Its probably the best thing he could’ve done…other than continuing to make games I guess.

                To a more constructive point that isn’t potentially setting off mean-person trigger warnings in the feel-good crowd:

                I enjoyed the article, and it puts how I’ve felt about Indie Gaming prima donnas into perspective succinctly. Those that can’t thrive, integrate, or create meaningful works within an exclusionary social or economic framework will create their own setting where those works can be produced, but too often they fall prey to the same thoughtless patterns of elitism as those they once hated. Nose upturned and all. All creative circles have them (photography in particular has dealt with “no girls allowed” bullshit and other clique-y nonsense in recent history) to some degree. The best thing the more sensitive Indie Devs can do, and mainstream studios like EA/Bioware, is be receptive to criticism and “ill-will” without letting it consume them. As sad as it is to say, a suitable thickness of skin is a necessary evil when dealing with such a highly visible and publicized venue as modern video game development.

  9. messofanego says:

    I registered for a WordPress account just to say, this article is great and a good cautionary tale of what happens when us fans can get too insular.

  10. It’s our best-kept secret: we all play AAA games. And get a couple drinks in us, and we’ll admit to digging the ride.

    • Of course you do. To make games you have to play games. To make music you have to listen to music. To write books you have to read books. In all cases, you can only benefit from playing/listening/reading as widely as possible. Why limit your experience to a tiny niche?

      For a player, too, why rule out potentially great experiences just because they have a high budget, a famous name or popularity? It makes no sense.

  11. Great article and there are a lot of varied points coming at this from numerous angles.

    As a developer, I find it increasingly frustrating to deal with the fact that those “egotistical fart-sniffers” get a tremendous amount of free publicity/press with their behavior.

    Deep down, I am probably as egotistical as many/most of those other developers. I honestly and truly believe Frogdice’s latest games are light years better than a lot of games out there selling 10 times as many games, getting Greenlit on Steam, etc. But I generally keep that to myself because I think it is pretty lame to say such things openly (NOTE: That even when I hint at it here, I won’t go into specifics at all, because that’s just rude imho).

    So what are my choices?

    1) Betray my personal ethos of trying to be a respectful, generally nice person who avoids trashing other people’s work publicly.

    2) Be a huge asshole publicly to generate more press for our games and sell more copies.

    Those are sucky choices.

    I wish the mainstream gaming media would stop giving those “egotistical fart-sniffers” so much attention. That alone would either curb it or at least curb the perception of it.

    NOTE: Our beloved IGC is one of the few who does *NOT* give such people piles of clickbait attention. That’s one of the reason she’s so awesome. It is all about merit here. Your game is either fun or it isn’t. Your opinions are either intelligent/clever or they aren’t. That’s how you get attention.

  12. Wow this article nails it. Great job

  13. Jeff Duff says:

    Great editorial! I’m not that familiar with the indie scene, but I wonder how many indie devs think their game can’t do no wrong. That’s probably apart of the “Indie Bubble” too.

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  16. This is a really well written piece, and you make an excellent point. I think many artistic communites suffer from this kind of insular introspection, where it’s easy to believe that what’s inside the circle is unique and special and those outside of it cannot possibly understand the genius. Most people would love for their work to be appreciated–even bought–and many dream of making a living from it, but of course once you make it, there are those who feel you no longer have a place in the circle… the myth of the struggling, misunderstood yet noble artist has a strong hold on our collective subconscious, it seems.

    • “myth of the struggling, misunderstood yet noble artist has a strong hold on our collective subconscious, it seems.”

      Indeed it does, and dare I say, the starving artist label is a badge of prestige in some circles. Maybe even the aloof, misunderstood artist is as well. And although I personally don’t get it, I think I can see why some would see the appeal in those. The sense of belonging, especially if you never have before, is hypnotic.

  17. nobodieshero says:

    Is this supposed to be ironic? You Elitist are pretentious douchebags! You Elitist writers sure get a lot of hits from calling everyone else douchebags!

    This is what you sound like “I know everybody in the industry and I’m so cool… me me me me me me me me.. You are all douchebags, now read me… Roar”

    Ok maybe the roar was just me being all giggly for my own silly needs but… hahahahahaha

  18. Indie games won’t save the Wii U. However, I think indie games on the Wii U could be lucrative, as Wii U owners will want to play something in between the big Nintendo titles (because lets face it, the Wii U is dead when it comes to 3rd party AAA games)

    I still want one for a couple of games like Mario Kart 8, Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze and the upcoming Yoshi game.

  19. Pingback: The Beginner’s Guide | Indie Gamer Chick

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