I’ve been on a pretty bad string of luck for, oh… I’d say for the last 10 years or so. I’ve worked on many failed prototypes throughout my career but frankly those are meant to fail early and often. Where the wound cuts deep is when you build something that you truly believe in and it barely makes a ripple. It hurts when you agonize over every insignificant detail of your passion project, over the course of many years of your life, and your efforts are judged and cast aside in 2 minutes or less.
I am reminded of the Breakfast Club, when everyone is comparing their terrible parents but are suddenly quieted when the character Allison Reynolds says, “They ignore me.” The cigar burns, the verbally abuse father, the princess who just wanted to be herself, they all paled in comparison to the quiet girl who was ignored by the only thing in this world that was biologically designed to love her. This is the life of a game developer, specifically the life of an indie game developer.
I’ve been an indie developer for many years now, officially for nearly a decade. I used to work on a popular sports game, and I even spread my wings into the world of MMO. I later made a bold choice to leave the mainstream industry and go “indie”. It has been a struggle ever since, and though I have had the freedom to create the games I want, I have found that what I consider enjoyable in games is a striking minority to the rest of the gaming population. Nothing that I have done on my own has ever really made much of a ripple. Retribution is easily my most polished released title and has received much more attention than any of my previous works. And still, Retribution is very much dead on arrival. I have some hope for the PC version, but I am questioning a lot of things from input mechanics to pricing models. Right now it feels anything I do is probably going to be a wrong decision.
When you reach a certain age you start to count the number of games you still have left to make. We struggle to achieve our own kind of greatness in the entirety of our short lives, but the fact is that for every winner there is a legion of losers in his/her wake. Some people are blessed with success after success and I couldn’t be more happy for those people. We see them in the game magazines and we play their games; we strive to work just as hard and think that somehow the cards will fall the same for us but the world doesn’t work like that. Any one of us can repeat the exact steps that led to the successes of our greatest idols, and the most likely outcome is that nothing will happen for you like it did for them. You have to carve your own path, find your own way for the world to notice you.
Carving your own path means that not everyone will understand you. Certainly not everyone will appreciate you. Above all, not everyone will like you or the vision you have, and most will never know that you existed. I am “thirty something” and still learning to cope with these facts. I’ve lived my entire life, since childhood, chasing the vague ambition of leaving my mark before my time has passed. I don’t know that I’ll ever reach greatness but I will continue to try as long as I have the heart to move on and an ounce of pride left in me.
There is still time. I don’t want to be famous, I just want to be acknowledged. If I am lucky, I might be remembered…