For the past week or so, my headspace hasn’t been the best, as I mentioned before. These past few days, something cheered me up though: That one thread that Jeff Vogel wrote. We discussed it a lot on the Blaugust discord and it brought me tons of joy and happiness. Heck, it even sparked a new project that I’m quite excited about! Either way, I don’t want to beat a dead horse too much – or a veteran Indie Dev, for the matter. I just want to talk about expressing yourself, creating art, and whether or not there are too many Indie Games coming out.
The initial point, for context, that Jeff made was that the world doesn’t need 10k new indie games on Steam. Pointing that out apparently will make people angry. If you think that Jeff’s wrong, you’re supposed to prove it by actually trying 1% of those games, aka 100 Indie Games – which is what I’ll do and what others will do… and it will be fun. Jeff, however, doesn’t think that people could do that at all. Jeff’s thread(s) start to make less and less sense as time goes on because he is all over the place which is a bummer given that some of his games are titles that I would review myself. Geneforge, for instance, lets you create servants that will fight by your side – incredibly intriguing! I say it’s a bummer because Jeff Vogel (the founder of Indie Studio, Spiderweb Software) was a well-respected indie dev veteran in the community, apparently, until he started to trash people for making games as a form of expressing themselves…? And eventually, it just turned into a rant where he was gatekeeping indie game development and where he was questioning whether people should really take student loans to study game development.
The initial point though has some merit to it. There are a lot of games to play out there and you can’t physically play all of them within a year… but the point is that you’re not supposed to play all of them. If I go to the grocery store and I want to buy some wine, I don’t go to the wine shelves and buy one of every bottle. There are frankly too many bottles of wine there for me to drink within any given amount of time. Not every bottle is to my taste and while I don’t mind red wine, for example, I don’t like all of it. White wine is pretty darn good, in my opinion, so I know what tastes I like and what I don’t like. Given that my hometown was set in a wine region, I had to recommend wines to guests at the restaurant I worked at quite frequently. Our menu there wasn’t incredibly big but some people still got overwhelmed. If I look at a hundred bottles of wine, I may get overwhelmed as well. If I look at a thousand or ten thousand games on Steam, I’ll get overwhelmed. That’s why filters exist and that’s why reviewers/curators are so important in this industry. You frankly need to find someone out there with good taste in games that may recommend a game to you. You’ll try it out, potentially, and then you’ll find out that you really like or dislike it. Either way, it’s fine though!
When it comes to the question of whether or not people should stop making games though, I’d say no. Don’t. Do. That.
Games are an art form. Anyone that has played Journey, ABZÛ, or Unpacking can say the same. Games can create moments where you may even cry or where you get very happy for the fictional characters like I did in NieR: Replicant. Games can carry a message and tell stories and invite you into wonderful worlds – or they may just make you forget about everything going on offline. They’re frankly wonderful. In contrast to Jeff, I don’t think that there is such a thing as “too much art”. Expression of art and expression of oneself in art is such a wonderful thing. I wouldn’t know why you’d want to limit it or take it away from people. Being able to express yourself or your ideas is an amazing opportunity for some people. If you create a game, it doesn’t have to become super successful like Minecraft. No, just releasing it is already valuable as it not only adds to people’s portfolios as developers but it also could potentially create a fun time for some person out there. There is no such thing as an objective review, in my opinion. Some people will hate one game while other people will like the exact same title and that’s okay. I don’t like Rogue Legacy. Should it never have existed because I personally don’t like it? Well, of course, I’m not the one to decide that. Nobody can really decide that. I know plenty of people that liked that game for whatever reason and that’s perfectly fine.
One human’s trash is another human’s treasure, right? All art is valuable to somebody and none is of value to everybody. I doubt that there is a game with 100% positive reviews on Steam, simply for the fact that all people are different. Throughout his thread, Jeff makes the point that “there are too many Indie Games” and “At what point would you say that there are enough?” – but he doesn’t actually make a point of himself. How would you decide what to cut off and what to release? Obviously, games like “Rape Day” are banned for a reason, right, Jeff? Personally, I think it’s fine for games to be released on Steam daily. Everyone has a right to express themselves, after all.
I’d like to quote Jeff Vogel here who recently said in one of his recent blog posts:
“To be an artist is to communicate with the world. When I create, I am using my flawed, finite mind to take a picture of what the world is like. Then I share this picture with you. Hopefully, it will provide you with interest and entertainment.
But. The bar to delete something that has been created is very, very high. To erase a work of art, even a crappy one (like mine), is to steal something from humanity. Destroying art makes us all a little dumber.”
Art is a way to communicate with the world. Even if we’re flawed as human beings, we can share art with others to show them how we see the world. Isn’t that beautiful?
Erasing art, no matter how crappy it may be, is wrong. Jeff said so himself. I don’t know what happened in the few days between that post and his Twitter thread but Jeff himself is both against erasing art and for stopping the creation of art, which is just weird and mindboggling. Weirdly enough Jeff also describes Freedom of Expression as “a universal moral principle, an invaluable tool for improving human society, and, to [his] people, an unalienable right”. On Twitter, Jeff fights against the sentiment that “All Games are Art” and that expressing yourself in the form of developing games is not a form of “Freedom of Expression”. At the same time, he just said in his latest blog post that Freedom of Expression is invaluable.
I didn’t mean to go full-circle but I find that some of what Jeff says has merit. Freedom of Expression is invaluable and important… and erasing art is stupid. But then again, I don’t get how he can also disagree with himself in the same manner by declaring that there are too many Indie Games. A friend of mine compared Jeff’s thread to someone going into a kindergarten and telling people to not draw pictures anymore because they suck at art. You’d find that stupid, wouldn’t you? Why would kids stop drawing pictures just because they’re not good enough yet? Isn’t making games also a form of expressing yourself? Should you immediately stop making games just because your first game wasn’t super good? If so, why did Jeff not stop? Why did he continue? Is it because you get better as you develop and polish your skills? Is it because creating something, like a game or a blog or a piece of art, is amazing and fun? Is it because expressing yourself is a human need?
The answer to those is “yes”. You continue to do something because it’s fun or because you have to or because you want to get better at it. To answer the question as to whether or not there are too many Indie Games out there: No, absolutely not. There are not enough yet and I’m looking forward to playing more of them each year, just like before, maybe a bit more though. On top of that, while some of it has merit (as in him agreeing to Freedom of Expression and Games being Art), all of the rest of it is just him yelling at clouds and being an idiot. In this interaction here, @BrutalDoomGuy on Twitter decided to share his take on Jeff’s Thread and he practically owns Jeff which is hilarious given that Jeff is just shitting all over the board and walking away triumphantly. I don’t know why a well-established Indie Dev is so much against new Indie Games but at the same time, he’s developing the same game over and over again, so maybe he’s just upset that others try themselves at something new? Either way…
Cheers to all the Indie Devs!