So, just yesterday, Jeff Vogel wrote a long post on his blog about how there are too many Indie Games. And yes, this may sound like he’s just doing what he did in his thread but… no, it’s worse? I had this whole post planned a while ago where I wanted to detail what Jeff is actually trying to say and why his argumentation is flawed. This post that he just published does detail further meant, meaning that my drafted post is unnecessary. Today, though, I’ll talk about why his argumentation is flawed. Jeff Vogel himself is a veteran Indie Dev that has been at it for years. In a GDC talk, he said himself that he’s been “doing this for so long that he published remakes of remakes of his games”, which says something about him as a creator, I guess. He’s very passionate and dedicated but while I do respect him as a developer, I just dislike his tone and the way he phrases things. While a lot of his post has somewhat ableist undertones, I’m sure he’s probably still a cool developer. I just don’t really respect him all that much because of his absurd take on the issue because games and content creation and art aren’t the problems. The problem is society/the government.
Edit: This post here is meant to be a reply to Jeff’s post. It’s not meant to be an “ad hominem” or an insult or anything like that. Everyone is allowed to have their own opinions on things, even if it’s unpopular, wrong or a bad take. Freedom of Speech, however, doesn’t equal Freedom of Consequences, which is why I’m making this post. As a consequence of Jeff’s post, I’m replying to it, commenting on what he talks about, and calling him out on phrasing things in a borderline ableist manner.
Anyway,… Jeff’s argumentation goes as follows:
- A lot of Indie Games get published every year and the number increases non-stop. The numbers are “absurd”.
- If someone wants to create games for a living, tell them not to do it. “Shove [that chart] in the kid’s face” and tell them off. If they want to do this, “you have a moral obligation to do this”. “They need to be warned.”
- “It’s not just video games, of course.” Examples: 60,000 new songs a day on Spotify, millions of books on Amazon, 550 scripted TV shows in production in the U.S.
- Why create in the face of such mountains of unwanted content?
- “If society produces nothing but dysfunction and art, it has a problem.”
- The world will tell us soon enough that it’s time to stop.
I highlighted the points that I agree with btw. As you can see, it’s the latter two points. Everything else is redundant and unnecessary and I find it troublesome that you’d write such a long post instead of doing something for the greater good when your whole point is that people do unnecessary things instead of charity. It feels hypocritical and while Jeff admits that he’s part of the problem (he’s been developing games for 30 years now after all), he doesn’t bring a solution.
Jeff’s whole point is that society has an issue but the angle that he approaches this discussion is wrong and faulted. He argues that the issues are caused by the heaps of “unwanted content” when that’s not really the case. He kind of implies that most games are created in America, which isn’t the case, and he implies that he’s good if he generalizes this issue while keeping to his niche and the things he knows. Jeff knows about America and he knows about Indie Games, so he talks primarily sticks to a discussion around America and Indie Games, but the way he does it is so general and unapplicable that it turns out to be wrong.
When you try to argue or to point something out, you should maybe start with the status quo and talk about the mechanism that leads to society’s doom. “If we don’t change our ways, society will collapse and thousands of game devs and content creators will have to get a ‘real’ job” would be better than to say that people go into debt to go to college. I don’t think there are that many people that create games after going to college. Most people that try creating a game will most likely head to YouTube where they find dozens of free tutorials on Unity and the like.
The issue that we have in society is that most societies don’t care if we die. First world countries will milk us for tax money to fund big projects like building a highway but the maintenance of those projects also swallows more money and without the necessary workers or funds, there will be holes in those highways, bridges and buildings. As Jeff rightfully so points out, nobody wants to become a construction worker because it’s hard physical labour. Nobody wants to do that if they don’t have to. If we want more people to become construction workers, we should give these people a reason to become construction workers. That reason needs to outweigh the “it’s hard physical labour” argument that speaks against becoming construction workers. To fill those holes in the street, we need to get people to do it. Jeff says that people need to do it instead of creating Art – which is the wrong approach to this discussion. Instead of creating games that not many people know about for 30 years, how many holes could Jeff had filled in that time? This is a stupid argument but it’s kind of the way Jeff argues. You can boil down his argumentation to “Instead of making games nobody cares about, do something useful” which is bad.
Here in Germany, there are a lot of old people and we need more people to take care of those. Caretakers are incredibly understaffed and their pay is often not enough to justify them living in cities where they work. Munich is a very expensive city and even if you live on the outskirts of that city, you’ll have to pay lots of money for your rent. Even the smallest apartment there costs more than I get per month. A caretaker that needs to work in Munich won’t be able to afford some of these places. If we want more people to become caretakers, we should give that job benefits like tax reductions or compensation that helps them with their living costs (rent, food, car fuel, public transport, etc.). By giving them benefits, we get to plug the holes that our society has.
The other solution to the issue is outsourcing. I come from a wine region and some vinyards there would outsource to Romania to have them come over to harvest the grapes. Why? Because it’s cheap, probably, but also because there were not enough people in my hometown to do the work required. If you don’t have enough people that are interested in the job, get people from other countries to do it. After wars, there have been guest workers. Why can’t we hire more guest workers or economic refugees to do the jobs we need when we cross that bridge?
Content creation (like my streams and my blog) and other forms of expression are incredibly important. Jeff opposes that because it’s “dysfunctional” and “absurd”, as he says, but as he points out, it keeps the suicide rates low. How do we survive in a society that doesn’t care about us? How can we survive in a society doing our day jobs and living from day to day or from paycheck to paycheck without doing anything for ourselves? I write blog posts because I like doing it. Yes, I get views and yes, some people have said that they enjoy my posts, but primarily, I do it for myself. Even if nobody reads my posts, they are still helping me not kill myself. If someone wants to create art, it’s not useless or meaningless because it creates meaning for them. What Jeff doesn’t understand is that not all games are created in America and that not everyone does it for a living. A lot of people create games on Steam, itch.io, etc. as a hobby after their day jobs. Maybe Jeff doesn’t understand because he himself created games for 30+ years as a job but not everything is about money.
All in all, Jeff’s post sounds like the works of a hypocrite who’d rather clickbait people into an ableist post instead of actually talking about the issue. It’s not about games and it’s not about art, it’s about society. So let’s stop trying to trigger people with edgy takes like “you’ll suffer in despair if you try playing one per cent of the games that come out” and instead, let’s focus on the issue at hand. A math teacher of mind used to say (nearly ten years ago at this point) “If you wanna call your child for dinner, give them a name first” which doesn’t translate too well into English but you get the idea. If you wanna talk about this issue that you observed, Jeff, then maybe stop trying to bait people into the post with different expectations. Stop trying to get people upset at you by saying that what they create is meaningless when you’ve been essentially developing the same game over and over again for the past few decades. Instead, talk about what the issue is and maybe name a solution.
Either way, I didn’t want to publish the initial post that I had planned because it was too long and frankly, irrelevant. After a week, people forgot already that Jeff existed, so why direct more traffic to him than needed. After this post by him though, I figured it’d be only fair to voice my opinion on the matter because it really isn’t about Indie Games, even if his post implies exactly that, weirdly enough. It’s about society as a whole and it’s about an issue that we may have to address in the future. That issue, however, isn’t solved by having people stop creating art. It’s solved by tackling the issue. We don’t build a bridge by sinking a ship, after all. We first lay the groundwork and then actually get to constructing it. Hope you enjoyed this one.
Edit: Substack user “Tag, Mann” replied to Jeff’s post with a series of very well-written points, further rebutting his post. If you want to see that, scroll down to the comment section of Jeff’s post or check out this screenshot here! Definitely worth a try! Thanks, Krikket, for pointing out this comment.
This post was first published on Indiecator by Dan Indiecator aka MagiWasTaken. If you like what you see here and want to see more, you can check me out on Twitch and YouTube as well. If you find this post on a website other than Indiecator.org, please write an e-mail to me. Thank you!
I usually like Jeff’s writing, but this time I think he’s way off, to the point where I’m suspicious if maybe he isn’t doing it for publicity? Not sure. Anyway, one very fundamental problem is – you just can’t predict where the next really good game will come from. Not necessarily most commercially successful, but the next one I will particularly love. Or you. Or someone with issues, that really needs it.
In the absence of a big brother deciding which games should be made, whose tastes exactly match my own… he’s just wrong on this one. In fact, even if such a magical filter guy did exist, how could he or she possibly know how a game is going to turn out, before it has been written? I just don’t believe Jeff is serious here. Too many basic logic flaws.
If I were to get motivated and spend a bunch of time writing a little game using Unity or whatever, and it didn’t sell, how would that be anyone else’s problem but mine? It may not even be a problem from my point of view – perhaps it would be a good learning experience, about any number of things!
I sort of hope this doesn’t end up biting him on the ass too badly, as he’s normally a pretty good guy. Troll isn’t a good look.
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Honestly, I enjoyed his talk at the GDC (I watched the video a while back, I wasn’t there) and I respect him for being an Indie Dev for so long. I just don’t like his overall tone in this instance. I wrote about it before but his whole debate about gatekeeping Indie Games is all over the place. Like, he talks about how there’s too much Art and how people should name a number at what point it is too much. When they say there is no such number, he’d go and mock them for saying that “all art is valuable” which they didn’t say. It’s weird and could be just some weird fit of his that he committed to much to. Either way, I knew that it’d be about economy judging from his arguments but the Indie Game part didn’t make sense in the argumentation and then he released this and it’s borderline ableist and at a lot of points just incredibly bad. I wonder what he’d say to my post here.
So, yeah, I agree that he’s probably a good guy usually but this one is just this one opinion or piece or viewpoint that he made and that he doubled down on but it probably will ruin his reputation a fair bit, even if his games aren’t bad. I played Geneforge 1 – Mutagen’s demo the other day and it was quite a lot of fun even with its flaws here and there. I may even write about it… but it’s just a shame that he doubled down on this weird take right here.
Either way, John, thanks for commenting! Completely agree that the idea of this “big brother” is (with Jeff’s words) “absurd” (he likes that word after all) and that it wouldn’t work. Itch.io and Steam don’t have many barriers for games, so it’s a great way to find the new hit! Be it Loop Hero, Vampire Survivors or Leaf Me Alone.