Tales of the Rampant Coyote

Adventures in Indie Gaming!

Personal Relationships with the Audience

Posted by Rampant Coyote on February 17, 2016

I’ve recently noticed that about half of the video games I play and the books I read are written by people I am personally acquainted with. Maybe not close friends – in some cases they are just people I’m Facebook friends with, or who I’ve exchanged emails or forum posts with, or who I’ve chatted with a few times as conventions. In some cases, they are quite close friends whom I have known for years.

Vampire_The_Masquerade_Redemption_CoverNow, this is probably not surprising to anybody except myself. After all, I’m in these fields, and that’s who I meet. I remember wondering just how biased I was in liking Vampire the Masquerade: Redemption because a couple of friends of mine that I hung out with at the Game Developers Conference had formed the company that made it. I still maintain that the opening chapter in Prague was one of the most amazingly realized settings and moods in a game ever, especially for the time period.

I think there’s more to it than just being “in the field,” though. With expanded communication and less monolithic industries, the modern era is one in which people are have (and expect) more access and relationships with the artists creating their entertainment. This is no doubt terrifying to some authors who may have pursued the profession specifically to hide in their caves, their own personal fortress of introversion. The J.D. Salingers of the world may face a tougher time of it.

I certainly haven’t restricted myself in any way because of this, but it’s (usually) a nice bonus. There are downsides, of course. Even before reaching the levels of Stephen King’s Misery, there’s a point where customers feel entitled to the artist’s time and attention, to the exclusion of the many, many other fans and friends and… well, time producing. But this is a problem in every industry, not just creative ones. There’s always that one guy

And then there are times when I love the work, but don’t care so much for the creator, and vice-versa. That’s gotta be okay with people. It is with me – the person behind the work has to be a pretty big douchebag for it to detract from my enjoyment of their work. But then, I generally like people. I know not everyone feels this way, and that can get difficult. And yes, it’s always disappointing when a friend really doesn’t care for your creative work. In my opinion, both of these risks (as a creator) are preferable to being boring.

I guess it can play hell with pen names, too…

But overall, I think the pros greatly outweigh the cons. For one thing, it’s been a great pathway to discovery for me. I’ve found some extremely fun, entertaining works that I might never have stumbled across otherwise because I met someone cool at a con, or came across their blog, or started chatting with them in a forum or on Twitter.

I was also the guy who liked to read the album liner notes and the artist bios and who listened to the commentary track on DVDs. I always wanted to know more about the guys and gals responsible for those things that emotionally or intellectually moved me. Even better than that is to get to know them personally, if only on a very casual, poorly-remembered way. That human connection is big, and it usually enhances the experience for me.

It’s advantageous both ways. Having a real, direct connection back to their audience is HUGE for most artists. Having worked in mainstream games, I remember how hard it was to understand exactly what players were saying, trying to create something for an unknown audience. Sure, there are stages where working in a vacuum can be advantageous, but I feel that the role of the artist / creator is to make something FOR OTHERS. Not everyone feels that way, but the folk I like to hang out with do. It’s a service. It really helps to have a personal connection with your audience and really understand them so you can better serve them.

Filed Under: Biz, Books, Geek Life, Indie Evangelism - Comments: Read the First Comment

  • McTeddy said,

    For the Cards of Cthulhu expansion I actually brought in members of the BGG playerbase to help me design it.

    I’m as introverted as can be, but that was awesome. Interact with people who have strong feelings about my work, positive or negative… it’s just so rewarding.

    My stupidly introverted nature means I spend hours crying in a small corner afterwards but it’s worth it.