Tales of the Rampant Coyote

Adventures in Indie Gaming!

Game Development Quote of the Week – On How to Measure Success

Posted by Rampant Coyote on January 17, 2014

This one comes from over twenty years ago, from the pages of Compute! Magazine. This was in an era when video games (particularly computer games) were almost but not quite the big business they are today, and were still being made by small teams that would often be considered “indie” today.

“You can’t concern yourselves with what will be a hit or what will be commercial, because that will kill your art. You have to care about what you yourself care about and enjoy in a game, and then create a game that embodies that.

“Just because you aren’t as rich as some other gamewright doesn’t mean you’ve failed. That’s the way Bill Gates keeps score, not the way artists keep score. You have to measure your success by the way your audience responds to your games. No matter how small that audience is, it’s yours. Your game is part of the lives and memories of these people in the way that WordPefect or Lotus 1-2-3 or Windows can never be.” – Orson Scott Card, Compute! Magazine, October 1992.

Funny how dated the references are to WordPerfect and Lotus 1-2-3, yet many of us here remember Card’s contributions to The Secret of Monkey Island (the insult sword fighting) quite well. (“You fight like a dairy farmer!”) It’s equally funny (in a sad way) how the mainstream games industry seems to have rejected this message completely, until the indies started shocking them with “niche” success.

But indies are no less immune to the pressures of the marketplace. We all need to eat and pay rent / mortgage. Even as a part-time indie who doesn’t depend on game sales for my livelihood, it’s a pressure. I mean, let’s face it… I think it would be nice to be able to drive a car that wasn’t built in the last millennium. Maybe one day, if my next game sells a lot better… 🙂   Having a better budget on the next game highly desirable.

But why do we do this? If it was really for the money, I’d do far better off picking up a part-time gig at McDonald’s. Minimum wage sounds awfully nice these days for supplemental income. But ultimately, I do it because I love games. I love playing them, I love making them, and I love sharing what I make with others. That’s gotta be what it’s about in the end. We gotta make the games we wanna make, not the ones that are most like the “indie darlings” or what’s hot in the marketplace right now.  And yeah, that means sometimes we’re gonna make a game that’s near and dear to our heart, and very few people are going to “get it.” Sales will disappoint. But the game, if we put our passion and best effort into it, need never do so.



Filed Under: Game Development, Quote of the Week - Comments: 5 Comments to Read

  • Greg Squire said,

    I didn’t realize that Orson Scott Card wrote the sword fighting insults for Monkey Island. I knew there was a reason I like them so much. I also agree with you that you need to make a game that you’d want to play and that you feel passionate about. With that approach you’ll create something with “life” in it, and the money may follow. If you focus on making money first, then you’ll end up with a “lifeless” game that won’t capture anyone’s heart, or wallet either.

  • McTeddy said,

    I officially gave up making games a few years back. I wanted to live like a normal person and actually get paid for a change. That choice killed me.

    Turns out, making games isn’t what I do, but who I am. I love the process, the questions and that feeling when someone actually enjoys a prototype. Even the struggles that go into making a game. I really do love it.

    I’ll never be rich. I’ll never be famous. But that’s okay… I’m going to keep making games anyway.

  • Rampant Coyote said,

    I’m glad you figured that out. 🙂

    That is one real advantage to being a part-timer. Don’t think for a second that I don’t appreciate it. There’s a lot of freedom to that approach.

    Again, not that I’d MIND having Frayed Knights 2 sell a million copies. 🙂 But having that dependency can really kill the fun for you. If I was making the game I had to rather than the game I want to, I’d be doing some things very differently.

  • Cuthalion said,

    Heh. My wife and I both drive cars built in the previous millennium. 😛

    I’m proud of and satisfied with the work I’ve been doing on our game, even if it never sells any copies.

    But I hope it sells a million copies.

  • Rampant Coyote said,

    Yeah. One can hope. 🙂 It’s nice being able to write games such that selling a million isn’t a necessity.

    My wife jokes that I’m never really going to retire. I’ll probably be making games until the day I die.