The Indie Ethics Problem

The Indie Ethics Problem Inflammatory pullquote: "We will still be talking about Minecraft in ten years, but we won’t be talking about games like Super Meat Boy in one year. Why? Because Minecraft was developed with the care and love that comes with slow and incremental design that emerged over years; it did not rely upon self-promotion. People love Minecraft because of the breadth and depth of its gameplay, not because of a superficial retroesque charm… such as the meaningless gameplay of Super Meat Boy."

  1. I’m not sure what problem the writer is struggling against, exactly. Is the core issue here that self-promotion is causing some games to be overrated/overexposed out of proportion to the writer’s judgement of their inherent quality-level? He doesn’t include any examples of games he thinks deserve more exposure than they’ve received, so there’s not a coherent “self-promotion is crowding out those who instead put all their energies into making a brilliant game” argument. I guess this is just advice to indie devs to focus on the work, then? That maybe Fez could have been released in half the time if they didn’t spend so much energy talking to the public/press?

    He bolds the second sentence here:

    When I get a request to review/promote a game, even if it is heartfelt and personal, my interest immediately sinks. People like me who write about games are not interested in being used as extensions of the advertising industry; asking me to promote your game is a very good way of alienating me from your creation.

    Maybe he’s just not being specific enough about what sort of contact bothers him? I mean, any small game he’s heard of is ultimately due to the developer telling someone to check it out. Maybe when you run a games blog you’re inundated with PR-speak emails and this is really about that?

  2. The premise here is problematic, and a bit arrogant. “You developers just worry about your game, and I’ll worry about finding it and promoting it for you.” Please. Self-promotion is the only way that any small game is going to get noticed. If that makes you uncomfortable, tough. He also makes a lot of assumptions about developers that self-promote – mainly that they are egotistic, money-grubbing hacks. Yeah. That’s a great way to endear yourself to the indie community. I’m sure there are valid ethical questions to be discussed in relation to marketing and promotion, but they are not being discussed in this article.

  3. These seem like the problems any niche hobby faces as it tries to translate itself to a larger market; he’s really lamenting the fact that personal trust networks don’t scale well to large communities (if one can even term ‘indie gamers’ as a community in any real sense).

    Or: he’s upset that some people are making games to make money, rather than for some nobler, higher purpose:

    Indie developers have to stop thinking with dollar signs in their eyes…and start thinking about whether their game even deserves to be promoted at all.

    Yes, you should certainly not try to make money off off your efforts! That would be terrible. There is also a false implication behind it that time spend promoting a game is time spent not developing a game — that it’s a zero-sum race to the finish. But that’s not how most work goes; most work comes at a varied pace. You might crank out twenty productive hours today and be exhausted tomorrow. Why not spend that time emailing a few bloggers?

    lholladay said : I’m sure there are valid ethical questions to be discussed in relation to marketing and promotion, but they are not being discussed in this article.  

    I don’t think it’s stated clearly (or necessarily valid), but I think his argument is essentially that some ‘indie devs’ are leveraging their social network of other developers/journalists/players to ‘undeservedly’ make money and/or get broader press attention (and thereby indirectly make money). But those networks — of bloggers, of dev forums, of public events — were never designed as money-making ventures; they were designed for artistic sharing. The clearest example of this is the offhand note about Phil Fish entering the IGF two years in a row, having already won once (and netting a $30,000 prize) — something that was technically legal, but that many people had presumed would not happen. A gentlemen’s agreement being violated, in other words.

  4. I just finished reading this article and too had mixed feelings about it. Then I read the comments and the continued discussion about what Chris had written and Chris’ response to them and closed the page feeling pretty okay with the whole thing :)

Sorry, comments are closed for this post.

Spacechimp thinks you might also like...

Skip to toolbar

What Is Gamefilter?

Gamefilter is a community weblog based in spirit and intent on the great work of Matt Haughey and his staff at Metafilter. It's all about sharing links to interesting stuff on the web, but with a narrower focus on gaming-related links -- good stuff that other people might not have already seen -- and talking about them.

Anyone can join for the low low price of zero dollars, and once you're a member, you have the senses-shattering power to post new stuff right from the front end of the site, and talk about that stuff in the comment threads. You don't need an account to read GFi, but as well as giving you The Power To Post, membership also lets you

  • Thank and Favorite all the goodness
  • Build a profile page with all your stuff in one convenient place
  • Send private messages and friend/follow your favorite GFites and their unstoppable Gfiltering style
  • Feel the warm glow of satisfaction in helping grow the community
  • Do all sorts of other neat things, both now and coming in the future!

Gamefilter is part of the growing MefightClub Network of sites, including our forum home, MefightClub itself, FullGlassEmptyClip, our group blog, and Ludic Research Labs, who are a bunch of bastards.

Your genial host is stavrosthewonderchicken, the miraculous poultry who built and administers the MFC Network sites, and a bunch of other web stuff as well. He has a minor addiction to building websites. He loves you all.