After spending enough tuition to start a business, and securing an alternative path into some Gaming Development Cacophony tickets, you finally step into the sacred halls of your digital forebears. Gaming saints and villains alike have tread the gaudy carpet of the San Francisco, make sure you wear wool socks and rub them against the fibers- you too can attain mystical powers of business development and one-hit-wonders.
But hey, what gives? You went to the largest most influential gaming event of the world and all you have to show is some deflated expectations embodied by yet one more used-up hall pass. Where’s the success? The inspiration? The connections? The network? The publishing contracts?
There has been a lot of uproar lately over the proposal to develop an alternative to the premiere prosocial event we all know and love. The idea is to set up a fun career mausoleum in everyone’s favorite metaphysical rat infested theme park arcology in an attempt to increase accessibility and offer a more diverse range of icebergs to walk your ambitions into. Alas, the pesky contrarian masses shout out from the rooftops on how troublesome this is, after all, Ratopia is known for contributing an array of sociopolitical issues surrounding intellectual property and popular moving-picture-vision franchises
Our working class heroes yell out in unison, “Support local! Attend your nearest park full of buggy builds housed in crumbling laptops! Use some sticks and twine to put on our OWN game designer cavalcade! We can’t possibly reinforce the agenda of The Man, he hates us!”
Suddenly, a rumbling begins underfoot, and the massive looming pyramid of death over San Francisco vanishes in a puff of smoke. Our corporate foes are vanquished, it was just That Easy.
For many of our readers, it is obviously unnecessary to explain the myriad reasons why there is so much difficulty in forming federated networks of ethical colleagues in our pursuit of the arts. Numerous hurdles lay before us both financial or in the form of social capital, with many of us unable to even simply dream of a day where we have the time to organize our own art galleries with blackjack and adoring twee mascots.
Venues, popular support, connections, even having a talent pool to draw on are all obstacles which face especially the most rural locales hoping to be the new home of ‘The Scene’. It’s a conundrum that seems so facile when one reflects on the gigantic superpyramid floating over San Francisco that offers us a global wish granter, an easy solution to all of our problems if we could just stop being so lazy and cough up the cost of entry.
After all, what can you, one puny individual, do that could ever hope to offer the same level of opportunity that the overbearing, omnipotent and importantly capricious geometric menace might maybe, sometime, someday choose to bestow upon One Lucky Person?
The answer is a lot, but none of it is simple to deploy or establish, and it may very well take years for groups to organize and put together. Where should we put our very *own* pyramid of doom, perhaps in your back yard? Maybe we should put it in that strange Leaf Country? Maybe we should put it in Europe next to all the other equally established geometric structures, after all, who doesn’t love Brutalism?
The trick is, Dear Reader, that we should strongly reconsider our notions of what it is to be successful, and what exactly that entails. We have spent nearly twenty years aspiring to be crowned Indie Nobility, hoping that the gloomy trapezoid will finally recognize our years of blood, sweat, tears, and terrifying feats of logistical risk taking, giving us the recognition we fail to grant ourselves.
Will it really fulfill you to become famous? Wealthy beyond your dreams? How will you even leverage that power? Would you put it back into the communities you came from, or establish new ones on the unseen frontiers of the digital landscape? What if singular success is unsustainable?
It is time to grow past our frustratingly juvenile conceptions of what it means to finally ‘make it’, and instead progress towards a more sustainable model of being. Our planet, in literally many ways, cannot take any more selfish exploitation done without the foresight to elevate more than just ourselves or the people closest to us. In order to do this, we will have to recognize the complicit role we play in this abstract theater of leisure-crafting, to examine how we contribute to the endless human suffering behind and in front of the scenes. Crunch, self-devaluation, the cruel spectacle of undermining our colleagues, the ways we shame our future compatriots guilty of nothing more than being a student and daring to dream, the interns who bring us coffee, the publishers who stand guard over the vast gates that keep us from increased visibility.
That isn’t to say that some individuals don’t have more opportunity to change the status quo than others, there are many throughout both the publishing sector and at the top who understand why this pageantry fails the industry and leaves us worse for wear. We try, in fact, every year at the Sad Meetup Of Dejected Story Spinners to present our hard won knowledge in hopes that we, too, may enter our legacy into the lottery of Supremely Recognized Wisdom through a strange ritual known as ‘talks’ as if that’s something we don’t already do enough of.
The reason many already existing local events fail us, and fail the regions they take root in is that those who have benefited from the existing superstructure often feel at a loss of how to be involved. When you have spent your adult life running a gauntlet of corporate trauma, it’s difficult to muster up the energy to do ground-level outreach at the very desolate places that served the motivation to make you flee them before you “made it”. Why should we return when we earned this?
Those of us with the ability to do something must survey and inventory the options at our disposal, the ways in which we can slowly nudge these gloomy monuments off a cliff into the ocean of equality. Those with presence should do exactly that, be present, those with the power to invest should seek out the ways in which they can invest in the under-represented underdogs without exploiting them. The scribes, most importantly of all, should make it their mission to chronicle the journey, lives, and lofty ambitions of those who dare to stand up and take the risks in the face of the impossible- those who actualize their visions for the sake of expressing a story worth telling or a work worth showing. Many rely on us, the journalists, the streamers, the media to do so, to elevate them beyond the socioeconomic confines of modern woes, to meet them half-way through the signal-to-noise and aid them in helping themselves.
What the small communities across the globe need and demand above all is simply someone to listen, to attend, to offer resources without stripping them of their dignity and agency. They do not want conquerors, or crafty salespeople to drench them in buzzwords like synergy, they want partners, mentors, and guidance towards realizing their own destinies.
In our quest to feel important, to earn our well-deserved slice of the big meaty pie, we have left so many behind in terms of education, free resources, and the ability to even connect with us. It is no surprise that many of them would turn to the Great Battle Royale in San Francisco to have any chance at progressing their projects. There are certainly healthy examples of different conferences to find out there, AMAZE is definitely one that comes to mind.
It doesn’t matter what level of the social strata you find yourself occupying, there is always a way to contribute something other than blithe quips and one-off critiques of the ways in which people are already trying to solve the problem. It is in our best interests, even in the corporate sphere, to collaborate and interconnect with a diverse range of professionals of all scales to ensure our industry has a healthy, happy, sustainable future. To spend more time listening, instead of spending it being heard, to reach out to the places most unlikely to yield results for our benefit in order to craft opportunity. We will never find joy and validation of the bottom of a loot crate, and we will certainly never find it at the foot of the grand design sepulchre.
Don’t support local, participate in it. If you have the means, the reach, the clout, the brand, the success: entrench yourself within everyone’s ‘local’, observe, listen, and ask how you can help. Don’t presume, communicate. Whatever you do: don’t brush off the possibilities, because with every nay-saying cynical take issued on our favorite bird-noise platform, we only contribute more to the size of the local brutalist necropolis.
We will happily retweet and promote lofty memes of reformed agriculture or mainstream consumer culture, why can we not do the same for the practical initiatives waiting right behind us for our involvement? Enough is enough, it’s time to open your doors to your professional neighbors and get antiquated fast if we have any hope of changing the future for the better, to grow our community in the shape of our most benevolent desires for creative harmony.
Emily Rose is an indie developer who writes for rebind.io and resides in the pacific northwest. She’s often seen in the local VR arcade and developer community participating in pushing the medium’s horizons. You can find her on twitter @caravanmalice