Go Read This Verge Article About Indie Games and Money

We were going to have a guest post today, but it looks like it’s going to run next week instead—so in lieu of writing something substantive myself, I’m going to suggest you read Lewis Gordon’s Indie Game Makers Open Up About the Money They Actually Make.

The lucky ones are able to make a living from their work but often carry deep funding worries. Others supplement game making with side hustles or entirely avoid the pressure of financial success by making games in their spare time while building other, potentially more stable careers.

You already know that I loved playing Arvi Teikari’s Baba Is You, so I hoped he would be one of the indie game makers quoted—and he is.

I was working on Baba Is You an unhealthy amount. For me, the dynamic was very often my day job, and then when I got home, I relaxed by working on Baba Is You.

Which… on the one hand, that’s kind of how the creative process goes, especially for the significant percentage of people who don’t earn a full-time living from their creative work (no matter how popular or highly regarded). You might remember me writing about how work-life balance for creative types is more like work-work-life.

On the other hand, it would be nice if it didn’t have to be that way. Or if the third-party services through which we purchase these creative endeavors didn’t keep changing the game (PUN INTENDED) on all of us. Apparently indies on Steam are making less money than they used to, thanks to THE ALGORITHM; meanwhile, new subscription models mean individual creators get less money, and so on and so on and so on.

Anyway… go read it, and feel free to share your thoughts and/or your favorite indie games in the comments! Currently I am playing Cosmic Express, a sokoban-esque game about space stations, cute alien critters, and the inefficiencies of public transportation. ❤️

What Baba Is You Taught Me About Writing

So I beat the puzzle game Baba Is You this weekend, after 72 hours of moving text blocks around to create sentences that would allow… well, here’s the trailer, this game’s kind of hard to explain:

Anyway, there was this moment yesterday afternoon when I realized exactly how all of the words and elements on the screen would be manipulated to solve the final puzzle (which I’d been working on for about four days at that point, since you had to solve a bunch of smaller sub-puzzles to get access to the movable components of the large one), and I was like ooooh this is a great ending, it was invisible until just this moment but it makes perfect sense.

Which is kind of how you want to construct a story, right?* With an ending that isn’t so obvious that you spot it right away (because otherwise it’s less about interacting with the words and more about already knowing where they’re going to go, so you might as well get through them as quickly as possible) but also fits perfectly with everything you’ve experienced thus far.

Invisible and then inevitable.

So… I mean, of course I’m thinking about how to apply all of this to NEXT BOOK, because at this point the revision process feels very much like playing a video game, in that I’m solving the puzzle of “how do I make this scene communicate what it needs to communicate” and then I’m instantly checking the walkthrough to make sure I didn’t miss anything important (or, in some cases, to help me figure out where to go next).

Right now, for example, my to-do list includes “revise Lovelace scene” for Monday (which I did), “revise Trudy scene” for Tuesday, and “review/rework plot doc” for Wednesday. From there, I’ll figure out which scene (or puzzle) to approach next.

This may be because I’ve set this book up to have a handful of BIG MOMENTS where PIECES GET PUSHED INTO PLACE and CHARACTERS UNLOCK NEW INFORMATION, like, I’m not saying that all books have to be written this way, but for better or worse I’ve started writing a book that begins with a character finding a door that leads into another world and ends with something that I hope will be invisible for most of the story and then inevitable.

I am still not sure, by the way, whether this book will be any good. But if I end up putting five hours a week of writing time into something that only turns out to be practice for the NEXT next book, that’s still fine.

After all, I just put 72 hours (over the past three months) into a puzzle game, and even though you could call that “wasted time,” it ended up teaching me something new. ❤️

*Yes, I know that we also come to stories because we know how they end and we want to experience the emotions the story engenders in us. In this case I’m referring to stories where we don’t already know the plot—and yes, that includes all of us going into something like Oedipus Rex completely blind, PUN INTENDED. (Yes, “everyone in Greece knew the story of Oedipus which is why it’s a perfect example of Aristotelian catharsis” or whatever, but they still had to hear the story for the first time at some point.)