Good day everybody, this is my first post so I’ll go through the customary introduction process. My name is Nathan Runge, I think that shows up somewhere, and I’m the founder of Genius Interaction, an independent ‘interactive entertainment’ developer in Australia where everything is, obviously, upside-down. You might have noticed I used the term “interactive entertainment” rather than games in that sentence. I’ll possibly address that later, but rest assured I’m not one of those horrid interactive-advertisement people, I make and love games.
Otherwise, I’m a proud non-graduate of the Queensland University of Technology’s “Bachelor of Games and Interactive Entertainment” course, and a persona non grata therein. I think I’m technically still on a leave of absence, but I can strongly advise anyone looking to enter the industry not to step foot in that place. Finally, I’m a somewhat infamous advocate for improved education, better business practices and realism in the Australian industry, in addition to the power of the medium as a form of cultural expression.
That’s me, but what’s this? Well today, ten days late due to a nasty flu, I’m going to take the opportunity, in my very first post, to suck up to the site administrators and talk-up the importance of this site. Yep, best foot forward for professional dignity. While what I just said isn’t entirely true, it’s not entirely untrue either. I want to talk about why this site, and ones like it, fill me with hope for the industry, and the communication problems we have within our community. I want to stress that what I say is based upon the Australian industry, and will apply to varying degrees across the globe. I feel the core message is one we can all agree on, however.
First off…. this site is awesome, and I mean that in the truest sense of the word. It is a breath of fresh air in the dark, dank and hostile void that has been my experience dealing with the industry. Unnecessarily emotive metaphors aside, the contributors to this site are exactly what we, as an industry, need – people who share and discuss ideas. At first that might seem a little trivial, but consider the significance of the opposite – an environment in which constructive debate, the sharing of ideas and open discussion are not only lacking, but actively discouraged. For many of us, that’s the reality, and it happens for many reasons.
In Australia, for example, we have a three-pronged problem. Firstly, we have a reasonably small (and shrinking) game development community. As a result, people are extremely wary of offending any other member of the community, lest they be on the receiving end of an oft-mentioned blacklisting. Instead, communal discussions tend towards large, enthusiastic circle-jerks.
Our second problem is an artistic-elitism. It’s a problem that’s crippled our film industry, the infamous ‘third act’ problem coming to mind. Despite consistently producing some rather terrible titles, we’re inclined to believe we know exactly what we’re doing at all times. In the game development industry, we most commonly fail in our management and business practices. Despite this, our over-sized egos dictate we ignore the situation and take no steps to acknowlede it, nor accept outside opinions. God forbid if the person dispensing the opinion doesn’t have a dozen years of studio management, likely going under four times in the process.
Our third problem, one I suspect exists across the globe, is untempered nationalism. It is the express duty of each citizen of a nation to fervently support any product originating from a studio therein. To be critical or analytical of said product makes you a terrorist and traitor. Probably also a communist.
Other problems that lead to this lack of communication, seen elsewhere in the world, is the ever-present fear of the next generation. As an industry we have many, many new entrants banging on the door, and the number is only increasing. Add to this the recent world-wide lay-offs and many experienced professionals feel particularly insecure in their employment, and would rather keep it a small club.
Let’s take a quick look at how the problem presents itself. These are actual comments from developer community boards.
Local Developer: Provides an inoffensive opinion.
Local Studio Manager, Anonymously: “It is simply not in your best interests to present yourself as being a polarising individual. Put simply, no games dev team wants such a figure. You give the appearance of an individual who would, if given the opportunity, enter a position and proceed to ‘do your own thing’, rather than open yourself up to learn whatever the studio wants to teach you.”
Studio Employee, Anonymously: “You get credibility from a proven track record, not from the failures of those you’re criticizing.”
Studio Employee, Anonymously: “You’re missing the point entirely. You’re not wrong! Nobody said you’re wrong… you look ignorant, arrogant and downright unpleasant.”
Studio Manager, Anonymously: “categorise the poster as an attention seeking douche bag.”
Anonymous, Unverified: “Not to sound too blunt, but..
I will value your attitude more after you have proven it.”
Anonymous, Unverified: “You feel secure enough in your position to publically go against the view of those who have a proven track record. Now it’s up to you to go out and prove how it’s done.”
Now no-one’s going to deny the importance of a track-record, but the attitudes often expressed as above are not constructive. Basically it’s a case of “we’re going to keep on doing what hasn’t worked because we’re right and you’re not”. It often also manifests in claims that the entire industry is only failing because there aren’t enough hand-outs, or that detractors are simply ‘haters’, a cultural invention for which I have little time. An example of the attitude:
IGN AU: I’ve been reading heavily about this online, as you’ve gathered, and there’s tone of glee, somewhat, surrounding the reports of Krome’s demise.
Robert Walsh: Yeah.
IGN AU: I don’t know where that comes from.
Robert Walsh: I don’t know either. It’s purely a Krome-bashing exercise.
Instead it could have originated from their history of lack-lustre games, dodgy hiring practices and general poor reputation.
Specifics aside, these are the attitudes we face as an industry, especially in the smaller national communities. How do we deal with it?
How Do We Deal?
As you may have guessed, this situation is particularly offensive to myself and it’s something that, as an Australian, I’ve come up against repeatedly. It would be excellent if people could simply attain some perspective, but as that’s unlikely to occur, we need to address the situation before a lack of communication hinders the industry further. Without that communication we cannot exchange ideas, analyse both successes and failures or collaboratively innovate.
So I would recommend to every reader that they question whether they’re a part of this problem and, if so, why? I’d encourage every reader to comment if they have an opinion, even if that opinion is that I’m a complete and utter arse. Being unafraid to express our opinions (though tact is good) is the first step towards open communication. I’m going to continue doing so, as I am now, even if it doesn’t make me too many friends because I believe in the power of the medium and the potential for the industry to improve. So next time you see an opinion you agree with online, stand up and say so. Next time you see an opinion with which you disagree, consider and make your case rather than calling the guy a douchebag. Not because he may one-day be your employer, but because ideas are the life-blood of this novelty-based industry.
24th of May – ‘Gaining Traction: Recovering from Burnout’