Wednesday 15 December 2010


A couple of months ago, agj came up with the idea of getting a few people to each make a game, and then each release another person's game in a ring of deception. And so it happened that four games were made, inspired by the theme "Masquerade", and released:
Face Time
The Sense of Connectedness

We chose not to explicitly lie by claiming to have made the games ourselves, and instead to just post them with a vague note like "here's a new game". The main purpose was just to have some fun and make some games, not to trick people.

I had very much expected that someone would spot the deception, but in retrospect it makes sense that nobody did - none of us are particularly well-known, so it wasn't likely someone would spot "that game is in X's style", and it's not at all uncommon for people to try out new styles and programming languages. Also, some of the people who are most familiar with our personal styles were already in on the plan.

(Feel free to try the games and attempt to match them to their authors before reading further, but from 16th Dec onwards some of the games will display their author.)

It's been quite a weird experience, and I'm struggling to write down my mixed feelings in any kind of coherent order.

My game The Sense of Connectedness got quite a bit of positive attention from around the internet - it's probably been my most successful game so far. But since it hasn't been under my own name, I've felt a sense of disconnectedness from it - it's still my game, I've just felt it a bit less. But instead, I feel a sense of identification with all four games, and I've taken personally the response to each of them - it's as though the feeling of ownership I'd usually have for my own game has gotten smeared around the ring. I feel the least connection to Ascension, perhaps because it's furthest from me around the cycle.

I've felt guilty that my game's gotten so much more of a positive response than the others have (and also a bit proud for the same reason, and then guilty again for feeling proud).
I've wondered if I should have done more to promote agj's Doppelganger, and if it's partially my fault that it's had the least response of any of the four games - should I have written more about it? Was Kongregate the wrong site for it? (Do people just not like me very much?)
Noyb's been feeling guilty as well - at seeing praise for my game directed towards him, and at seeing negative comments towards his game directed at Jonathan..
I think it makes sense that guilt is a common theme, because we've conspired to commit a deception, and even though we meant it in fun, it's still somehow transgressive (and the fact that we didn't explicitly lie doesn't really make a difference; we've still intentionally deceived people).

The following I'm not enjoying writing, but I'm going to anyway because I think it's worth exploring all the feelings that have come out of this experiment:
I resent the praise for my game having been directed at Noyb. Not in a big way, but it's there.
Partially this is explainable - I'd love to be able to make a living making games, and while marketing isn't something I value much, it does kind of matter. I fear that I've missed an opportunity to get my name in front of a bunch of people, to advertise myself and thus improve my chances of success as an "indie developer".
But largely it doesn't make any sense at all, it's just a crazy subconscious jealousy that he's getting the 'reward' for my work.
These aren't feelings I'm comfortable with having.
But they're just stupid irrational feelings, and in my intellect I don't mind at all. And it's actually helped me to think about what I consider most important, and to realise that ultimately I care way more that I've affected people with my art than whether they have any idea who I am.

I've dwelt too much on the negative here; there's been a lot of good as well. The feeling of community with my co-conspirators has been great, and reading people's comments on my game has been really nice - thanks everyone! And the most important thing is that we made some games that we wouldn't have otherwise. So while it hasn't been entirely a positive experience, it was definitely worth doing - I did consider backing out a few days before we released the games, and I'm glad I didn't.

The others have written up their thoughts after the experiment as well:

1 comment:

  1. Your game was truly excellent man, so I can understand what you experienced. I think it was a valuable experiment, if nothing else to examine the value and feelings associated with ownership.

    I actually had a very similar experience when making a game about Bees with the wonderful Bento Smile. I designed it, coded it, made the music and 75% of the art. Bento stepped in to help with a couple of sprites so I could get it done in time, but when it showed up on the TIGs frontpage, it was credited to Bento (well, the design was.)

    'I fear that I've missed an opportunity to get my name in front of a bunch of people, to advertise myself and thus improve my chances of success as an "indie developer"' pretty much sums it up. I didn't feel comfortable with that feeling either.