Museum Update, and a possible goodbye

Since someone asked – yes, I am still going to do that update for Museum that will get it to run on Vista. Soon. I haven’t had much time lately, and what little time I’ve had I’ve spent working on my film and my novel.

And I must say that, quite frankly, I am seriously considering giving up game design, at least for the next few years. I dearly love making games, and it’s a very strong impulse for me, but after eight years of doing it and next to no response, I am starting to think my time could be better spent on other projects. No matter how hard I work, no matter how many emails I send to various sites, all my work is ignored; I’m tired of feeling like a second-rate William Blake. If at least I had the visions, you know, that might make up for it. But I don’t. And while I don’t need praise for myself, I am proud of some of my work, and I do think the games themselves deserve more – especially Museum and Desert Bridge. But nowadays it seems you have to be selling your games for anyone to take interest – art can only be art if it’s commercial, apparently. So if you sell people a game about an old lady walking around a graveyard, that’s interactive poetry (buying the game adds the possibility of random death! yay!) but if you try to explore the medium and create a unique central metaphor that is impossible in any other form, well… maybe I should’ve charged people 15$ so that Urizen can appear at random and bite off their heads.

Now I’m just sounding bitter. And I have to go to work. But the Museum patch will be done. Soon. I promise.

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10 Comments

  1. Don’t quit! This is exactly the point at which independent, free games are on the rise. You might want to ask yourself: why do you make games? Is it to get eyes on it? If so, then perhaps freeware downloadable games aren’t the answer. Maybe you should try developing for Flash, so that you can take advantage of the eyes that are already looking at the Flash portals. Alternately, you could try getting more involved in some gaming communities, so that more gaming people would be likely to see and evangelize your work.

    Regardless, know that there are people who have played and enjoyed your work, and would be very disappointed if you stopped.

  2. I appreciate the kind words very much; but I’m not sure they apply to me. I don’t see independent games on the rise; I see independent games, like independent movies, becoming “respectable”. And like in Hollywood, where many “independent” movies are now simply financed by another branch of the big studios, the world of independent gaming seems to be becoming a smaller version of the old world of gaming.

    I see that participating more in the various communities would help. But I don’t want my work to be successful on the basis of my acquaintances; I want it to be recognized on the basis of its quality. And that should be possible if I do the work of letting the sites that cover independent games know about it; but it’s not. Because my games aren’t respectable – partly because I don’t hype them in the correct language, and partly because they are not commercial. But if this is independent gaming, I shouldn’t have to hype them like a big corporation, in the fake language of press releases and PR departments. And while I don’t think that selling one’s work is a bad thing, I do think that a) it needs to be big enough to warrant its price b) a game being sold is in and of itself not a sign of quality or seriousness. You’d think that in the days of Creative Commons and Open Source more people would get that; but apparently that’s not the case.

    I don’t make games for the fame or the money. I make them for the same reason I make any other art; because I believe in them. That’s also why I want them to be successful. I wouldn’t mind if people praised the games to the heavens and forgot all about me; the only reason I put my name on the games (and not some fake “group” or “company” name) is because I believe people should remember that games are not products made by companies, but works of art made by designers.

    Flash games might indeed be more successful; but the fact is, I’m a designer, not a programmer. I do my best to get by with the limited skills that I have, and to always present a smooth and professional result – but my ability to learn and use something like Flash is greatly limited. As is my ability to think in that medium – I have seen many good Flash games (including yours), but it’s not quite my medium. Not for creating things, anyway.

    Both Museum and Desert Bridge are works that I am very proud of. They affect people in many ways; and they have a great deal of depth. I don’t mean to sound arrogant – I am perfectly capable of being self-critical. But self-analysis also means that I can, at some point, know that I have done well. And looking back at these games, I really do think so. And the fact that I can’t even get a single blog post about them from most sites, let alone a review – when I am so painfully aware, for example, that you could take Museum and dig and dig and dig and still find more levels, because it is an amazing thing that seems to be almost completely independent of myself – simply drains the energy out of me. Particularly since I had anticipated that Desert Bridge, being much more accessible, would find more of an audience than the more challenging Museum.

    As I said, I make games because I believe in them, and I don’t think that success is the factor by which an artist should be guided. But the simple fact is that I also have many other projects that require my attention, and spending hundreds of hours developing more games for an audience of ten or twenty people means that these projects will be neglected – and that may just not be worth it anymore.

    Sorry for rambling.

  3. When I say that indie games are on the rise, I’m referring to the things that I think are important for games: they are played by an increasing number of people, they are making important statements, and they are no longer just poorly imitating mainstream games. Look at Crayon Physics or World of Goo; these are works made by one or two people which are utterly unlike the stuff put out by the corporations, promoted as the creations of individuals without a corporate feel.

    I want to help bring attention to your works, both because they deserve attention and because the art form as a whole deserves to learn from them. Unfortunately, I’m not sure what I can do. The truth is that good things are sometimes overlooked. Sometimes they’re not, though, and I can’t help but think that a combination of patience and persistence will get more eyes looking at Desert Bridge.

  4. boo_boo

     /  January 20, 2009

    about “No matter how hard I work, no matter how many emails I send to various sites, all my work is ignored”:
    that has nothing to do with game design, i suppose. to gain remarkable feedback from people (no matter in what kind of creativity), one should integrate with the system more tightly, i.e., to fit a format and to arrange a suitable kind of PR. less independence, more profit…

    P.S. i think your games are brilliant as they are, and i never understand why most people prefers to play another cloned franchise with super-mega-3d, lousy plot and no atmosphere at all. the popularity roots in a very strange and ill matter.

    P.P.S. sorry for my weak english, as always

  5. When I say that indie games are on the rise, I’m referring to the things that I think are important for games: they are played by an increasing number of people, they are making important statements, and they are no longer just poorly imitating mainstream games.

    That’s true, but it doesn’t seem to work for me. Partly it may be the culture of capitalism; the glorification of the commercial. Partly it may be the desire for features other than those my games are based on; procedural generation, physics, that sort of thing. Which are all fine things, don’t get me wrong – but I simply don’t think they’re half as important as it is now “in” to claim. A great lot is said about experimental design, but that does not really include using computer games as a storytelling medium. Which is sad, given that they have such enormous potential for that.

    In the end, it seems my most successful and well-known game is still Last Rose in a Desert Garden. It probably got more downloads than all my other games combined. Now, it’s not that I dislike that game – it succeeds at what it attempts to do, but it is the least of my works… by a far margin. And that is very, very frustrating.

    Thanks, by the way, for all the support you have already given Desert Bridge. The reviews made me happy, and at least I had something to show to the others who worked so hard on the game.

    about “No matter how hard I work, no matter how many emails I send to various sites, all my work is ignored”:
    that has nothing to do with game design, i suppose. to gain remarkable feedback from people (no matter in what kind of creativity), one should integrate with the system more tightly, i.e., to fit a format and to arrange a suitable kind of PR. less independence, more profit…

    P.S. i think your games are brilliant as they are, and i never understand why most people prefers to play another cloned franchise with super-mega-3d, lousy plot and no atmosphere at all. the popularity roots in a very strange and ill matter.

    P.P.S. sorry for my weak english, as always

    Thanks for the kind words. You’ve always supported my games, and I’m very grateful for that.

  6. Loma

     /  January 20, 2009

    Hello!

    I really hope that you won’t give up creating games. The Museum of Broken Memories is one of my absolute favorite games ever.
    Your games are so special not only because of an interesting story but especially because they touch the innermost part of human beings. Your games make me think about ourself, about (non)sense or absurdity of life and I’m quite sure that I’m not the only one who really appreciates this kind of stuff.

    Of course, it seems that marketing is everything today, but for commercial products you usually have to adapt your plans.
    And in my point of view this is one of the biggest advantages of independent games: you can exactly realize your ideas and dreams without any limitations. You don’t have to think about what people would like to buy/play you can follow your own way.

    Your work is also a great motivation for me to create my own game one day.

    I’m quite an idealist so probably I can’t tell you any useful motivating words. My English is also very bad. So I just want to let you know that your games are incomparable to everything else and there would be a great hole in the world of games without them.

    Best regards

  7. Wendy

     /  January 21, 2009

    There have been many times in my life where I put aside something I love to do in order to focus on other things. It’s not like you’re putting this aside in order to sit around on the couch watching sitcoms. You have other things going for you – a film, a novel – wonderful pursuits.
    You may find that a break is exactly the thing you need, both for yourself and for your audience.
    I’m not a desginer/developer/programmer, I’m just one of those who enjoys the works of those who make them – but I often find myself frustrated with those who review them. So often, worthwhile games get passed by in favor of the super-polished, big name companies – and so often, those games aren’t worth the hype.
    I would much rather delve into The Museum of Broken Memories, where I can focus on its depths, its mysteries, than to waste another half hour trying to click my way out of a random room with no point.
    There are those of us who follow your work, but we’ll be around when you come back. Do what you need to do – for yourself.

  8. Wolfgang DelaSangre

     /  January 22, 2009

    You can’t quit. Jonas, you’re one of the few bastions of true imagination left in the world. We lose you and another lighthouse goes out. People may not be quick to respond to your games, but that doesn’t mean they are ignored. I have a MySpace blog that gets virtually no attention, even from my friends. Now, I know that it’s kinda pathetic (okay, VERY pathetic) to be comparing your museum-worthy works of art to a blog on MySpace of all things, but here’s my point: I don’t get any attention, no comments, but I don’t care. I’m a writer. I write. I’m gonna keep writing even if everyone that ever knew me suddenly forgets that I exist.

    Yes, I like attention. But it’s not my focus. I’ve got ideas in my head and if I keep them there, my skull will crack. So I write.

    You can’t give up, Jonas. I’m not nearly as imaginative as you and there’s no way I could come up with the kind of stuff you do. But you’re a huge inspiration to me, and to many others in the world, even if they don’t say so.

    If you give up, even temporarily, it’s a victory for the Machine. Please, don’t stop the flow of magic in your mind, Jonas. Most may not say it, but there are a lot of people who love your games. Maybe there aren’t a lot of us compared the the world’s population itself. But, Jonas, you are a bright light in the darkness, and you help show the rest of us where the open sewer holes are.

  9. PAK

     /  February 1, 2009

    I’m not sure that there’s much I can add to what’s been said above. One of my standards for measuring writing is whether or not it can improve the way I write and I think. The last story that I remember doing that was Keep the Aspidistras Flying by G. Orwell; both Museum and Desert Bridge were in that league. You may not have the audience that a major developer does, though I think perhaps you underestimate how big your audience is, but personally, if I could write and have the effect on just ten or twenty people that you do, I would think my life’s work vindicated.

  10. John Hauser

     /  April 24, 2009

    Ooookay.

    Do not quit. I’ve read something here (less than half) but remember that the games are good. They are even some of the few who make you think, unlike all this murder and gore things sold actually.

    I know its difficult. But the games are good (again).