The story so far; and what happened after that

I know I can be a bit of a drama queen, so I’d like to start by pointing out that I’m quite calm as I write this. Not happy, but calm.

The release of Phenomenon 32 has been… not exactly a wonderful event so far. There was one absolutely delightful post by Gregory Weir that literally had me dancing with joy that someone was having the intended experience… and the rest has been all aggression and negativity. Apparently I should be ashamed for making a game so big, for making people read the manual, for not putting subtitles in my intro, and generally for not making exactly the type of casual game people wanted. (I have nothing at all against casual games. But this isn’t one.)

Now, my games usually get mixed responses. I understand that, and that’s never bothered me. But I’ve never had a game where people felt the need to contact me personally to tell me I should be ashamed for “luring people in with the story” while “not making it fun” and similar stuff.

I worked on Phenomenon 32 for fourteen months. Fourteen. That’s hundreds upon hundreds of hours of work. It’s also hundreds upon hundreds of hours I could have spent on something that would get me somewhere and that would make money. But instead I chose to work on a free game, because I love the medium, and because I loved the idea of this game. Now we’re running out of time and money, and if things don’t turn around soon my dreams of creativity will be greatly endangered. And it’s just not worth it.

I have been making games for nearly 10 years now. That’s a hell of a long time, and I’m considering whether I should take a very long break. Yes, there’s that story of a troll and his adventures, and so many other ideas, but I’m basically destroying our life and our future. And let’s face it, it’s not like people will donate. In all the many years this website has had a donation button, I think three people have donated. I don’t really remember, because the last time was somewhere around The Museum of Broken Memories.

I’m not posting this because I want attention, or compliments, or pity, or people to convince me otherwise. This is not about ego. But consider: in the time it took me to make Phenomenon 32, I could have written 14 screenplays. I could have made multiple movies. I could have finished my book. All those are things that can get us money to live off and a chance to tell more stories. And that’s what I want to do, in the end: tell stories.

Anyway. It’s not the end of the world. I’m still thinking about what my next step is. I’m still happy with Phenomenon 32 as a game. And I still love the artform, deeply and passionately. Games do matter. That my own forays into the medium have caused me such frustration and disappointment does not invalidate games, it just tells me that maybe I should, for now, be putting my efforts elsewhere.