I recently took a peek back over at Story Games, on a recommendation that I read a thread about promotions and marketing for the Indie community.

Jesus Christ, my fucking head hurts.

Rather than post over there (which is sure to generate another 100+ messages about my meany-head-ness, etc.), I’ll just summarize my thoughts here.

On the second page of the thread, the following post is made, by a respected member of the Indie community:

Promotion – in the sense of it being a separate activity than just being excited about what you made – sucks. It’s a soulless exercise that either doesn’t work, or works because you had the stomach to sell somebody something they didn’t want. It is antithetical to the creative process.

There you have it, folks — a key reason why the self-defined “Indie” movement will never amount to much more than a few dozen creators selling games primarily amongst themselves.

Marketing is bad. Making a profit is bad. Commercial considerations of any sort: Bad, bad, bad.

All of it sounds like the ramblings of psuedo-hipster poseurs to me, so I guess I’m the Grumpy Old Man Who Doesn’t Get It.

22 Replies to “Self-Ghettoization”

  1. You’ve talked in the past about the difference between being a creator and a publisher. I seems to me like a lot of people in that community want to be the former and not the latter.

  2. Well, as a member of the “self-defined Indie movement”, I have to say: Marketing good. Profit good. So, not all of us feel that way. And let me add, as the proprietor of IPR, the attitude of the respected member you mention makes me wince.

  3. Yes, and I could totally respect that — if not for the fact that my previous experience there shows me that they deny that there is any difference between the two. (The source of the last big blow-up thread that caused me to stop posting there, in fact.)

  4. I hate to tell you this…. but I have a hard time classifying guys like you and Fred (and a few others) as “truly” Indie, largely because you have your shit together and obviously understand the commercial side of things.

    I have a sneaking suspicion that all it would take is one or two more break-out hits, and the other “Indie” folks will start grumbling about how you’re all “sell-outs” and such.

  5. I haven’t read the thread, but I’ll certainly agree that for me personally, trying to do promotion sucks. Some people have a gift for it. Others don’t, and for them it really is like pulling teeth. Which doesn’t mean it’s unnecessary by any stretch, just that it’s incredibly painful and often ineffective when done by those with no talent for it.

    You, sir, have the skill for it. It’s something about you I’ve always envied. If I were to do Clockworks again, I’d hire someone like you to handle that aspect. That would make a helluva difference, I think.

  6. Thanks for the compliment.

    I can understand what you’re saying…. but “It is antithetical to the creative process” is the thing that I have the most problem with in the original post. I totally get that some people don’t like doing it, but that sort of blanket anti-commercialism is a recurrent theme with the Indie folks.

  7. I get that all the time as a musician. You somehow can’t be a “real” artist if you’re also a good businessman. If you do stuff that people actually want to buy, then you’re a sell-out. In that case, I sold out long ago.

    Yeah, we’re going to do 2 shows on St. Patricks Day and we’re gonna have to do “The Mermaid” eleventy-billion times, but I’ll make twice what my “day job” pays. And I’m OK with that!

  8. The guy who wrote the article in the first place doesn’t understand what he’s talking about, GMS, so you’re right in your evaluation. I’m just glad that you don’t buy into that crap, to be honest.

  9. Parden me if I’m missing something….

    Doesn’t that attitude only make sense if you assume everyone who is interested in buying what you have made instantly knows about it, in all detail, precognitively, the spilt second you offer it for sale?

    I mean, I find stuff I love all the time. I ususally find it because somoene is advertising it. They don’t convince me to buy things I don’t want. They promote the existence of things I am interested in, and tell me about the qualities they think I may not already know about. Otherwise, how will I know?

    Promotion is good for the creative side of things too. If you make the greatest game in the world, and sell it at a flea market in Bumphuck, Iowa, who is going to get to enjoy it? What is the point of a creation no one gets to enjoy?

    I get that their attitude is wrong. I don’t understand how they even got to that conclusion. It’s…

    It’s just baseline stupid, with a cheery helping of delusional.

  10. Not three weeks ago I had to deal with a similar lack of logic – this one wed to the notion that it’s wrong for companies to copyright their work. The reason, according to my intrepid friend, was that ideas should be shared by all, and freely.

    So, Gareth… between the two ideas you could create a game, but shouldn’t promote it. If by some miracle it sells well, you shouldn’t get upset if I come along later and steal your work from you.

    Nice, eh?

  11. You’re quite welcome. It’s very true.

    How about “for those who lack the skill for promotion (particularly self-promotion), attempting to promote something can be antithetical to the creative process”? Because I can see how trying to think about promotion while creating can throw someone off, at least someone without that particular gift. I definitely agree that promotion is necessary from a business standpoint, but there’s a reason most promotions and marketing people aren’t creators and most creators aren’t in promotions and marketing. Only a rare few can do both. For the rest, trying to stretch that way is liable to cause serious breakage.

  12. I’ve got that thread bookmarked but I haven’t taken the time to read it yet – does it contain anything of value or should I just forget about it? I think I’ve trained myself to skip over stuff like what you quoted…

  13. You ought to check out today’s Something Positive for the magical thinking that’s expected with this attitude, Gareth.

    I’ll say this – with your advice, Phil’s, the e-publisher guide and EPub 101, we’re starting to turn a profit, and those’re documents I reference every damn day. So thank you – for sharing your experience and insight.

  14. It’s the same concept that argues that self-promotion is crass in any field, and that opportunities should drop into your lap like heavenly bounty, as is your God-given right.

    I’m totally down with the idea of doing something because you love it, but it’s folly to if money (or the tools used to generate money) accompany your artistic endeavor that it’s grossly inappropriate.

  15. Additionally, consider these words:

    Stephen King, in Danse Macabre, writes that

    “…to be successful, the artist in any field has to be in the right place at the right time. The right time is in the lap of the gods, but any mother’s son or daughter can work his/her way to the right place and wait.”

    Success takes work, and *staying* in that sweet spot of success takes even more.

  16. Danse Macabre is one of my favorites. On Writing is also good — although my favorite, honestly, is Bare Bones: Conversations In Terror, which is a collection of his magazine interviews. (Playboy, etc.)

  17. Gareth,

    I apologized in the thread over there, but I thought I’d take the time to come over here and apologize, too. I really didn’t phrase the middle part of that well, and didn’t emphasize strongly enough that promotion of things you honestly think are great, in a constructive way, is a really good thing.

    Whatever our differences, I respect your ability to mobilize and excite a group of people about your products. I’ve tried to do the same through community-building and promoting the games I really like to play.

  18. That’s cool, man — misunderstandings happen.

    Personally, I just assume that “things you honestly think are great” is a given, for an RPG publisher promoting stuff they’ve released, so you can see where my misunderstanding arose.

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