IF and a culture of finishing

Michael Labbe of Frogtoss Games has an interesting article called Finishing a Full Game (July 31st, 2004) which he concludes by commenting on the importance of pragmatism in indie projects.

The majority of hobbyist developers imitate big budget development houses. This is an insane undertaking. Independent movies don’t have big explosions and million dollar effects; they focus on strength areas like plot and storyline.

In my opinion, games do not have a successful and vibrant independent underground movement like movies and music. There are no largely successful independents left for beginners to look up to. As a result, the developers bite off more than they can chew and the work is never completed.

Ultimately, pragmatism is the only thing that matters. If you follow another God, your path may never lead to a finished product.

The “lack of a vibrant independent underground movement” might be true for graphics games, but it doesn’t seem to be true for IF (which are arguably also “games” - although we separate them in our blogroll). In IF, there are many, many independents to look up to- in fact, independents are almost all there is to be had. There is also a deep sense of pragmatics and praxis - a culture of finishing, in the form of competitions, mini-comps or speed challenges, annual awards, beta-testers, and communities such as if-mud in which authors support each other. This seems to work in much the same way that writers’ and poets’ workshops, slams, and support groups do.

Of course, when Michael says “successful” he probably mean commercially successful (rather than “productive”). Few would accuse IF of being commercially vibrant, and some might argue that the decoupling of art from commerce and the marketplace is what gives IF communities their feeling of comradere and emphasis on craft rather than blockbuster ambition.

When discussing the marketplace for contemporary poetry, the question “why can’t I sell poetry!” leads to “why won’t people buy poetry,” which leads to “why don’t people read poetry?” IF has a great culture of writing and of finishing, but (like poetry) it also seems to have a somewhat anemic reading culture. Even many of the writers don’t read other IF widely, and falling behind on reading (especially around competition judging time) generates an annual slew of message board mea culpas. Compare that to MMOG “readers,” who sweat blood to fit 40+ hours of gameplay a week in next to a 40 hour job….

Can we imagine a Writing culture and a Response culture that combines the best of indy IF and graphical games?

via IndieGameDev

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