How today's game developers come to grips with self-promotion
January 15, 2014 Page 4 of 4
What if I'm shy?
It's common to experience shyness -- lots of developers were interested in sharing their stories for this feature, but few contacted me directly. Many put themselves forward in a sort of round-about way via Twitter, seeming anxious that they might not be important or interesting enough to be heard.
"I'm a little on the shy side, so most of the time I tend to err on the side of thinking nothing that I do is terribly notable," Colombo says. He notices someone like Mojang's Notch ends up getting at least 150 favorites for any given Tweet, even ones about ordinary daily activities. "While all of Notch's actions are inherently more interesting because of who he is, if him saying he got off a plane is interesting to that many people, maybe the public is more interested in our lives as game developers than one might assume."
BADLAND and Nuclear Throne musician Joonas Turner (@KissaKolme) has the opposite problem: He's anxious about people assuming he's constantly in self-promo mode, and therefore disingenuous. "It feels whenever I talk to people, I have this weird paranoia that they're judging whether or not am I advertising myself to them and it might affect the way I might approach something or someone, even though it shouldn't," he says.
"For years I didn't apply for things purely because I decided that I wasn't good enough -- I let the marketing hype talk me out of applying," says Dicken. "It nearly happened with blogging. I can remember thinking 'nobody cares what I have to say,' and it took a run of really poor articles being published to get me over that."
Mode 7's Taylor enjoys public speaking in the right context, but is troubled by the pressure to weigh in on every debate, or the popular tendency to give the most attention to the person who's being the most controversial. "There's a lot of jerking, both of the 'circle' and 'knee' varieties, on Twitter, and my instinct is always to step back so I can consider the facts," he says. "I'm also unlikely to have a meltdown on a forum or start calling people rude names, because I save that behavior for when I'm losing at StarCraft; I sometimes wonder if that's a hindrance these days."
Christos Reid (@failnaut) makes individual games of a personal nature, and is occasionally uncomfortable with feeling exposed, and with trying to monetize self-expression. "It's been a little weird, because a chunk of my released stuff has been autobiographical in nature... making money from personal games [feels] almost like I've taken my own personal misfortunes, and turned them into a saleable product," he reflects. "It makes me self-conscious about the mindset required to put a price tag on your own personal Shawshank."
But he sees the press increasingly taking interest in personal games -- US Gamer covered his Dear Mother, a game about watching his mother fall into zealous religious beliefs, as an example of self-expression in games. "I felt like I'd had a breakthrough," he says. "I didn't pitch anything to US Gamer, I didn't even tweet at them, but it's interesting to watch the way in which personal games seem to latch onto people."
Some more tips
"I think firstly it's important to emotionally prepare for the costs of opening yourself up to your audience," Arnott suggests. "Are you prepared to really accept the love of your niche? That's a lot of work, and will push you to be more and more vulnerable -- are you ready to face your demons so out in the open? But more importantly, do you have a support system for if/when you get harassed? If you are ready for that, then my best advice is to be as honest and vulnerable as you can be -- lean into your edge, and your community will appreciate it."
"Don't be put off," Dicken adds. "People are interested in what you have to say wherever you have to say it, and if they like you in one medium, they might like the opportunity to find out more, see more articles, thoughts, or games." He says some people will take offense at self-promotion and try to punish you -- Dicken himself was called out by an audience member in a talk for, he says, spending 30 seconds of the 20 minutes to promote his own work.
"Ignore the haters," he says. "You can't help but encounter people who've chosen a different path, and are taking out their frustration at feeling that the grass is greener on your side."
"So much has been written about the 'fresh eye' that indies supposedly bring to the table," says Wu. "I'm here to tell you, it's an exaggeration how important that is. Most of what you don't know is a massive liability. Find people smarter than you - people with more experience. Listen more than you talk."
"Be scientific about it," says Alexander Bruce. "Critically assess what worked for people in the past, and talk to other developers directly to find out what didn't work for them. Experiment a lot, and challenge all of your assumptions. Don't feel entitled to press or sales."
"I try to spread anything that's on-topic professionally or personally," says BlueLine's Colombo. "Professionally, this means that if I learned something that others might find useful, I'll write a blog post about it. If I create a tool for myself that I think would be beneficial to other game developers too, I try to build it in a way that will let me easily release it to others."
"My tip for other creators is to be honest," adds Broken Rules' Pichlmair. "If you have an outspoken personality, be outspoken. If you are opinionated, share your opinions. Be yourself!"
"It really still helps to meet journalists in person wherever possible: that's never going to change no matter how big Twitter gets, so going to events is still going to matter," says Taylor. "I think the issue of personal involvement vs. professionalism in general is something that gets quite a bit of airtime: we're all trying to work out where to draw that line."
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