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November 18, 2019
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I’m Sorry: The Rise And Fall Of The Indie Game Magazine

by Michael Gnade on 01/30/15 01:30:00 pm   Expert Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

It upset me that my fairwell letter to IGM would potentially be lost with the recent closure of IndieStatik so I wanted to preserve it here on Gamasutra.

Is it odd that the negative press around IGM recently upset me so deeply? I know it shouldn’t have disrupted my Thanksgiving, but it did leave me with feelings of failure and regret. It didn’t ruin my holiday, but it definitely soured it. I’ve gone over what to write and rewritten it several times, and after sitting with it for a while, I feel that the best story to tell is a personal one:

 

Mike GnadeI discovered indie games in the summer of 2006 while I was finishing up my graduate degree at Tufts University. For whatever reason, I stumbled onto GameTunnel (a domain that I still own, but failed to resurrect), and my eyes were opened to these amazingly different games. I looked forward to checking the site every month for their review article, and even started (and failed to complete) quite a few of my own games. Perhaps one of my flaws is that I’m practical. Despite my stirring passion, I had school debts and needed a real job. I got offered a real estate development job back in the Philadelphia area, moved in with my parents for a few months and started the 9 to 5 grind.

My job wasn’t overly challenging, and as you can imagine, real estate development opportunities weren’t exactly booming at the time. I wanted to do something I was passionate about and yearned to break up the monotony of work, so I started a personal blog where I wrote and reviewed everything that I enjoyed at the time from video games to Veronica Mars (don’t judge).


“I thought back to all of the GamePros and EGMs that I loved when I was a kid…”

These indie game developers that I had discovered were really nice and were sending me free games to write about on my stupid little Blogger account. I needed this outlet from my regular day job, and I found myself rushing home to these experimental and creative games, playing them for hours, and then writing up a review before my girlfriend got home from work around 8:30pm. Braid came out for XBLA, and then World of Goo, and I was awestruck by the innovation and inspired by what indie developers could create.

 

Indie Game Magazine

In November of 2008, a confluence of events would lead to the creation of IndieGameMag. I got engaged to my girlfriend, and she was out shopping for a wedding dress. I didn’t realize that this would be an all-day event and soon found myself blogging about video games and surfing the internet. I stumbled onto this new HP Magcloud service and had been working on designing marketing materials at work in Adobe, so I started creating my own little magazine. I grabbed a domain and put World of Goo on the cover because it captured my imagination. I sent 2D Boy a copy, and then they blogged about it, and I started actually getting traffic. I thought back to all of the GamePros and EGMs that I loved when I was a kid and ran with the idea of creating a magazine focused solely on indie games.


“…this challenge drew me away from writing about indie games and managing IGM.”

Indie Game MagThe magazine and website evolved a lot over the years. It allowed me to attend my first GDC in Austin, meet and interview developers in person and soon expanded to include other amazing people that loved indie games as much as I did. IGM never made much money, and when it did, I usually spent it on things like a site redesign, business cards, hosting upgrades, etc. It would have been amazing to write for IGM as my job back then, but it was never practical. Then, in 2010, I was laid off from my job that paid the bills. It was for the best, but now I really needed to think about what to do next.

 

I was lucky enough to partner up with an ex-Microsoft guy and start my own hosting company, Access Hosting. Yes, I borrowed money from my parents (I’m still paying them back), and then scraped by with freelance work, some severance pay and the small profits that the hosting company started producing. Access Hosting is still around today and pays my bills, but as you can imagine, this challenge drew me away from writing about indie games and managing IGM. I was still writing and was lucky enough to have some amazing people around me who were contributing a lot more to the magazine and site than I ever could alone. There was definitely a point there where I probably could have helped make IGM really successful, but I missed it because I was distracted by my other company. That’s my fault.


“IGM was my baby, and I continued to work on putting together each issue…”

Maybe I’m showing my age here, but one of the things I struggled with IGM was all the remote and virtual workings. It’s not that I didn’t like talking with them on Skype, Twitter or via email. I was frustrated that that’s all we could do. I had all these passionate gamers and writers around me who loved indie games as much as I did, but I felt isolated. I wanted to invite them over to my house to play games together, go out for a beer or grab dinner and a movie. At this point, I actually reached out to some local people from the IGDA Philly. It was really stressful. We were losing great people, trying to organize a way to pay writers and trying to form a collaborative company. I was juggling too many things.

 

At the same time, I was working on an idea that I hoped would actually create a career for myself in the indie gaming scene. While I was working on that and trying to establish writer payments, we lost Priestman and had to fill that void. We got somebody quick that summer, but definitely paid them more than IGM could afford, and soon that cash that IGM had stocked up was running low. At this point, I was also on the verge of launchingIndieGameStand.com. Our team worked hard, and with the help of Chris Newton, we stabilized our writing team and cash flow by paying a few core people monthly stipends to write for IGM over the past year or so. IGM was my baby, and I continued to work on putting together each issue, but didn’t have time for much else with IndieGameStand finally up and running.

IndieGameStand

IGM was running at a deficit – not a terrible one, but one that I personally financed for a year because of my love for it. It’s really hard to let things you love go. It basically took me over a year to accept that I was working and stressing way too much. I turned 30, my friends started having kids, and I was sinking hundreds of dollars and hours of my time into something I didn’t have time to save and do right. Epic fail on my part. I guess I knew what decision I had to make this past summer while we were working on the IGS store, but it took me another few months to actually accept and act on it. I had to pull out from IGM; I gave it five years of my life.


“Virtual interactions are a great way of staying in touch, but nothing beats meeting face-to-face.”

Originally, I planned on freezing the site and keeping it up there as an archive, but Newton called me and was interested in buying it. I liked the idea of the site continuing on rather than die, so I agreed. Perhaps others can succeed where I failed. Despite Newton’s missteps and controversy so far, I actually still hope for the best. Rationally, I know that I can’t blame myself – but sometimes, your emotions can overtake logic. It all still puts a pit in my stomach. I feel the need to apologize for something. I’m not sure for what, exactly, but please know that I am sorry.

 

While there are times that I feel like a failure, I think there are some great lessons and victories that I took away from my experience at IGM. The first is that you shouldn’t let something on the internet negatively impact your life. Don’t let negative comments, Tweets or the stress of having to post something online take over your life.

Indie Game Mag

Another is that, for me, human interactions are better than virtual ones. Virtual interactions are a great way of staying in touch, but nothing beats meeting face-to-face. Even a phone call is a lot more rewarding. While our team at IndieGameStand works virtually now, we worked a lot together in person and have traveled to conferences together. It’s created a stronger connection with us as a team, and I feel less isolated.

More importantly, IGS would not have been possible without my experiences and connections from IGM. IGM opened the door for me to attend GDC and PAX East and actually meet these wonderful game developers face-to-face. It’s provided me the chance to come in contact with a lot of great people, gamers and writers – and I hope to cultivate these relationships into real friendships, and not just virtual ones.

I guess that’s it. I don’t have a real conclusion. I’m not even sure if any of this is interesting to anybody, but at least it was somewhat cathartic for me to go through the process of writing it. Thank you for taking the time to read it. While my time at IGM is over, my passion for indie gaming burns brighter than ever. I hope that everyone with that same spark inside them continues to pursue their desire. That fire inside you is what fuels the indie gaming scene – whether you’re making games, writing about them or simply playing and enjoying them. I wish everyone reading this the best of luck.

I’ll do my best to respond to any Tweets (@mgnade) and comments.


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