On Having Work Validated
I like to think about the numerous works that will be lost to time, never released, shown to no one but the author. Works like these have value, right? Published on Mon, Aug 26, 2019. Written by Michael Bassili.
JC Denton has a choice: should he willingly plunge the world into a sort of “dark age,” or should he pursue a path of personal control over the globe? After some thought, he decides to disable all supranational communications relays and hubs, disconnecting the population of the world from the internet. You, a competent game developer, have been developing a video game for a few months now. It’s nowhere near “complete,” but it’s a start. Right as you’re about to look up the documentation for some obscure C library, the internet goes out. You’re completely disconnected from the world. As an indie developer, you planned on self-publishing your game online. You live alone; you have no one in your life who would be able to play your game upon completion. You question the idea of burning the game on USBs and self-distributing demos around town, but your town has a strict do-not-distribute-digital-media policy (I know, it’s a weird place). You’re now confronted with a dilemma: should you continue developing your game if you knew nobody would ever know of its existence?
It’s not just that nobody will play it. Nobody will ever know it existed, like you built the thing in a cave in the desert like Tony Stark. You’d be building this game for yourself. (Let’s also imagine that you’ll never put this project on your resume and your family is completely dead.) Should you continue to dedicate your spare time to the development of your game knowing full-well that you’ll be the only one to ever play it?
This is a problem I’ve been thinking about on-and-off for several years now. In my spare time, I make a lot of shit. I’ve drawn a series of web comics, written a book, painted paintings, recorded music, and written blog posts. For most of those projects, I can guarantee that somebody will see it at least once. My band gigs in venues across Vancouver; my blog posts are posted to Hacker News; my book was marketed online. But, some of my other projects might never be seen by another human (that isn’t my partner). I’ve cancelled many other projects because I was convinced that there was no audience for it. Some projects include:
- Speakers: a text-based RPG about existentialism and the troubles of daily life, killed because of a perceived lack of player interest in the genre
- Crappy Comics: a web-comic about office life, killed because of a minuscule user-base
- Collect: a to-do list app for people who wanted to implement their own API-based workflows, killed because of the presence of advanced competitors
These projects percolated for a while before being abandoned. I keep myself up at night wondering whether I should’ve kept working on them. And, now I wonder how many great video games have faded to obscurity, abandoned by developers who thought their work wasn’t worth it.
I like to think about the numerous works that will be lost to time, never released, shown to no one but the author. Works like these have value; there’s a purpose and a valid need for their release. I need to start taking my own advice.