I Am an Old Man: The IGF Pirate Kart

As time goes on I feel like less and less of an “Indie” developer, at least on a community level. My work certainly fits into that niche, but the ‘Indie Community’ seems like an alien entity and the two of us don’t seem to share the same values. This is where the IGF Pirate Kart comes in.

Now I might have a lot of this wrong, but lemme do my best to explain the situation as I’ve come to understand it. So the Independent Gaming Festival” added a 95 dollar submission fee for entrees that many people felt was exclusionary and generally a waste unless you were some ‘known’ person. Now I could never care less about IGF (contests and awards and events just have never been my thing), but this seemed like a legit complaint coming from a lot of people who are generally struggling to do what they love. So the folks over at Glorious Trainwrecks(I think) had the idea to make a big game compilation to send as a single entry to the IGF. The Glorious Trainwrecks community has done these pirate karts for some time just for fun and this seemed as good a time as any. So they gave 2 days to submit games. To quote the website…

A Pirate Kart is a very very inclusive game compilation made in a hurry. Jeremy Penner came up with the idea for the first Pirate Kart as a way for the Glorious Trainwrecks community to collaborate on something for TIGSource’s “B-Game” competition. To galvanize the community, he set an absurd goal: make 100 games in 48 hours and package them as a single entry in the competition.

The IGF Pirate Kart continues the spirit of the Pirate Kart but with a new twist: instead of making brand new games for it, mostly people are entering the games that they are proud of, but not “big” or “polished” or “real” enough to be worth the entry fee.

Conceptually I don’t mind this. There are a lot of reasons to make games and there is no law saying you need to spend a million years polishing something to release it. Sometimes it’s good to just let loose and do whatever the heck you feel like. There is no reason for game making to be exclusionary. Also no reason for me to have to play it, but Twitter lit up with talk about how important and awesome the pirate kart is. I had to take a look.

Now, I only played about 20-40 out of the roughly 300 games. At best that’s 13% of the game. But I felt like I played enough. I felt extremely disappointed. I felt like I was, for the most part, playing Action 52. The good ideas I saw were nothing but good ideas — unpolished, raw ideas that were mostly too crude to properly enjoy for me. Sometimes they were just a single clever gag, or other times something utterly unplayable. Now, I have no beef with these games being bad exactly. They are what they are. They were made under extreme conditions for a particular purpose. The thing that gets me is the reaction. Before I say anything else, let me just say I don’t feel ‘right’ about anything I’m going to say. It is my own frustration and confusion that’s coming out here. I don’t want to rain on any parades. I don’t want to force people to see my opinions. I kept off the IGFPirateKart hashtag. But if anyone is checking my blog or twitter, they obviously want to know how I feel, and this is how I feel.

I feel like the indie community lauds mediocrity. I think they overvalue concept and undervalue execution. As I’ve always felt, ideas are cheap. Everyone has a million ideas and it’s nice that people can get them out… But it’s when a person takes an idea and polishes the heck out of it and makes something beautiful — that’s what gets my attention. I feel like an illustrator among abstract artists. While I concern my self with form and carefully constructed lines, the majority of the community is just having a stream of conciousness. They are embracing their flaws. Are they wrong? I can’t say that. Flaws add character. Even on those who aim to polish their work, everything comes out with flaws and those flaws are part of what defines a game. They just take it to a far greater degree than I can stomach. It’s not wrong, but to me it is alien. In a way it seems even more different than just being ‘more extreme’. It feels like something else and I can’t bring my self to enjoy any of it.

I released a very flawed and very buggy game. Sometime in the next year I will release another game. It will probably be less flawed and less buggy, but it will be far from perfect. But I try and will continue to try. I’m sure some of the people who contributed from the pirate kart will try too. We’re all people who love good games (though our definitions will differ). But it seems to me like less people will strive toward the unattainable when people heap endless praise on a day’s work. People spent less time on their game than I’ve spent -planning- in game menus! Now, that’s not wrong, but the response I would want to hear is “This is a great concept. Now take it and make it shine”. Some surely will do just that, but that doesn’t seem like the prevailing atittude. I don’t want to just see someone’s brain droppings, I want to see their best effort.

This is where I am left feeling like an old man. Now I know many of the more ‘artful’ indie folk and I can appreciate their opinions. Heck, my bro Zara, who’s rather mechanically minded is into this whole indie kart thing. There is nothing wrong with wanting to see peoples wacky ideas. That said, it’s lonely over here. Where everyone is thinking about art and expression, my mind is in mechanic, loving the dirty and the nitty-gritty of game design. During all these IGF related talks about wanting the community to be inclusionary and “represent everyone”, I feel my self more and more distanced from the whole thing… and I wish them the best. I don’t even necessarily want to be part of the community. I’m a pretty introverted guy. It just feels weird to technically be ‘a part’ of something that is so alien to me.

Oh well, this won’t stop me from doing anything, it just feels weird and I had to get all this out.