The Writers' Room

The Writers' Room
Open Letter to People Who Make Games

Russ Pitts | 26 Oct 2010 21:00
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Talking to you, reading your Twitter updates and personal blogs, your anonymous blogs and your editorials, it would appear that there are many threats to the game industry. From Supreme Court cases, unfavorable working conditions, unreasonable publisher demands, irresponsible superiors and highway patrol officers, you face a multitude of threats to your way of life and chosen profession. That is to say, as hard as it is to make a game at all (and I know it's hard), the business of making games is even harder.

I would agree that there are many obstacles in your path to making great games, and I understand that not all are easily overcome. I know making games is not as much fun as you make it out to be. I know it can often be the most miserable way someone of your talents can make a living, and yet you do it anyway out of love. I get it. I know that for every one perfect game (if there is such a thing) there are at least ten more that, for reasons as innumerable as lines of code, didn't come out the way they were intended. I know that this sometimes isn't your fault. And yet it still is, even when it isn't, because your name is on it. I hope that you know this.

I love games. Let me say that again, because it's important: I love games. I am a grown man who spends his weekends playing them. I used to write a column and produce a podcast - for free - about games, because I love them so much. Five years ago I gave up a career, took a pay cut and made major life changes to accept a job working at The Escapist in no small part because I wanted to make writing about games (which I love) my career (so that I might love that, too), and I have since done so. That's why it pains me so terribly when the games that I love simply don't work.

There is an ironically oft-misquoted phrase that says (and here I paraphrase) that if one does not know one's history, one will be doomed to repeat it. How many of you know your history? How many of you know that the videogame industry, often considered "recession proof" once suffered a major crash, in the 1980s during the last great economic recession? How many of you know the reason the industry suffered so badly was because you (or your predecessors) were making bad games?

As potentially harmful as the aforementioned threats to this industry may be, I argue that none are so devastatingly grave as the risk of you making broken games. So long as you make the games, and they're good, we, the people who play games will buy them, even if your boss is a jerk. Even if the federal government believes we're too young. Even if you, with your fast cars and brash temperaments, turn us off. If the games are good, we'll buy them. But if they're not, then heaven help you because we won't.

I am not telling you this just to piss you off, I hope you know that. I am telling you because the moment you forget that making great games will be the start of all your good fortune and not some milestone you may pass at some point along the way, you will have lost. You will have been blinded by the adoration of your fans to the fact that our relationship, yours as gamemakers, mine as game buyer, is a simple one based on a straightforward economic transaction: You make magical experiences and I give you money. Lots of money, relative to other entertainment purchases. Yet unlike many of the things I buy, games are not returnable and there's no quality guarantee. I trust you to make them enjoyable, and I give you my money, sight-unseen. That's an incredible amount of faith I have in you. More often than not, it's justified, but frequently it hasn't been and, I have to be honest with you, that frequency is increasing.

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