The Future of Gaming

The Future of Gaming
The Short Shelf Life of EGP Apparel

Jared Newman | 11 Nov 2008 12:34
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Compass Marketing came calling in 2007. The Minnesota-based company had seen the Experimental Gameplay Project and, as Gabler recalls, wanted to package some of the games on a CD and get them sold in stores. That idea didn't pan out, but after months of back-and-forth, the T-shirt idea was born. To Gabler, it made perfect sense.

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"Why not? I mean, art and indie games is like - it's a little more subversive, and so it's a really natural fit for shirts," he said. Compass picked the designs they liked best from the project, including five from Gabler.

Gray's sole contribution, Flip Out!, plays like an ode to obsessive-compulsive disorder. Players drag the mouse over a set of tiles to make them disappear, but running the cursor over an empty space brings the tiles right back. For some reason it reminds me of stopping over cracks in the sidewalk. Gray also thought of EGP Apparel as a way to introduce these kinds of experimental games to the masses.

"When I first heard about it, it was pretty exciting," he said. "I mean, I think we were all kind of a little skeptical because nobody had ever seen anything like that, and it's hard to imagine anything you've done as having significance to other people, I guess."

McMillen was the maverick of the group. He found his own indie credibility designing Gish, a platform game starring a ball of tar, with puzzles borne from the main character's elasticity. The Independent Games Festival awarded its top prize to Gish in 2005. Compass approached McMillen last year as well, looking to fund a game or some other project.

When the T-shirt idea came around, the company told McMillen of their experience with retail and how they could easily get a product into stores. He picked out several games, including Tri-achnid and a "lost levels" Gish package, and sent shirt designs to Compass for consideration.

By February, Compass had eight shirt designs lined up for a test run at less than 300 Target stores. They got good placement on the end-caps of aisles, accompanied by a description of the clothing line. Each shirt included a brief bio of the game developer. The designs themselves included a craning tower of black liquid, a robot with blazing laser eyes destroying a city, and a sea of faces, staring forward, eyes glazed over.

Every week and in every store, McMillen said, the shirts would have to meet a specific "sell-through rate," or percentage of product sold. If the shirts performed well enough, the retailer would place them in more stores and the EGP Apparel line would expand to include more games and different developers. In this initial test run, the developers would reap none of the profits.

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