Editor's Choice

Editor's Choice
Creative Hara-Kiri

Blake Schreurs | 27 Feb 2007 07:04
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Entrepreneurship and creativity have been passed down in my family like heirlooms. If there is genetic code for that sort of thing, the desire to build novel things is a festoon on my DNA. Just as a male praying mantis finds its mate and lemmings leave to explore the coastline, my notebooks fill with arcane drawings of games never played before.

I was familiar with commercial software development, but new to the commercial gaming industry. I decided to focus on the casual game market, where smaller budgets and the desire for novel games allow for more experimental titles. I visited a few publishers' websites to learn what they were looking for in a game submission. In most cases, the tips they provided merely discussed the quality of submissions, but didn't provide anything substantial about the game design or style. But I kept getting one vibe from everyone: They wanted to see something new.

With the publishers' guidance in mind, I began developing my game. My experience in the field of software engineering provided me most of the tools I needed. My aesthetic ensured this was not some garish result of a free-time whimsy. My eye for quality kept it from becoming shambling machination, like those often created by energetic students. My drive to create something new flared, eschewing clones and derivatives of existing games. When I created the final build, I was ecstatic. I had simultaneously written a game by myself and invented a new type of game.

My game concept was fairly simple: I wanted to make a drawing game that graded players on the technical aspects of their drawings. Every single art game I could find was conceptually related to Pictionary, where stick figures are rewarded over drawings which involve more thought and realism. I wanted to make a game that helped expose the underlying rules of drawing in a challenging and non-embarrassing way. In effect, I wanted to make a game that would help people draw better by playing it. After some intensive programming, that's precisely what I had. The next step: Find a publisher to unleash my creation on unsuspecting artists-to-be.

Though not a member of the industry yet, I was familiar with the four-step publication process: Go to a publisher, submit your game, get rejected, repeat. It's a fairly simple cycle, and honestly, isn't that bad if you don't take the rejection personally. I steeled myself and tried to open a dialog with the publishers whose sites had offered me submission advice months before. I went through website after website, filling out contact forms and sending e-mails. The sites often said to wait a week to a month for a response.

The response (well, the lack thereof) I received was unexpected. Weeks passed, and my inbox was as barren as a desert. In most cases, the publishers I contacted didn't even send an automated reply e-mail. I couldn't even tell if my missive had been received.

A touch put-off, I decided to look a little deeper into this phenomenon. What I found was alarming: I quickly learned I wasn't alone. On a few developer-focused sites, I started reading how other submissions went unacknowledged, too. "If after a month you haven't heard anything ... assume that we aren't going to publish the title," wrote one employee.

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