The question of “why?”

My quest to crowdsource my PR for Life Flashes By has been going swimmingly so far. Already, I’ve amassed an ever-growing list of people writing interesting things online about the game, with a few more articles and/or interviews promised to appear soon, as well as sparks of conversation that may lead to interesting and unexpected things. If all the friendly e-mails and tweets I’ve been getting from people I’ve never met before are any indication, I’d say that my goal to get as many people to play LFB as possible is that much infinitesimally closer to being realised. Not a bad problem to have at all!

A question many people seem to ask me, in several different permutations, is why I made this game. “Because I had a story inside me that I needed to get out” is, of course, a valid answer when you’re talking about a novel or even a movie, but for some reason, unless you’re already an indie scenester, [1] it tends to baffle most game dev people. That’s mainly because most game dev people make games to pay the bills — myself included, on occasion — so given that you usually can’t make a game without taking your intended audience into account, using the medium of games as a platform for your own stories is practically the apex of egotism and self-absorption, especially if you’re nowhere near being a Respected Industry Veteran™. That it’s a donationware game baffles people even more, particularly given that we’re in the midst of a recession… though the recession itself has done much to influence the game’s story, and my worrying about some not being able to afford the game also played a role. [2]

The same question has also been phrased as “why did it have to be a game?” as opposed to, well, something else — particularly because it’s so narrative-driven and there isn’t much in the way of “gameplay” (i.e. challenge-based exercises of some kind of skill). Most people who play LFB do wind up realising that in spite of the lack of puzzles or jumping or shooting or what have you, it wouldn’t quite be the same experience in a more linear form, that having the pacing of the story be player-controlled is a deliberate artistic choice. I’m proud to have been able to convey that reasonably well. I’m even more proud to see it dawn on people that telling a story interactively like this is even possible, to the point that some feel inspired to develop their own such games — which I, of course, welcome, because hey, it means there’ll be more for me to play!

Of course, none of these answers really get to the heart of “why?” and to tell you the truth, I’m not entirely sure why, either. Because I’m not as good at anything else as I am at making games? Because games are the future, and that means they’ll be the next dominant medium, so if I want to influence people and help change the world, I need to go there? Because I want to know that who I am and what I contribute to society means something? Because I’m lonely and want to be understood? Because I wanted something with which to occupy myself for an extended period of time, and undertaking a project like this fulfilled my goal? They’re not all noble and virtuous reasons, that’s for sure. But I’d like to hope they’re honest ones, at the very least.

Bottom line is, whatever the reason, I had a story I needed to tell and I told it. Not everyone has loved this particular story — indeed, it would be unrealistic of me to expect as much, about as unrealistic as it is to expect everyone to love me — but almost everyone who played it had some kind of emotional reaction to it. Maybe that’s all I ever wanted. And much like the story in the game, the story of the game isn’t quite over yet, either. Where will it go from here? Who else will play it? Who else will it influence? What will my next games be?

Where am I going, and who wants to come with me? There’s plenty of room for all of you, wherever it is.

  1. And even then, indie games people don’t generally have the urge to tell stories like mine, as far as I can tell.
  2. Plus, there were issues of non-compete clauses, although those were more relevant when I was working for a game company.
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2 Responses to The question of “why?”

  1. Lee says:

    Those reasons are as valid as any I have heard.

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