Electron Dance
2Nov/2117

Discussion: The Great Cycle

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The indie boom wasn’t a return to an era of simpler games, but it did dust off designs from that era that had been neglected in the pursuit of progress.

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  1. “indie-viduals” — help me, i dont know whether to applaud or to die screaming!

    dont really havr anything else to comment on in this edition, but thanks for another newsletter

  2. Um, it kind of looks like all the past comments have been nuked? They are still on the archive, though, even my explanation of why Monster’s Exhibition is Good which I think was the most recent one.

  3. Ah, looks like the comments are there, but they aren’t showing up in “recent comments” and every post is labelled “No Comments.”

  4. Thanks Andy, I decided the topic was too serious to half-heart a pun, have to go the whole hog and threaten the readers with things they can’t unsee.

    Matt – I’ll take a look later today. There was a WordPress upgrade yesterday and it all looked good to me but I probably didn’t look close enough! “please make sure you’ve backed up your WordPress database before you hit upgrade” *stamps button*

  5. Funny you should post this now, as last night was when I happened to get around to reading the weapons of progress chapters 1 + 2. I thought it was this good: extremely. And serendipitously it gives me an opportunity to immediately derail the thread!

    Firstly: it’s an excellent perspective from which to chart the fortunes of the industry. I think we’ve seen at least one more cycle since you wrote it, of a new market being born and growing to maturity – with the commensurate cri de coeur from some quarters that here at last was the indie promised land, and subsequent disillusionment – with the Switch eShop. Maybe also with itch, but I’m less confident I really know what itch is.

    Secondly, you only mentioned it in passing but wow wasn’t Newgrounds just the weirdest thing? I think it would bear more scrutiny because here was a platform that started at the zero dollar price point, before eventually going into reverse. Tom Fulp and co somehow managed to convince thousands of artists to contribute millions of man-hours to his commercial operation with zero compensation. Just run on sheer passion (and Flash, if you can stomach the thought).

    Ok so you can argue that Sturgeon’s law applies and the majority of it wasn’t worth paying for to begin with. But lest we forget, Sturgeon’s law implies that 10% of everything is good, and if we apply Sturgeon’s law again to that subset of good stuff then that implies that in a sample size that large there should have been some stuff of breathtaking quality (and from memory, there absolutely was).

    I think there are a few reasons this was considered acceptable enough that Flash artists were willing to put in very hard hours for basically just the kudos of having your game get highly voted. One, this was ground zero of digital distribution, and internet monetisation more generally. People had no conceptual model of being compensated for games work that wasn’t putting boxes on shelves of physical retailers. The prevailing wisdom of the dotcom crash was that you couldn’t make money online – South Park satirised creators of viral internet memes (before that was even the word for them) trying to turn eyeballs into dollars.

    Of course this falls over a bit when you consider that Newgrounds itself was (presumably) making money, but that brings me to my second reason, which is that Fulp et al were also making and releasing flash games through the same channel as everyone else, and being ‘in the trenches’ in this way seemed to make him a Man of the People. Ironically this only persisted until they were able to leverage their exposure into founding a fully fledged game studio

    (Also, we were all kids back then. We weren’t the first internet generation, but we were the first web generation. We were young, dumb and too numerous to be taught better. I think it probably didn’t occur to us that we were being taken for a ride.)

    But the point is! Newgrounds was price point zero for almost everyone on it, but that price point was eventually lifted when the site started doing revenue share. Why? Not from the goodness of the owners’ hearts, I’m guessing: the rise of Miniclip, Armor Games and other competing portal sites who were prepared to split the proceeds presumably forced their hand.

    So, in conclusion, er

    I saw some of the photos you shared on twitter and they were well nice. I like to think that moorland is sort of my spiritual geography… but in actual fact it’s either a room in my house, or maybe the route I walk to work :(

  6. Matt: I’ve fixed the problems. Had to replace the Recent Comments widget, the old one was just broken by the WordPress upgrade. And I had rewrite some code that produces the comment number, not sure why it was not working now… mebbe it’s time for that theme replacement I started planning in 2015.

  7. I don’t get nostalgic about games at all. I can always go back and re-play my old favourites, but there’s no way I can look at the amazing diversity of the scene right now (especially indies) and think things used to be better.

  8. CA

    Oh my GOD, we now have two comment derailers on the site. I thought there was only one position? Well, you and Matt will have to split the salary.

    Thanks for reading the chapters. I do wish I was working more on the chapter 3. Ido Yehieli asks me yearly if the book has made more progress and I keep telling him the same answer. I think I have about 4 months until his next questioning.

    Itch is the interesting one because I was initially very cynical. Once operations gain traction and become a des res for content, everything begins to shift because the platform wields power. I think itch has rejected that because of Leaf’s philosophy but it’s also pretty weak at the shifting attention en masse, which is where Steam excels if the system comes up jackpot for you. So itch only really has part of the equation here, it provides shelter but the management have little else to offer, so it remains benign for now. (I tend to feel the Epic Game Store is just a massively expensive advert for Fortnite.)

    The role model for Electron Dance was really Laura & Kent’s Second Person Shooter. Of course, they got jobs and the blog stopped. But Laura put out a really cool article about the importance of Newgrounds just before I started Electron Dance which is what I was thinking of when I mentioned Flash: Indies already won. Like, years ago:

    Now, I know it’s not as utopian as I might be suggesting it is– Newgrounds is no place to access cutting-edge indie art games compared to, say, Play This Thing, which filters through everything and highlights the high-points. But it’s happening anyway. Indie games are snagging kids before they’re done with puberty. Indie games snagged me that way, too: as a young teen with no income, I adopted freeware games in late middle school as a way to entertain myself for free. I gradually began playing more and more ‘artsy’ games, so to speak. Discovering Cactus’s work for the first time was even more exciting than when I discovered funk and jazz, around the same time. It was like waking up.

    It was important for creating indie momentum at the right time.

    I hadn’t thought of putting Flash in the book at all but your comment makes me wonder if there’s something culturally important there which helps to explain some of the trends. But then again I’m not sure if that’s useful as my thesis is the inevitability of events rather than the result of many events. So, in conclusion, er

    (Thank you for appreciating the photos. I think my spiritual geography is an infinite train commute, full of people coughing. Yes, I travelled to the office today for the first time in 18 months.)

  9. Kat

    I’m spoilt for choice when it comes to playing something new. It’s hard work deciding what to play! It’s a bit like going through Netflix. Gosh, I want to watch THAT and THAT and THAT – but what do I want to play now? Wow, I spent an hour looking through 2% of my entire library and haven’t made a decision. Time for bed.

    Oh, do you have another vid coming up soon? Been a couple of months since your Edith Finch piece!

  10. And Netflix are getting into games now too, so soon you’ll have even more to browse through before deciding to give up and go to bed XD

    Yep I’ve had a very big boy in the works for a while now, excited for it to be done soon-ish! https://twitter.com/pixel_a_day/status/1452642100571348992

  11. Joel astronaut: wait it’s all derailed threads?
    Commenter astronauts: always has been cock pistols

  12. *sigh* I wish Richard and Eric were still around, they’d have something to say about the cock pistols.

  13. Thank you CA, for derailing a derailment.

    I’m still in touch with Eric, but he has zero interest in talking about videogames anymore. As for Richard, possibly you can blame me for that as I upset him and, as far as I know, he’s not been back since.

  14. Now Kat you’re making me feel like I should release my film in four parts…

  15. on the topic of anti-nostalgia, the post about system shock that i mentioned a few months ago was finally published: https://game-curator.com/indie/trial-of-fame-system-shock/

  16. Daniel, at what point did the combat start getting too much? I actually haven’t played that much of System Shock, but I’d left it last at the research level and combat was still at a stage I could deal with.

  17. it was around the time i got to the research level. i think what got me is the constant clicking of the mouse, that repetitive motion that tires out/makes my index finger a lil’ sore. i neglected the fact that you can lean left/right (i think?) and i just could not deal with the grenades. i think i play too much quake to really enjoy this… lol. but again, the game was strong enough where it stood on its own without combat.

    funnily enough, pc gamer just posted an article about the game: https://www.pcgamer.com/revisiting-system-shock-and-the-birth-of-immersive-sim-design/?utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=socialflow

    my system shock 2 article will be coming out in january.


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