2013: What The Hell.

this post originally appeared on my Gamasutra blog, reposting here because what the hell.

THE YEAR: 2013

A then-29-year-old amateur programmer and self-styled game developer, I began the year as an employee of the Canada Revenue Agency, looking forward to the relative mindlessness of the imminent tax season. I was also pretty stoked about I Get This Call Every Day: ten days before the year began, the game launched and outdid my wildest expectations. Let's be clear: my "wildest expectation" was to make about $20 from friends and family. It did not include getting covered by Kotaku on launch day and making nearly a thousand dollars before the end of January. That was pretty wild.

JANUARY

Near the end of the month, I teamed up with Royel Edwards and Ricky Lima at the Toronto Global Game Jam, forming B-Town Guru Supreme. Together we made HEMO RACERS, an arcade-style multiplayer racing game with nigh-incomprehensible heartbeat controls. The next day I received a tweet, an email, and a phone call from a Toronto Star reporter.

THE INFAMOUS EVENT HAPPENS

I'll summarize: the Toronto Star mis-characterized I Get This Call Every Day as "an online rant against taxpayers", outs me as a Canada Revenue Agency employee, and asks the Minister of National Revenue for her comment. The very day the article hits the Toronto Star frontpage, I was sacked. Then the surprise: a massive wellspring of support for me, anger at my situation, and sales of the game. Suddenly I'm on national TV, radio, and magazines.

FEBRUARY

Still dealing with the fallout from my firing and infamy, I fail to make my wife Ana another game for Valentines Day. I plan one, called AGAMEFORANA BLITZ, based on the blitz-puzzle style game she played regularly at the time. It becomes another started but unfinished project. Depression starts leaving me unable to function regularly for days at a time.

MARCH

I get in touch with Humble for the firs time, and begin selling I Get This Call Every Day through the Humble widget. Their fee structure is way better than FastSpring (my previous provider), but paying a Canadian proves to be a hassle (especially after my bank stops accepting International Wire Transfers).

APRIL

I turned 30. Unlike the time I turned 20, I didn't freak out. I'm still getting to grips with this idea that I AM AN ADULT. Like, it doesn't make sense to me. I still feel way younger than that.

MAY

TOJam happens. The Eigth Toronto Game Jam ends up being a failure for me: I set out to make a game about Nikola Tesla, abandon it, make a quick Mad Lib, and start a randomized murder mystery game (it wouldn't be "finished" until later in the year).

Frustrated by the process of going through Steam's Greenlight, and offended by the treatment of Paranautical Activity, I remove I Get This Call Every Day from the service (I don't explain why until August).

In preparation for the Bit Bazaar market, I produce the Pack Up Your Things Edition of I Get This Call Every Day. Staples butchers the print job so the cases look terrible, but so does the game, so whatever. I'm pretty proud of that box art and the zine inside. Bit Bazaar ends up a bit of a bust financially, but a good time was had. I got to hand a copy of the game to Craig Adams, who unknowingly inspired me to start making games in the first place.

Alexander Martin (droqen) invites me to IndieSkype, an ongoing Skype chat between a veritable who's who of the international independent game development scene. At first I'm honoured to be among such prestigious company, including the developers of many games I enjoy. My opinion later sours.

Observations of IndieSkype, and other conversations occuring in the local Toronto scene, brought me to a realization: most game dev scenes were not inclusive, open-minded havens I thought them to be. I had been idolizing these spaces all along. The truth was that they all had some very rotten elements accepted or protected by other members of the scene. I got angry. I wrote about it. I lost friends.

JUNE

The money officially runs out ("the money" being the bulk of sales income from the massive spike in sales of I Get This Call Every Day). I still receive monthly cheques, but they are not nearly enough to cover expenses on their own. My household officially moves from me being the breadwinner to my wife, Ana, being the main provider.

Worried that anxiety might be causing high blood pressure, my doctor prescribes Paxil. I see it as something that might help my depression. The side effects are... not fun, but it does dampen my anxiety and keep the bouts of depression from happening as frequently.

I volunteer as a mentor for Junicorn, a Dames Making Games incubator for new gamemakers. It results in some pretty awesome stuff.

I show HEMO RACERS at the Toronto Global Game Jam Arcade, featuring custom-made heart controllers. Made from Play-Doh and a MaKey MaKey, they prove much more effective than a leopard at controlling the awkwardly-playing racing game.

JULY & AUGUST

I honestly cannot remember anything significant happening between these two months.

SEPTEMBER

I Get This Call Every Day is shown at Eurogamer Expo's Indie Games Arcade, marking the first time the game is shown at a major convention. The game is submitted to IndieCade but fails to be selected for the festival. I also submit I Get This Call Every Day to the IGF, because it seems like a more likely route to Steam than Greenlight.

I really wanted to go to IndieCade, but couldn't afford to pay for a flight to LA. Swallowing my pride, I start an IndieGoGo campaign. I made well over my asking amount (thanks in no small part to Rock Paper Shotgun and the Penny Arcade Report, of all places).

OCTOBER

I went to California (specifically Anaheim) when I was 16; the trip to IndieCade marks my second time in the state, and my first time travelling abroad by myself. Anna Anthropy and Merrit Kopas turn out to be the best roommates, although my snoring kept Merritt awake too often. I finally get to put faces to Twitter names like Patrick Lindsey and Patricia Hernandez. I meet awesome new people for the first time, like Mattie Brice, Toni Rocca, TJ Thomas, and Jason Vega. I get to reunite with Lulu and Zoe, two people I'd missed so much since they left Toronto. The event is amazing more for the people than the games or panels. I troll Ian Bogost by asking "is games criticism art?" to his panel of critics. I chill with Adam Boyes and John Vignocchi as they recount their raucous Midway days. I get a sloppy lick-kiss from Dave Lang as he takes a picture of us. I shake Shahid Kamal's hand for what I hope is just the first time. I spend nearly ten minutes having a deep experience with Soundself on an Oculus Rift. I pass around a thermal mug full of whiskey and earn the reputation of Booze Santa. I wear short for six days straight in October. I spend twenty-four hours in LAX after my flight home is cancelled.

The rest of October was pretty uneventful in comparison.

NOVEMBER

Seeing large swaths of games being consistently Greenlit at once, I bow to internal pressure and put I Get This Call Every Day back on Steam Greenlight. It is against my better judgement, but the potential of increased income is not one I can ignore as funds become even tighter.

I discover itch.io, which slowly comes to replace Humble as the main sales provider for I Get This Call Every Day. I vow to make my next paid game an itch.io exclusive, whenever & whatever that may be.

My wife Ana joined me in the Three Decade Club.

DECEMBER

The Bit Bazaar Winter Market provides another opportunity to sell Pack Up Your Things editions of I Get This Call Every Day, as well as postcards for that game and HEMO RACERS. It's a pretty buoying event for me, even if it is a financial failure. It is probably the last time I participate in a major event in Toronto.

I Get This Call Every Day celebrates its first birthday. I make a stupid video. Speaking of which, I finally release the first backer reward video for the IndieCade IndieGoGo campaign, several months after they were promised.

LOOKING AHEAD TO 2014:

... I don't even know. I have some updates planned for I Get This Call Every Day - I essentially want to avenge the game with HaxeFlixel and make some needed improvements. At this point, IGF judging is probably over and done on the original version, so I doubt any changes will help in that regard.

As for new projects? I'm at a loss. I should be working on a sequel to Apocalypse Later, and AGAMEFORANA BLITZ, and that murder mystery simulator, and a dozen other things. Depression and being unemployed for eleven months has taken its toll on me; I have a horrible work ethic and cannot seem to accomplish anything on most days. The coming year looks pretty bleak.

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This was a triumph.

I'm making a note here: HUGH SUCCESS.

Sure, those are some overused Jonathan Colton lyrics right there, but that's exactly how I feel about the launch of I Get This Call Every Day. I expected to make a few bucks, encounter some ridicule, and be back to "business" as usual. I was wrong.

I blogged over at Gamasutra about how well the game has done in terms of sales, but the TL:DR is that the game has made almost $900. That's pocket change for most triple-A games, but for an independent gamemaker like myself, that's world-changing.

To start, it's immediately validated for me that I making games is what I want to do for the rest of my life. Screw this day job - I'm getting out as soon as it's financially viable to do so.

It also seems like I tapped into a common experience for a lot of people. Seems there are many who either have been or currently are stuck in jobs like my own, and they found their experience mirrored in the game. I Get This Call Every Day is getting an incredible number of votes on Steam Greenlight, which surprises the hell out of me. I put it up there with the expectation that it would fail miserably, but it has done very well for votes. If you feel like upvoting the game on Greenlight, head here; of course, the game is still available for sale directly from my website for as little as $2.

I thought I was foolish for thinking that releasing a game like this could ever possibly help me quit my day job. Now... it just might do the trick.

The one thing that I've really cherished above everything that's happened - above the Kotaku coverage, above the reviews, above the game's inexplicable Greenlight appeal - it's that my game appeared for over a week in the Giant Bomb New Release homepage sidebar.

Of course, I'm not stopping here. I don't have any particular projects lined up next, but with the Global Game Jam next month and One Game A Month running throughout 2013, you can expect a few new games out of me in the new year.

Yippiekaiyay, motherfucker.

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My Thoughts Before I Launch My First Game For Sale

Hi everyone,

To start things off, I'm this guy. In seven hours as of this writing, I will be making available for sale my "first" game, I Get This Call Every Day. You might think that I would be nothing but excitement and enthusiasm, but I've been nothing but a big ball of nervous stress.

Some of that is launch-related: I don't have time to make a launch trailer! and what if the payment processor goes down? and I'll be at work all day on launch day, what if something goes wrong and demands my attention?

Some of that comes from everything else going on around me: cash is tight, bills have piled up, the usual holiday gifting pressure, and medical scares for both my wife and my mother-in-law that haven't been resolved.

Two years ago at Christmastime, my dog Kayla got irreparably sick. I made the call to end her suffering. I constantly question whether I made the right decision. The memory of holding her during her last twitch, watching her limp body being carried away... it haunts me. Especially this time of the year. I probably should have waited until the Holidays were over, because ever since Kayla passed, I hate this time of year.

I know there's a part of me that has deliberately lowered my expectations. I've gotten super-enthusiastic about my work in the past, only to have it shot down (often by my own father). I've become resilient to criticism by lowering expectations. There's less disappointment if it wasn't a big deal to begin with.

Last night I imagined what would happen today if I woke up and found out I was dying. My first regret would be that I wasn't leaving the world with something more positive. I Get This Call Every Day is bleak. It expresses everything I hate about my day job - dealing with idiots, dealing with a bureaucracy sorely lacking in human empathy, existing in an ugly world for eight hours every day. There is no good ending to the game. Others have found humour in the script, but I find none of it funny because it is EXACTLY what I named the game. I get this call every goddamned day. It's not exactly how I want to be remembered.

I wonder if other gamemakers feel this way when a launch is upon them?

I specified "first" in the beginning because I Get This Call Every Day is technically my seventh game. Zombie Zapper, EscapeOut, Ouroborn, A Game For Ana, Josephine, and Apocalypse Later are all a) jam games, made in 72 hours or less, and b) browser-based games that don't warrant a page on this site. You can find them on my website if you're interested, along with my interactive fictions. I Get This Call Every Day is the first game I made outside of a jam, the first game I ever did a huge amount of audio work for (over 250 voice clips, which are bloody hard to produce), and the first game I invested a significant amount of my time and my personality. Part of me hopes that it does well, and another part of me doesn't expect it to do much of anything. That's the defense mechanism talking.

I have no idea how to end this.

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