I read a lot of social science / tech culture stuff, and try to keep up to date with the ways in which the world is changing before everyone really notices. In some ways this is defence against becoming irrelevant (I didn’t want to be the last indie dev to start a blog, or a twitter account or youtube channel for example), and in other cases it can be absolutely financially rewarding. For example I bought Tesla stock a long time ago, and have done very well from it, primarily because I realised really early on that they had, essentially, won the whole market in terms of electric cars, and literally the only problem was, nobody had actually realised how badly they were getting beaten. I could blog about that for days, but I’ll spare you that one…
Anyway two topics I keep seeing and reading about, are mass content creation and the importance of cities, and I thought I’d share them with you and allude to their relevance regarding my life as an indie game dev.
Mass Content Creation.
Have you heard the thing about the weird videos aimed at kids that are acted out by humans (in some cases) and created in a mass-content farm style to generate ad revenue? If not, this might be a good introduction to the topic:
The key thing that I think is relevant here, is that the amount of content that you think is ‘a lot’ in terms of video is absolutely not a lot. If you are an indie dev, and there are 4 lets plays of your new game, and one of them was you, and you are wondering which Ferrari to order, I’d suggestion forgetting the Ferrari and instead consider which organs to sell to buy food. There is a LOT of content out there, especially in video. Generation X watches 1.5 billion youtube videos per day. Over a billion hours are watched per day, and of that content over 70% of it is content that has been recommended by the youtube algorithm. People are watching what is put in front of them, and having a tiny little collection of videos of your product is not going to cut it when your fraction of that content is so close to zero.
I tried to kick-start a youtube presence for production line myself, doing regularly weekly video blogs. I’ve done just over 90 of these 10-15 minute videos now, and each one gets roughly a thousand views. Here is the latest one:
This is beneficial… and also a minute drop in the ocean. Those 90 videos are giving me about 13,000 views a month. Thats ‘not bad’ as it helps get the name out there, but I do not have *nearly* enough content to keep the name high enough in peoples minds. The problem is, its ME who is making them, and I am literally the most expensive (and only) employee available to do this. Obviously its a catch 22 problem, because the person best suited to give inside information on the game, is the guy making it, and he is also the worst person whose time to use for video content.
In a totally perfect world, I would have an assistant who teleported into my home at will, and only charged me for the time he was needed. I’d click my fingers and say ‘hey Dave, set up all the green-screen crap and get ready for my video’ and then half an hour later I’d say ‘hey Dave, take all that stuff down, edit the video, render it, upload it, and then post about it to these 5 locations’. And then BOOM Dave would be gone, after an hours work for an hours money.
The trouble is, Dave doesn’t exist, and cats cannot be trained… I am not able to optimise my marketing efforts to the point where I have the content that I think I need, because the granularity to do this does not exist in a one person company. Which brings me to…
The power of cities
Lets get this out there right away: Cities are awful. I was born in London, and I now live surrounded by fields, hills and single track country lanes along which horses slowly clip-clop. Its AWESOME. Yes, its a long way to the shops, but the air is clean, there is no traffic, there is very little crime, its AWESOME. Unless…
…you need to meet a lot of people who do what you do, or stuff that you may want people to do. This is something that is pretty critical if you want to build (or expand) a business. Its true that I believe strongly in the idea of remote working, and hiring people I’ve not met., I’ve done this a lot, but it is NOT ideal. In an ideal world, you still meet someone, chat about what you want, how it should work, what to do, hammer out a deal, and you are just a few feet away if they get stuck, or confused or you see them doing something wrong. You simply cannot beat working physically with people, and you certainly cannot beat living somewhere like San Francisco, London, Vancouver, or even Guildford or Boston, in terms of having a local ‘game dev’ community. I’m not just the only indie game developer in the village, I’m the only person working in any sort of computer related field whatsoever.
Scott Galloway is one of many people who argue that all of the exciting new business startups, and projects, and opportunities happen in cities, the bigger the better:
And thats very relevant indeed if you are looking for your first job, or to start a business, but it is ALSO valid if you want to grow one. Sure, I could make use of a person on a part time basis to do X, or to do Y, or code Z, or run errands for me. The problem is, I simply don’t meet enough people to make deals and partnerships and arrangements like that happen. This is one of the many reasons I still go to trade shows and events. Meeting random internet people is difficult for an introvert like me, but I have made so many good deals/partnerships etc over the years from people I meet at these things that I KNOW its good for me.
So yeah, your rent may suck in that city, but its probably paying for itself in long term career boosting.
I hate em so much though I’m going to stay here and listen to those horses.