Does indie game development have an ageism problem? August 21, 2019 cliffski Hi, I’m an indie game dev. I have been since the early days when we had to sell our games at a market stall on punched cards. Actually no, that was a JOKE but still… I remember before the invention of the compact disc. I remember the fall of the Berlin Wall & nelson mandela being freed. I recall Ronald Reagan being elected president. My first car had one wing mirror and a manual choke. I went to see Metallica’s ‘master of puppets’ tour. I grew up during the cold war and recall Brezhnev as leader of the USSR. I remember TV with only three channels to choose from. To put it another way…I’m 49 years old. I’m a proper Gen Xer. Not gen Y, or gen Z, or millennial. Gen X, the cool generation. What little hair I have left is about half grey. I read dead-tree newspapers at the weekend and proper books. I saw the original theatrical release of ‘star wars’. Because I live in a village whose average community gathering looks like a Dark Crystal cosplay convention, I’m known as ‘that young man’, whereas in fact, not only am I ‘middle aged’ but as far as the indie development community is concerned I am…almost dead. When I think of indie game devs my age or older… I mostly strike out. I know Jeff Vogel certainly looks around my age, but honestly who else? maybe Jeff Minter? was it it about indie devs called Jeff? The other UK-based indies I know of are all younger. yes even the slightly grey-haired Cas from puppygames or Jake ‘I don’t dye my hair yet’ birkett of grey alien games, both younger than me. Even ‘elder statesman indies ‘introversion‘ are all younger than me. Now I get it…someone has to be the old timer, and I guess its me, and frankly I don’t give a fuck. Middle age is frankly awesome. You can go out for a meal without caring if your clothes are fashionable or if your ass looks too big or if anybody fancies you. Car insurance is trivial, and I bought my house when they cost about as much as a mouse mat. Oh I forgot…you don’t remember mouse mats do you? ..anyway… I don’t CARE that *I* am old, but I do care that the age-range of indie devs seems to be…roughly 16-21 years old. I exaggerate for hilarious comic effect, but here is a random group of people. See if you can guess which one is NOT an indie game dev. Hahaha, we old people are so funny. However, maybe this isn’t funny at all. Maybe in all the excitement and righteous identity politics crusading of the last decade or two about making sure indie game dev is ‘inclusive’ we forgot one group of people. One really big group of people. One really obvious group of people… older people. (BTW dont go all angry on my ass about that pic. I used those 3 people because I know them, not because they are somehow indicative of anything other than being devs I know). In theory, there should be OVER-representation of middle aged people in indie game dev. Think it through: We have WAY more development experience than you youngsters have. We likely already have experience of triple-A dev and have learned from their mistakes. Finance-wise, we are no longer paying off college debt. We bought our houses CHEAP and are not saving for a deposit for a house. We are likely married, and thus may be able to balance out the riskiness of starting a business with a 2nd income from a spouse… Go a bit older, to my age and things may be even EASIER. Our kids have left home, the house is paid off, so is the car… and we have even MORE experience, both as coders/artists and as people who have seem gaming trends come and go. We have access to cheaper debt if we want a bank loan to fund our company. Hell..we may even GET a bank loan, unlike anyone with zero credit history. We have seen friends try and fail at running a business and can learn from their mistakes. We know a LOT of people in the industry….so…Where are all the 40+ indie game developers? Mark Morris from uk indie devs ‘introversion’ Now I can immediately see a list of counter-arguments. We may be wary of ‘risking’ a stable home life with kids and a spouse depending on us. We may even have a pretty good job in the mainstream industry, and be relying on that for job security. We may have realized that gamedev is too risky and not as fulfilling as we once thought and now be working in the *much better paid* finance or web development industry. We may be burned out by overwork and want a quieter career… But my own experience just doesn’t back this up. I could NOT switch careers now, from indie game dev at age 49, NOT because I’m too old to get a new job (I’m pretty qualified and very experienced now), but because nobody can afford to pay me enough to quit my indie game gig. To earn what I earn now, I’d probably have to get a job managing 20-50 people (or more) and it would involve the hassle of commuting, attending endless meetings and probably never typing another line of code… …in other words, my current job is perfect for a 49 year old coder. Its frankly VERY well paid, its work-from home, so I can go walk the dog (I don’t have a dog), pop out for lunch (I do actually do this) and basically work when I feel like it. I can live somewhere remote in the countryside, and take holidays when I feel like it. Its bliss. Show me the stressed out financial software contractor commuting to central London to do a job he likely despises who does NOT instantly want to swap places with me. At age 49, this is great. And yet at every indie gathering I attend, I’m the oldest. Why? It might be chance, but I cant help but think it might be a sort of unconscious prejudice. Lets be honest, when we imagine indie devs, we imagine someone in their early twenties with blue hair on a skateboard, an apple macbook covered in stickers with edgy slogans on it, and a latte in one hand and avocado toast in the other. Indie game dev is a young persons world. 2019 GDC indie party Go to a party at GDC and you will find loud music, lots of alcohol and people excitedly yelling at each other. Later, if we are lucky, skrillex may play. yay? at the end of the evening we will celebrate the thirty under thirty. I expect to see twenty under twenty soon. Maybe a special event for pre-teen devs next year? Indie development is COOL its FRESH its YOUNG! Its people all living together in the same house! its all game-jamming till 4am on a train! its loud music! its an obsession with ‘retro! (because to so many devs the 1980s feels like ancient history, known about only from fascinating documentaries). This is worrying. We should NOT be gatekeeping indie game development to any small narrowly-defined group of people. The biggest irony about the game dev ‘community’ (actually a very cliquey set of people following each other on twitter) is that they INSIST that they are very very inclusive (and will be offended by any suggestion they are not), but in fact its really a club primarily of relatively well off western middle class twenty somethings. If you want REAL indie development inclusivity , show me the people in their forties and fifties at your indie event. Hell, show me people over thirty. There is nothing magical about indie game development that means only young people can do it. Computer games are not THAT new.