Game Design, Programming and running a one-man games business…

Re-framing social media

I haven’t been on twitter for a few weeks, and its been good. Here is why.

I started doing a lot of thinking about the internet, and social media specifically, and I really do not like the current state of things. I read a truly excellent long blogpost about the bloat in web pages these days, that would be funny if it was not so tragic. It reminded me of a time when people in IT gave a flying fuck about performance, efficiency, and common sense, rather than ‘user engagement’ ‘metrics’ and ‘stock options’.

The moment you step aside from social media, you start really seeing it properly for the absolute dystopian hell that it is. Anybody with common sense would absolutely leave it immediately for their own health, and no doubt many do, but the rest of us who are still there do not even know that happens because… we only know about what happens on social media.

With thousands of ‘followers’ on social media, we are part of a rich ecosystem of always-on, always updating action. The fact that 10 people we knew just stopped posting entirely and disappeared will not even register to us because…oh look a kitten video.

Lets be perfectly clear. Twitter is a private company, not a service. Its sole reason to exist is to make as much money as possible. if that means destabilizing governments, wrecking democracies, driving people to suicide, and destroying the mental health of an entire generation or two, then nobody at twitter is going to care one bit. They have shown this to be true time and time again. Its still rife with abuse, hatred, misinformation and crypto-scam troll-farm bullshit.

If you are anything even vaguely like me, then you will know, deep down, that twitter, and similar sites like Facebook, are absolutely disastrous for your mental health. By participating in these sites you are putting up a big ‘open for business’ sign next to the emotional center of your brain, with an open invite to people with extreme, warped views and aggressively evangelical personalities to come unload their hatred and prejudices into your skull 24/7. Its the most destructive drug imaginable. Even with heroin or cocaine, you actually run out at some point, and need to call your dealer. With social medial, the dealer is right there, right next to you, with a constant fine-tuned supply being injected straight into your veins all the time, for free. Best of all, hardly any of you, statistically, will kill themselves, so the dealer can keep it up for longer.

The whole idea of craving more ‘followers’ on twitter is absolutely insane. Jesus had followers. I guess Gandhi did too. Maybe Martin Luther King. Certainly some horrible dictators also had many followers. But does someone who makes videos about knitting on the internet need ‘followers’? and do they need to know the exact number of them, all the time, updating hourly? This is objectively insane. Its a skinner box for faked charisma. Its pure evil. We cannot cope living like this.

I think I have 10-12,000 twitter followers the last time I looked. I don’t think its changed for years. Many are likely bots. Its depressing that I even know the number to that level of accuracy. We should not want to know. We should not want to play such a game. Many people I know DO play this game, because they are content creators (indie game developers) and they think this will raise their profile and sell more games. I think this is a mistake.

Here is a top tip: Take all the time, effort and energy you spend tweeting, replying, re-tweeting and scrolling on twitter and spend all that effort instead working in a coffee shop waiting tables. Then take the money from that 2nd job and spend it on advertising or improving your content (whether its indie games, art, books, whatever). Your ROI will be WAY better.

We all know people who ‘got famous through twitter’. Of course we do, because twitters algorithm will take any story along those lines and promote the fuck out of it. How many people do you actually really know personally who owe their fantastic success to their twitter account? Do you actually ever do any analysis on whether or not being viral on twitter sells more video games? Let me help you with that.

Here is one of the most famous people on the planet replying to a tweet at him by me:

WHOAH. I bet a TON of people checked out my twitter profile and then went and bought my games on apr 14th 2021 right? Lets see the spike:

Oh dear…nothing… ok Here is a tweet I did on a random whim after I saw a link about it. I didn’t even create the original content.

Ok… now we are talking. Thats pretty cool right. A tweet with 48,000 likes. Not bad cliffski, not bad at all, this is where we see the sales spike:

yeah…I’m kinda not seeing it. But maybe I’m a freak and my steam sales are never spiky. Lets looks at the current Christmas steam sale to check that theory:


And YES, I get it… MAYBE some small number of people who see you tweeting something viral are going to check your profile and MAYBE some of those people will then be 1% more likely to buy your game in the next year and YES maybe its hard to track but…

I’ve been on twitter forever, and I basically have had about half a dozen ‘viral’ moments, and none of them have led to any noticeable boost to my business. If I could go back in time, never join twitter, and never join reddit or facebook, and get back ALL that time and convert it into more direct work on marketing or developing my game would I do it? Of course.

For those who like the numbers. Lets say those 48k likes represented clicks on an ad. Thats 48,000 clicks at maybe $0.05 CPC because its poorly targeted. $2,400. Assuming I’m due another viral tweet every 10 years, thats $240 a year for my social media addiction. yay?

Apart from anything, I really resent putting any effort into these social media platforms in the past only to realize way later that I’m basically an unpaid content creator for a billion dollar US-owned social media company. At least twitter have not YET started charging people money to ensure all your followers see your tweet (thats coming though…), whereas facebook blatantly flipped that switch years ago.

Twitter is disastrous for your mental health, and sites like facebook and reddit are even worse. Actually RANKING peoples opinions with up and downvotes? Are we serious here? Imagine going round a friends house for a few beers and a chat, and every time anybody said something people all held up up and downvote paddles. Does that sound like fucked-up psychotic behavior to you?

Full disclaimer: I advertise on social media. It works reasonably well, I wont stop doing that. But I left facebook a few years ago with no regrets, and only maintain facebook and reddit accounts because my games have pages on both networks. I’m not on tiktok or snapchat or instagram.

I’m calmer, and happier since I stopped using twitter, and I have a very, very hard time seeing any way in which its affecting my business. Frankly I have more time now and less distractions to actually improve my game. If you follow me on twitter you may see the odd post for some big event that I want to ensure any press following me see (like the upcoming release of Democracy 4 from Early Access), but in terms of casual day-to-day tweeting and banter on twitter? I think I’m going to save that for real-life friends from now on.

In defense of ‘gatekeeping’.

One of my pet hates is the huge avalanche of really bad advice and ‘hot takes’ that spread rapidly over the interwebs that have zero experience or data behind them. The problem has been made infinitely worse by the shift over time from asynchronous communication to real time communication as the preferred system. This is really, really bad.

Go back 100+ years and the primary means of communication between geographically separate individuals was probably a letter. Letters have some downsides, mostly the delay in receiving a reply, but actually that delay can be a feature. Not only is it harder to send an embarrassing emotional drunken ‘hot take’ by letter, you also have a much slower expectation of reply times. You can almost certainly ‘sleep on it’, do some research, discuss the topic with friends and family, read the news, let the contents of the letter sink in… and then, once you have marshaled your thoughts, and mentally composed an intelligent, thoughtful, and reasoned reply, you can put pen to paper.

Email worsened the situation, because now you do not need to walk to a post box. You can email drunk, or angry, or without checking your facts. However, you do not HAVE to respond right now. The sender isn’t sure if you get the email in a minute or an hour. A next day reply is fine.

Social media makes everything worse in 4 different vectors:

  • Delivery is instant, so there is pressure to reply without thinking or researching
  • Replying is gamified, with notifications, so there is a push to respond, even if you have no insight
  • Replies are global. Anybody can reply, and everyone can see the reply.
  • Your replies (ie: your personal work/content) is now monetized by a 3rd party, and you are paid $0 for this.

One of the huge downsides of connecting everyone to everyone else over the entire planet is that we no longer have any idea who has experience, or data, and who is just a talkative idiot who wades into every conversation they can find. We also have no time, or incentive to give a damn who anybody is. On the internet, all opinions have become equally weighted, whether they are the considered conclusions from a multi-year phd research project, or a drunken reality tv-star’s vodka-fueled hot take. (FWIW I don’t care what actor Idris Elba said about climate change at COP26…)

Many thousands of years ago, I was one of many people who hung out on an internet forum for indie game developers. It basically WAS the indie game community, probably a decade before ‘indie game:the movie’, and long before steam. The entire indie community, globally, would chat there about programming, design, and business…

…and as the community grew, people who had been making games for a long time noticed a tendency for newcomers (without any shipped games) to get increasingly vocal about every topic, in terms of offering their advice to other newcomers. The advice was often bad, coming from neither experience or data. People started to complain that they had no idea who to listen to. The idea was mooted that forum posters with actual, shipped, commercial games would get a forum badge by their name, to give context to the replies and posts from people with experience and data.

Begun, the indie wars had…

By modern twitter standards it probably would not seem too bad, but oh my god, it was bad. People who were extremely frequent posters who had not shipped a game were FURIOUS to put it mildly. How DARE people say that their opinions were worthless? how dare the forum become so elitist? These days, on twitter, such a move is described as gatekeeping, and is apparently a really bad thing.

There is a difference between arbitrary gatekeeping (ie: not letting people join your club for no good reason), and giving context to information. I will even add to that to say that some times, a little gatekeeping makes a lot of sense. If you want a forum where long established game developers want to talk about running a studio, dealing with staff, negotiating contracts etc… then only allowing people in the forum who have some experience of such stuff makes a lot of sense. And there are quite a few private indie forums in 2021 full of such people. I’m a member of 3 of them, and used to be in a forth.

People seem to have a blindspot when it comes to the creative industries, where there is an oft-repeated mantra that ‘if you are working on a game, you are already a game developer’, and the same for acting, writing, music and so on. Perhaps controversially, I think this is total bollocks.

People used to mock Sarah Palin for saying she has foreign affairs expertise because she lived in Alaska and could see Russia. My favorite joke was to say if you can see the moon, you are an astronaut. When I worked in a boatyard, there was a VERY FIRM rule, that you could not describe yourself as a boatbuilder unless you had built a boat… from scratch. So you did the keel, the ribs, the planking, everything. I worked on boats for 8 years, banged in tens of thousands of nails, did a lot of ribs, and floor joints and a huge amount of planking, but never the keel. People were very firm: I was not a boatbuilder…

And thats fine. Because frankly, I wasn’t. I can tell you a few tricks about banging in nails accurately, and how to drill holes in thin wood without splitting the timber, but my experience is limited, and my hot takes on how to build a boat should not be public. Be aware that I have 8 years experience in that industry, but I still know I am not vaguely qualified to give general advice on it.

Back in Sarah Palin’s era, she was rightly mocked for pretending to have worthy experience when she had none, but these days, having absolutely fuck-all experience and data regarding a topic is becoming a badge of honor. In the US, President Trump literally claimed to ‘love the poorly educated’. He knew absolutely nothing about what covid was, or why climate change was a threat, and much, much more worryingly, he expressed zero interest in learning from experts on either topic. Despite this he expressed insane ideas on national TV about solutions, with actual experts stood to the side looking on in horror.

This should not be a political issue. Whether you are left wing or right wing, liberal or conservative, science is science, data is data, experience is experience. I have absolutely NO IDEA how the global climate works, but the overwhelming majority of people who have phds and nobel prizes in this stuff tell me about climate change, and I believe them. I have no idea how covid spreads, but medical experts tell me to wear a mask, so I do so. I do this because the alternative is a frightening one, which is trusting my own hunch and gut feeling on topics, instead of experts.

Here are some of the things my gut instinct tells me, if I ignored the opinions of ‘so-called-experts’. Planes cannot fly, because they are metal, and its heavy. The earth cannot be round because Australians would fall off. Quantum physics sounds confusing, so clearly its just made up. Advertising doesn’t affect me, because I am smart.

All the time, every day, we encounter stuff that our immediate ‘hot-take’ on is wrong, because we are not experts. The problem is, we are so encouraged to share our dumb hot takes on social media, that we are now all overloading each other with ignorance. When everyone is constantly offering their shallow analysis on everything, all the time, how on earth are people ever going to be sensibly informed? When our analysis is a popularity contest on twitter, the electorate become literally stupider every day, the chances of us electing decent politicians, or allowing them to make the right choices are slim to none. The best facts should be the correct ones, not the ones with most upvotes from people who have no idea. e=mc2 is not the result of a twitter poll

We need to fight back against the urge to offer up our opinions when we have zero experience and zero data. The urge is strong, and psychology experts working at social media companies are working hard to force us to vomit up hot-takes 24/7, but its highly destructive. I’m probably as guilty as the next person, so to help out anybody unlucky enough to know me, or follow me on twitter, or read this blog, here is a list of all of the topics I actually have a decent, serious amount of experience and data on, after 52 years on this planet. Anything else I offer an opinion on is likely bullshit:

  • The electric car market, and the plans and existing business of Tesla.
  • Marketing and selling a PC-focused indie strategy game, especially advertising.
  • Heavy metal guitar playing techniques, up to a certain level.
  • C++, with some stl, but excluding any modern additions in the last 15 years.
  • Solar panel economics, and challenges associated with solar farm construction in the UK.
  • Classical Economic theory, but only to degree level.

Everything else I offer an opinion on is basically garbage, and not worthy of you listening to. There are more experienced experts on all of those topics BTW (although I *might* make a play for being a decent expert for the second one).

So to conclude, having experience MATTERS. having data MATTERS. Lets stop being ashamed to admit that we disregard some peoples opinions on some topics. Expertise has real value. To make a point, I’ll close comments for this post :D.

Two orders of magnitude thinking

So… I just watched the neuralink video with the monkey playing pong, if you havent seen it already, watch this:

Now you picked your jaw up off the floor, lets think about how stuff like this can even happen, and what we can learn from how things have got to this point… The main takeaway here is not that neuralink have managed to vastly accelerate progress in the field of curing paralysis (or I guess…working around it), but the approach they are taking. They often talk about some seemingly minor things in their presentations:

  • There is no visible scar on the monkey.
  • The device is charged wirelessly using a baseball cap!
  • The surgical equipment that puts the implant in is very fast, and should be a very simple procedure (relatively).

This is a BIG deal, because its what we might call two orders of magnitude thinking. This seems to be something that Elon Musk does all the time, and I think its amazing and worth learning from, regardless what field you work in. When you look at spacex, neuralink and tesla, the thinking behind the company strategy is absolutely different to the strategy behind every other company I am aware of, because its this:

Don’t work out how to go from where we are to the next thing. Work out the ultimate impossible goal, even if its 100x harder, then make direct plans for that, regardless what it takes.

SpaceX is the clearest example. All other rocket companies had an idea that they would try to make a rocket as good as, or better than the current examples. maybe slightly cheaper, maybe slightly larger, maybe a slightly bigger payload. If they were really ambitious, maybe double the payload, or half the cost. The spacex solution was not along those lines. It was ‘given we need to establish a self-sustaining colony on mars, whats needed to achieve that?’ and the ridiculous answer that comes back is 100% reusable rockets, that land, refuel then take off within an hour.

SpaceX's Falcon Heavy successful in commercial debut – Spaceflight Now

Looked at from the POV of NASA, thats absolutely insane, yet they get closer every year. reusable rockets (at least 1st stage reusable) are now a reality, in fact the norm, and totally reusable rockets should be perfected within a year. Nobody would even begin to attempt this, if they took a standard “where do we go from here” approach.

Neuralink is another example. They are not trying to push forward current tech regarding solutions for the paralyzed. They are thinking ‘how do we make a neural lace from the Iain M Banks novels’, and then working on the tech, the infrastructure, and the processes required to make that a reality. Elon musk wants every human on earth to have the option to have a brain-computer interface. It has to be safe, invisible, affordable, routine. This seems impossible and yet…here we are…

Tesla is a third. They were not aiming to make a few electric sports cars for rich jerks. They were aiming to completely transform the entire car industry. Thats why they moved as fast as possible from the roadster to the model S, to the 3, to the Y and soon to an even cheaper model. This is the plan all along, not even secretly, its been posted online years and years ago. And now? not just building one insanely big factory but two, at the same time, Not aiming to boost sales by 5 or 10% but 50-100% each year, every year, because *thats what it takes* to achieve an impossible end goal.

Tesla Texas Gigafactory drone construction update - DroneDJ

So how does this mindset help anybody reading this?

Its a mental trick. And it works. I use a lot of mental tricks. I used to have a slide in talks I gave showing the troops in a landing craft at the D-Day landings. These are people I visualize when I’m stuck, or feeling slack, or demotivated. I put myself in their position and compare whatever relatively trivial challenge I have to theirs. This mental trick is different, and probably less harrowing, but its similarly effective.

This mental trick is in thinking backwards. You do NOT under ANY CIRCUMSTANCES frame your decision making, your motivation, or your plans based on where you are now. Thats irrelevant, whether it be money, location, knowledge, whatever. You totally ignore where you are now, and work backwards from where you absolutely HAVE to end up, in the timescale of your choice. You plot backwards, writing down the decisions that must have been taken, the action that must have taken place in order to explain how you ended up achieving your goal.

So for example, you want to make a comfortable career out of indie game development. Thats fine, but work out what that looks like and go backwards. Maybe in your country that means earning a reliable $200,000 a year before tax. Ok, fine, whats needed in terms of sales for you to do that reliably? how does that gross up to give a figure before steam/apple/googles cut? How much more is needed to account for hardware/software/subcontractors etc?

Do not compare where you are, to whats needed at the end goal, because if you do, you will give up. its natural. The trick is to assume its already happened, and that you have no say in it. Maybe when you progress back and back and back from the $200,000 a year in 5 years to today, you realize you need to ship a game that sells 5,000 copies THIS year. without fail. Maybe that will take you 2000 hours to make this year and you have a full time job. So thats maybe 8 hours a day you need to find every day this year. How is that even possible?

The point is, it doesn’t matter, you have to assume it is possible, and then everything else is irrelevant. Maybe you work on your game every lunch hour, and every morning before work, and late into the night every night for a year, and thats how you do it. Maybe you remortgage the house, sell the car, sell a bunch of other stuff and take a six month sabbatical instead? Your circumstances dictate the path.

The point I’m trying to get across, is that if you work backwards, taking extreme measures to achieve your goals starts to feel justified, understandable, and expected. If you work forwards, the same actions seem obsessive, extreme, even insane.

99% of people reading this will think I’m nuts, and that nobody should be that obsessed with work. Thats absolutely fine, its aimed at that 1% who keep failing to achieve big goals and need a trick to help them do it, and absolutely want that goal enough to do whats needed.

Some thoughts on the evil that is… *comments*

I think a lot about how I think. I’m ridiculously obsessed with this topic, and it kinda screws up my brain. I often have no idea what I think, or what I want, because I am so busy over-analyzing my decisions. Back when I was super into marketing, I read a fuckton of books about decision making and influence, to see what makes people decide to play, or click or buy. I probably got a bit too into it, because now I find it hard to just *want* a thing and then just *buy* it, without analyzing if I really need it or if its irresponsible, or if its good value, yada yada…

Anyway, despite that annoyance, it does yield some benefits in terms of me noticing changes in my own behavior and my attitudes over the years. One of the more weird things I have noticed is how successfully silicon valley billionaires have persuaded me to think differently about information.

Back in the pre-internet days, I would read a book or a newspaper, and think about what it said. I would turn the topic over in my mind, dwell on the facts, or the arguments made, consider how persuasive they were, or were not, and think about how this new opinion/commentary/information could improve my life in some minor way. Maybe I just read something about physics. Now I know a bit more about physics! maybe an opinion piece on tax rates…now I have a more refined sense of my own views on tax rates… whatever.

I think the important thing here is…the time. The actual reading of new information is only the gateway into learning from/absorbing it. If what you read is good, it will stimulate a lot of thought. Some reflection on what the deeper implications are, maybe discovering links to other views or information in related areas. You have *improved* from reading the information, but also mostly from the post-reading consideration and analysis of it.

Say for example you read ‘the communist party manifesto’ by Karl marx/Engels or ‘Capitalism’ by ayn rand. (FWIW I’ve read both! … sort of, got bored with 2nd one) You probably get triggered by the opinions in one or the other of these books, maybe really angry, maybe you think those views cannot hold up to scrutiny etc… But left alone with a paper book, you cannot *react*, you have to consider. You have to analyze, you have to allow deeper thought, and reflection.

But not now.

Now we read everything online, and even if there are NO comments on the article we read, you can bet a site like slashdot/hackernews/reddit/facebook is where we saw the link, and there will be tons of comments for us to join in with there.

There is now NO TIME set aside for considering what is being read. You MUST comment. You MUST read other peoples comments. I feel it too, this is not me being superior, I feel that pull too. I have read something that I have an instant opinion on. I MUST SHARE MY HOT TAKE IMMEDIATELY. In many cases, who really needs to RTFA (read the fucking article) when you can post your half-baked instant reaction simply to the buzzwords in the headline. Do NOT think, COMMENT!

Someone Is Wrong On The Internet. - Pellet On Pellet - Field Target

Of course this is bad, because it means 5% of what we read is thought-out and researched, and considered, and 95% is hot-takes responding to (if we are lucky) the content of the article. I wish there was a way to auto-track how much of what I read is journalism vs random strangers reactions to journalism. I suspect the ratio is very worrying. (BTW I am not elevating ‘journalists’ here, I am referring to any considered, thought-out piece of writing, and actual *article* instead of a single-paragraph hot take).

Much of what is true feels wrong. We tend to overlook this, but some thought shows it to be true. Here are some things that I am led to believe to be true, but which I subconsciously suspect must be wrong, intuitively.

  • The Earth is a sphere.
  • Aeroplanes, made of metal (which is heavy), can fly.
  • Quantum entanglement is a thing.
  • You can raise a tax rate, and then take in less money from that tax.
  • The earth is hurtling through space at an incredible speed.

If I was not aware of any of these things, and saw them posted on the internet, I would likely have to fight an immediate urge to respond with my ‘hot take’. “FFS metal is HEAVY, no special shape, or strapping it to an engine will make it fly like a bird. Have you ever SEEN a bird? the article is clearly BS. This so-called aeroplane doesn’t even flap its wings FFS. what bullshit. Downvote.

Exaggeration for hilarious comic effect indeed. But there is a nugget of truth here. We have been conditioned, by the clickbait seeking engagement-time metric maximising billionaires of silicon valley, to ENGAGE with content, but not to critically consider it, or appraise it. That 95% vs 5% metric is why this is the case. There are simply not enough ad-views generated by reading a single article, but if we can twist that into a 50-page comment thread where people post hot takes, we can get hundreds of ad views of ‘engagement’ for the cost of a single piece of clickbait!

Comments are sometimes good, and the point. A forum about a video game where people share feedback or discuss strategies. and make suggestions is good. Thats a deliberate decision to set up a forum to discuss a topic, but comments on the news are often cancerous and awful. Facebook, Reddit, Slashdot and the rest provide ZERO actual content, they just link to other people’s work, and then monetize peoples hot takes, with a built-in voting system to encourage partisanship and arguments. People get so invested in the comments, they forget what the article was about. The article was the hand-grenade thrown into the room by silicon valley so they can monetize the bloodbath it generates.

We should fight the urge to comment on everything we see. I struggle with this every day. You can never know the pain I suffer of reading an article suggesting hydrogen powered cars make sense, or that writing your own game engine is pointless. *must resist*. Yet I think its better if we all do so. Do not comment. blog your own rebuttal. Think about it. put the effort in. Generate real content, not hot takes.


This blog post isn’t about democracy 4. I live, breath, sleep and think Democracy 4 all the time, so I need to escape from it and talk about life stuff for a bit. Don’t worry, I’m still working on it (including weekends!) and jeffs back next week…

I turned fifty years old last year. That means I’m very likely half way to death, even being optimistic. I’m not *unhealthy* but I’m not super-fit either, but frankly I think I’m WAY more likely to be killed by climate change than old age. BTW so are you. You really should do something about that. Like now, super urgently. The world is literally burning.

The 2019 California wildfires caused less damage than the last two ...


So fifty is a weird age to be. Its not really old enough to think about retirement, but you are definitely old enough to be bored with a lot of young people’s concerns and things. I’m married, my career has gone very very well, and I have paid off the house and car. These are things that people fight to achieve their whole life, and I seem to have done them. Normally, someone my age would have kids at university or starting their career, and would obsess about that, but we don’t have kids.

I see a lot of people around me, a similar age or older, who seem to ease very comfortably into this position, and spend their time getting involved in the minutiae of local politics, or stuff like the best village competition (yes its not a hot fuzz joke, its REAL), or they take up golf, or more likely where I live, shooting pheasants or going horse riding etc… None of this is for me.

I spend an hour a day playing Battlefield V with friends, chatting about politics and TV and games and work/code as we gun down the enemy. I’m am definitely the oldest in the group, and am aware that I am basically straddling two social circles. Relatively young game developers, and retired countryfolk who are drawing their pensions.

This is strange, and makes me feel ‘disconnected’, which is something I feel in general anyway, for long tedious medical reasons I wont bore you with. I am in a the bizarre position of being more of a workaholic than anybody I know, despite being quite capable of retiring, thanks not least to the amazing performance of my stock-market picks. When I wrote this just over a year ago:

Tesla stock was about $220. Its currently $2,080. Thats just amazing. And other stocks I like (nvidia, paypal, square, microsoft, amazon) have all done well too (not AS well but…).

Combine being very lucky on the stock market with being a workaholic who loves making indie games, and has been around the industry for over 20 years, and most people assume I would spend my days like this:

Great Gatsby Decor

Which to an extent… I do, but frankly covid has really torpedoed that. Even though I’m happy to go to restaurants now, many of my friends are not. I wouldn’t go to the cinema, there are no plays or outdoor events happening (although we did go to see 2 drive-in movies), and foreign travel is pretty much on hold right now. (not a bad thing, given climate change)

Something all this makes me realize is that the benefits of various parts of life are valued very badly, and it takes a long time (50 years!) for me to really re-evaluate them. A lot of people value financial success very highly, but beyond a certain point, its impact on your actual quality of life is negligible. If positechs income doubled tomorrow, it likely wouldn’t make any impact on me at all. I love where I live, and have no real need for a *bigger* house. I already have my dream car, and I’m not one for luxury watches or bespoke suits or whatever the fuck people spend money on. I suspect the real equation is like this:

Once you are not in poverty, and you are not thinking about how to pay the bills… your happiness races up, but once you get to be a fifty year old guy running his own company with some decent savings… what more is there? Global domination? a super-yacht? why?

When I look at the things I’ve done in my life that I’m really happy about, or remember fondly, or proudly, very few of them are related to any form of conventional ‘success’. I was very pleased with a talk I gave at GDC once, mostly because it went well by the standards I had set for it (people laughed), I have no idea if it helped me sell any games or made money. The charity stuff I’ve done has given me a huge amount of happiness, disproportionate to the money spent. I do miss going to games events in the US, mostly because I miss some friends I have made over there, not really because of any business reasons.

Realizing you are at least half way to death is a strange experience. You start thinking in concrete terms about what else you really have time for. You also think about your youth and how wasted a lot of it seems. I spent a CRAZY amount of time in pubs getting very drunk and talking about…god knows what. Certainly nothing interesting. I have spent a phenomenal amount of hours just playing scales to a metronome on my guitar.

I have come to the realisation that one of the best things in life is to be good at a thing, and to do that thing. Whether or not that leads to huge success, critically or financially, is almost irrelevant as long as you can pay the bills. There is a sense of calm, happiness and ‘flow’ that comes from being skilled, and using that skill, that gives you a zen-like experience of inner-joy that no rolex watch of ferrari can replicate.

…which is kind of why I am working on Democracy 4. I am good at this. In theory, I don’t have to do it. Unless the stock market suddenly crumbles, I could just take a few years off, play golf, and argue about thing on the local village council. I could mow the lawn, very often (god it needs it…). I could sunbathe in the garden, and read novels. But, this is just not me.

This is also a year in which I’ve come to realize that yeah, I’m definitely on the autistic spectrum. Thats cool, I don’t mind. I was once told that I was ‘probably a high functioning autistic’, and I think thats true. Rather than let it bother me, I’m happy to lean into it a bit. If I want to spend time optimizing the rendering code in a game where 99% of player-votes say ‘the framerate is fine’, then thats fine. I can write C++ to relax, no point in fighting that, or denying it.

It seems crazy that it takes 50 years to learn to just be yourself, but we are surrounded by so much social pressure to behave/act/desire one thing or another, that it can be really hard top just sit and think about what you actually want. Its definitely worth doing.