Last November, Neoncon introduced a series of presentations from tabletop gaming industry insiders called GamesU. Luminaries like Eric Mona, Ed Healy, and John Wick gave seminars during the convention for the series. I think Neoncon did a great job executing GamesU and I especially enjoyed being able to stream a couple of the presentations live.
Now, Neoncon is editing the presentations and placing them on their YouTube channel. The first video they released was the keynote by Eric Mona on the topic of Pen & Paper Games in the 21st Century. I obviously have a large interest in how roleplaying games will evolve in the next decade, but this article is to address the latest video released from GamesU, Marcelo Figueroa’s Live the Dream: Building a Career in the Games Industry, which is presented below:
If you’re not willing to watch the entire presentation, let me tell you what I took away from it. Marcelo basically argues a couple of points. First, people who are not willing to make games their career need to quit. Because the industry, the games, and the gamers do not want non-career people. The other point he tries to make is that idealist game designers are incapable of being savvy business people. So, according to Marcelo, if you want to be in games you need to make it your career and you need to be what he calls a realist.
I really don’t want to take the time to dismantle everything he said, and I do think viewers can take away some useful information (but more of a general, common sense type of useful). Interestingly, I’m going to use evidence he actually tried to use to support his own arguments.
Non-Career Orientated Need Not Apply
About 9 minutes and 20 seconds into his presentation, after unloading the salesman’s spiel about how it’s all about the mighty dollar (which he admits that you can’t find a lot of it in the industry), Marcelo makes this statement:
“Idealists. Honestly, truly… from a completely industry side of the perspective on this, Idealists should just go home.”
He also makes a statement about how only business people and professionals who want to improve the environment of the industry should stick around.
So let me break this down. There’s not a lot of money to be made in games, but the industry craves business people. So what kind of business people are going to risk investing their time and money in games? Well, I propose that there are two kinds: diehard fans (with minds for business, but unmalleable expectations about games) and shitty business people who can’t make it in better paying industries. Maybe that’s why the industry keeps shrinking…
Idealists Will Not Make It
Marcelo mentions Peter Adkison and Richard Garfield, who were both part-time game designers with “day jobs” before Magic: the Gathering exploded. According to Marcelo, during that idealist non-career time of their lives, they should have quit. Curse those idealists, Arneson and Gygax, for even launching the roleplaying games industry!
Idealists are going to be the ones to reinvent the industry with new games, new delivery methods, and new somethings we cannot anticipate. I feel like the “realists” he is touting are fools that contributed to the d20 glut (because that’s what was selling). The guys that will drive the industry into the ground because they’re only concerned about the bottom line and not innovation.
Have Realistic Expectations
Marcelo does backtrack near the end and says not leave your day job before you’re financially ready. Which for those of us with mortgages, families, and other bills means we’re most likely not going to ever be at that point. The one good point he does make is to be realistic. It’s rare that anyone in the industry is going to get rich. If you do start a business, be smart about it and make savvy business decisions.
Marcelo may have been exaggerating his argument to scare and intimidate the unwary, but I totally disagree that you need to be in the industry to make money. That sort of corporate bullshit irritates the hell out me. I think you need to be industry to make great games. The money will follow if you can do that (and market it decently).
I’ve been reading Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics and Reinventing Comics, which are comic books about comic books. He is, in my opinion, a freakin’ genius. I can see a lot of his approaches to the study of sequential art and his insights on that industry that could be applied to the tabletop gaming industry. Scott’s an idealist too…