I’m mostly only going to post about new podcast episodes when I have something to add to the conversation or when the show provokes new thoughts, since most of you can probably find the updates when you need them over on the official page. If there is a way to RSS it, I have no idea. But you can add it to your Google reader thing. Or whatever you use now that Google reader is being shut down.
Anyway, this week, Bruce and I welcome Paul Rohrbaugh of High Flying Dice games. HFD Games is a desktop publisher of wargames, and he sells a lot of them for a very modest price. I will probably pick up a bunch of them because you can’t have enough games about obscure battles.
It was a neat conversation and had me thinking a lot about people in this independent type of business. I’m not sure what sort of money Paul makes from HFD, especially since he has artists and designers to pay, but it’s great that he can supplement or make a good chunk of income from something that gives a lot of entertainment and joy. He has a product, he has an audience and the fact that people that buy a few of his games generally come back to buy many more is a great sign that Paul is onto something.
But a lot of independent and small contractors have not been able to find a way to turn something that has an audience into income, mostly because so much has moved online to where the money is really not there.
If you’re a writer, like I was once, you probably saw the debate online sparked over the Atlantic Online’s pitch to Nate Thayer – he was asked to adapt a longer piece he had written somewhere else for their site. This led to a lot of discussion of why people write, when they should be paid, the price of independence, the freelancer’s life…a fruitful discussion that you can find on all your favorite hand-wringing blogs.
Then, Destructoid founder Niero Gonzalez posted the not very shocking news that half of his readers use Ad Block when they visit the site. Since advertising how most online media makes it money, this is a problem. (And please don’t fill the comment box with a defense of ad blockers – I’ve been attacked by flash ad viruses, so I know the deal.)
A lot of people wonder why I don’t blog as much as I used to, and part of it is time – I don’t have time to keep up on all the new games, so I don’t have a lot new to say. There’s also the fact that when I started blogging (and the podcast) they were force multipliers for a writing career. I didn’t get paid to blog or podcast, but the fact I did so certainly opened doors in paying writing gigs. I can’t say for sure, but I bet Rob would say the same thing about 3MA – it’s given him a decent profile and now he kills himself staying up late to report on professional Starcraft 2 matches.
Now there isn’t that payoff, and time invested in gaming away from work titles or comfort games I need to relax subtracts from what I need to keep the blog as vital as I’d like. The podcast itself suffers when we all get busy (and yeah, we notice when we suck), because though we do it for love, there are things we all need to do for money. It’s been posited that if you have 5000 fans willing to give you $20 a year that you could earn a very nice income, which makes sense until you remember that in an online space, those 5000 people will be fans of an almost infinite number of things. (This is sort of a loose subscription model, I guess, only voluntary.)
By the way, this is not a passive aggressive attempt to solicit donations. (We’ll be doing a proper podcast fundraiser eventually, but we want to plan it right.)
So I envy people like Paul and the other independent creators out there that make real things with real clear value that people want, and with no obligation to anyone but their own imagination. I commissioned a piece of art for a Christmas gift, for example, and it was a beautiful thing the artist could sell – and it is unique. For those of us that traffic in words…? I mean, how much would you pay to read Bruce Geryk write about a Vietnam War game in the amazing detail he gave for his War in the East diaries over at Quarter to Three?
So here’s to the creators that make it work and fuel our imagination! The independent strivers that give us things from their brains that we want to pay for!
That said, I am not giving up the blog, and I am not going to stop writing. People loved the Pope post, and it reminded me that I don’t quite suck at everything. Expect a post about game design by Friday, because I am playing a game now that makes me tear my hair out.