This has been weighing on me for some time, I’ve wanted to update you guys more frequently about the indie fund; I just have been barely staying on the bull that is my life. Between EC, teaching, my business, trying to get out to every conference I can in order to talk about education and trying to get out to every college that wants me I’ve just been wearing a little thin, but here it goes.
Over the last eight months I’ve looked at a few dozen projects as possibilities for the indie fund. In each case they were outside the scope of what I thought we could do with the resources we have available or they just didn’t fit the EC ethos: hence the video a few months back telling everyone that it might be a while until we find the right product… Of course the day after that video came out I ended up seeing a project that may well be what I was looking for, but it comes with its own baggage, baggage which I’m horribly conflicted about.
About a year ago a student came through my classes, he was an excellent designer who has since been a finalist for the EC innovation awards, been in the PAX 10, had his projects called out by name by Peter Molydeux, and been mentioned all over the interwebs, but in his second semester with me he was struggling in my classes, and so we sat down and had a conversation. I told him that he wasn’t living up to his potential and asked him what was going on. He told me that he was just having trouble concentrating this semester and kept say how sorry he was. In the end I ended up advising him to drop my class and take it again in the following year. A week later we found out he had cancer.
He went home to get treatment, still building out games as he could remotely with his team. I heard from him periodically, trying to give what thoughts I could to help him improve as a designer, always assuming he would beat this thing. A few weeks back he asked me to take a look at something he’d been working on. It’s not uncommon for my students to ask me to give them feedback even after they graduate, so of course I agreed. He showed me a prototype for a game where at any point you can press tab to see the characters thoughts…and then use those thoughts to manipulate the environment they’re in. I was kind of blown away, it has a long long way to go, but it has the potential to be phenomenal.
He started to talk to me about the development process and their plans. It’s 2D, it’s a platformer, it’s all within scope for what a small team could do… so I of course asked him about his team. Randomly he happened to be working with Shannon Meissner, who many of you guys may remember from the Cutscene episode. She’d been an EC guest artist. I doubt I could find a better artist who’d be willing to work on a brand new indie project.
So I asked him to pitch me. He and his programmer came back with a plan totally blew me away. They told me that they don’t want to just put out a game: they’d like to really build something that they can sustain. They took the 50% deal we’d been proposing every time we mentioned the indie fund and threw it out the window, offering Extra Credits a small ownership stake in their company if we’d be willing to invest the $20,000 dollars they needed to get the company off the ground and get them to the point where their prototype is ready for a kickstarter. It would start as a three person company and the wages they’d be taking are kind of a testament to their dedication…
So I’ve been wrestling with this a lot over the last few weeks. I want to see something grow. I want to create real jobs. I want to get people working on a long term basis doing what they love. I think the game has the potential to be awesome. And you know what, I’d kind of like to say “go screw” to a system that pretty much ensures that no one will invest in them because the fact that their designer once had cancer is a “liability”.
If it didn’t come from a student of mine I’d invest in this project no question. Heck I’d have invested in it just as a game, even if they weren’t thinking of it as a business. But god, how can I avoid nepotism? I’m sure I’d invest in it otherwise, but…bah… I can’t help but feel weird about it it coming from where it does. Bleh…
(I have no time to edit this, so sorry for the typos/stream-of-consciousness-blargh)