To anyone out there who’s either already released an IF game or is currently working on an IF game that they hope to release sometime relatively soon:
I want this to remain a hobby even if I could make a living.
I would make this my full time job in heartbeat!
Yeah, but only part time at best; I have another priority or career that comes first.
Feel free to comment. Would love to get people’s thoughts on this.
Remember, this is predicated on the assumption that IF suddenly became very commercially viable, much more so than it already currently is, so let’s not get into the back and forth on commercial viability, as fascinating as that is, because we’ve beaten that horse elsewhere and thoroughly.
To be clear, hoping to limit the scope here to how many IF authors would go Pro if the opportunity magically presented itself and why.
Feel free to start or necromance a separate commercial viability topic if you like and thank you for your feedback.
ETA: I’m missing the “a” in “in a heartbeat” but I can’t edit a poll, so that typo is immortalized.
I have been paid for IF before and I hated it. When I’m an amateur, if I get burnt out, I can just chill out for a few days or weeks or months.
But getting paid for it, every second of free time felt like I was wasting it if I wasn’t writing, but I was so tense that I couldn’t get inspiration. I’d budget 3 hours a night but would spend the first 2.5 hours watching tv and overcoming self-loathing and the last 30 minutes actually writing, but only getting around 300 words a day.
I think it can work for some people but for me I couldn’t find a good work life balance.
If there was a formal company with working hours, I’d consider it more, but I feel like it’s more fun for me as a hobby so would still decline unless they really needed me (unlikely).
So, for clarity’s sake, are you suggesting that the need to make something marketable would make the whole thing not as enjoyable for you, thus leading you to prefer it as a hobby? i.e. No pressure to make rent leaves you free to do as you please regardless of how it’s received?
Not full-time, definitely. IF is a hobby that I love to bits, largely for the freedom of creating and giving myself outlets for “non-professional” stories/yearnings/weird stuff I want to do. While getting into IF development has helped me acquire skills that fold very nicely into my career set, I enjoy messing around with no pressure other than my own way too much to make it into a full-time thing.
My stuff also tends to be linked very heavily to my sense of self-identity, so the distancing needed to market and/or working on a stricter timeline for the sake of ROI would definitely kill a lot of the joy for me. Even if it were a magical Living Solely Off Fun Freelance Work kind of situation, I don’t think I’d be able to get the same kind of satisfaction that I do from IF as a hobby. (Hmm, you could make an IF about that…)
My take on this question is that such a job would not be the “lone coder” positions many game designers enjoyed back in the days of Atari and Infocom. Rather, it would be more like TV production, where you work with a group of creative folk and hash out story ideas and elements around a table. Each individual writer would write/code individual pieces and have them revised and critiqued by the rest of the team.
This style of development is not necessarily soul-draining. I’ve worked in creative situations with groups of people, and it can be quite rewarding—often, putting heads together can result in sparks no individual may have considered.
The problem with working with fringe materials is that there’s too many hate post to wade through to get to the good ones. And I’m a certified fringe. I never did go where everyone else go. I’m not a lemming.
I think in music, the best (or at least most practical and realistic) path is by continuing to play live, both in monetary and publicity terms. Not everyone makes music amenable to that. I love to play live, but I can’t stand organising or promoting shows. I’ve really tested this part of myself and it’s stronger than it’s ever been, which still places it in absolute grit-my-teeth living terrain. My label manager even addressed this in the third person while recently paying me huge compliments as well (Cyclic Selects: Nick Wilson (Clan Analogue Label Manager)
As for IF, I’m as close to the dream as I’ve been now. With my Kickstarter done, I’m not profiting hugely, but I’m on an even keel with as much time as I can get to work on my game. There’s the odd bit of handwringing, like @mathbrush mentioned, but not much. Perhaps the main difference is, if I understand correctly – he was being paid to produce particular outcomes. I have been paid to produce exactly what I want, and in that context I’m good with time discipline. I’m loving doing this and spending the time in this world. Also, the amount of time this game IS taking shows me it was the right thing to do to prioritise this. It would simply never get done if I didn’t have this time.
In answer to original question - I’m not sure I could make IF full time because my games take too long to make. But if, when I made one, it made some money, this would absolutely be one of my streams. The other, today, is music.
I remember hearing somewhere that a lot of people who do music for a living quickly realize that streams, album purchases, and concert tickets don’t actually generate that much revenue, and the actual money comes from selling merch. Like, a lot of bands that “make it” (according to industry standards, at least) are basically audio advertising for shirt sales, lol. Similar to how Doom 2016 and Doom Eternal are both often (jokingly) referred to as “metal albums which come with cool games for bonus content”.
I think that’s kinda similar to how YouTube careers work, honestly. A lot of revenue there doesn’t come from views or ads, but actually comes from merch sales and sponsors. That’s why even microscopic YouTube channels jump on creating merch as soon as it’s feasible, apparently.
I dunno. Seems like another thing where it’s like “Yeah, this is super backwards and disconnected, but also it’s shaped by an environment ruled by the local currency, so…ugh, I guess.”
I would not want to write what someone else wants as a job. If someone wanted to pay me for the IF I want to write, sure, I’d cash that check. Since that will never happen, I’m fine with the unpaid arrangement.
Getting paid for art is always full of weirdnesses. I don’t do custom work, because people who commission custom work always have a very specific idea in mind and they want the artist to replicate that vision exactly. Perilous, because they’re unhappy if you get it wrong. Awful, because then you’re just an art monkey, not an artist. I imagine writing IF to spec could be similarly perilous and awful.
And like @severedhand , I loathe organizing art events and hustling to market myself, even though I love going to well-run events organized by others. I think artists all have a bit of princess-like behavior; we’re like, why must I sell myself? Why can’t everyone just realize how great I am without me having to promote?
And we definitely make weird stuff that’s hard to market. But it’s marketable. We even sold the giant wood and glass cockroach box we made. We figured that thing would never sell, but one day an entomologist walked into the booth at a fair. So everything is marketable if you can find it in yourself to market it.
Maybe IF will have a resurgence and start being a paid gig. But (beats this drum again) that is not likely to happen if we keep doing it the standard way.
I wouldn’t mind writing full-time, but I absolutely loathe having to do self-promotion, including/especially building up a following on social media, so even if someone somewhere could hypothetically make a living doing this, it wouldn’t be me. I just can’t bring myself to spend hours a day on Twitter “building my brand” or whatever.
Writing IF for a living would be a dream, but if it remains a hobby at the same time.
That is, I write my IFs as usual and release them on say, itch.io, and they sell so well that I can just continue writing my IF full-time, as I would have done if money wasn’t a problem to begin with. Not very realistic, I know… (Maybe even more since I want to do that in French.)
I’ve had that when working on a project as a hobby already (I think it’s worse when I participate in a jam/comp). Can’t imagine the pressure if it was as a job… maybe writing IF for a living might not be for me then…
I think I’d be happiest with cashing the One-Hit-Wonder check and not have any expectations of selling/creating commercially more later on
I used to want to write for a living, but then I realized doing creative work for an employer would take the fun out of it for me. If I could work on my own, at my own pace, spend my time how I wanted, choose the topics I wanted to pursue, and there would be a large enough audience for it, then…sure! I just don’t want this thing I do for my own well-being to feel like work.
It sounds like fun, but I’d probably hate it. I occasionally have done custom art commissions for clients, and it’s not something I’d want to pursue full time. It’s not fun. It’s a lot more customer service than creativity, and your average person has no idea what they actually want.
If I never have to hear buzzwords like more ‘modern, fresh, unique, poppy, artsy, just something like this but a bit more…’ I’d be happy. Also, some people go mad with any ounce of perceived power over someone else, and occasionally you get extremely creepy men who treat it as a dating app instead of a business email. Some people have insanely unreasonable expectations for turn around or reply times as well, and budget, and… it’s a lot. There’s a reason I’d insist on at least half payment upfront. That’s without the hassle of doing physical goods and shipping…
Writing is far more personal and intimate for me, so I’d absolutely hate doing something to someone else’s spec. And if you thought the harassment from just being a woman selling like, family and couple portraits was bad- I shudder to think of how it’d treble with being associated with the romance and sensuality I write into most of my IF.
I was drawn to IF because it seems like the most accessible platform for dynamic/interactive expression. I want to create something in the digital realm… and it’s one of the few mediums with an undo button.
If money was my first instinct, I probably wouldn’t be here in the first place. I’m not an artist, but I believe everybody has something to say, everybody needs to be heard in some way. I find that I’m excited about expressing myself through programming, to be honest. I’d be satisfied if I could make someone say, “Oh cool!”… just as much as, “That was beautiful.”
More on topic though, with Pinkuns’ request… if someone wanted to “go pro”, I believe some of the benefits of this medium are:
Words are cheap to produce (very economical).
IF is, arguably, the most viable medium for complex narrative world simulations. You can have the player do practically anything without the heavy cost of graphics, physics, animation and sound production.
Displaying words has no inherent technical limitations for a telling a story. The canvas is limitless.
All devices can run IF. Plays very well on mobile devices with choice-based IF.
Some of IF works right within the browser. Browsers are arguably the most popular software. (It’s basically the OS of Google Chrome Books.) The unrelenting advancements of the browser will only aid browser-based IF moving forward.
Typically very small, compact file sizes. (Not everyone has a good internet connection.)
AI advances are typically text-based currently. Lots of potential for really dynamic IF on the horizon.
Amazing accessibility potential for vision impaired (screen readers). This feels like an untapped market. Plus, with the advancements of AI text-to-speech, Morgan Freeman or David Attenborough could be your narrator.
Growing audience of technology savvy, yet reflexively slowing, players could appreciate the thoughtful, slower paced nature of IF. (Also, staying mentally active is huge for the elderly. Therapeutic angle marketing. Nintendo did it with Brain Training. Imagine doing it with something that’s actually intellectually engaging.)
Media flexibility. Many IF formats go beyond text and can basically be anything they want to be.
IF can appeal to an audience that typically doesn’t read for enjoyment, when done with care. It’s not just for people who buy books.
Amazing rapid prototyping abilities (system balancing, plot progression, etc.). IF as a tool for other endeavours.
There’s a pretty interesting single-player TTRPG market that screams IF to me. Think single-player board game. This is something that appeals to players who like exploring gaming systems and resource management, etc.
Trailblazing. The content that currently exists is not saturated. Huge potential for astoundingly unique forms of expression still exist. Lots of room for many developers to make their mark and get noticed.
Low development barrier. Free tools. Low-end PC. Technically easy to begin.
Grassroots of gaming. IF formed because of the limitations of computers. Now it’s an aesthetic choice. Bell-bottoms are popular again, I tells ya!
I do find that because this medium is built on the backs of the passionate few, the tools for some IF formats are not as mature as they need to be at a professional level. However, that goes hand in hand with popularity.
The problem for me with being full-time IF writer is that the temptation would always be there to do it at all times (because it’s fun and doesn’t lend itself to “not that bit of time” thinking). It works better when the thing I’m doing to earn money isn’t something I’m also tempted to do after finishing work for the day (especially if that job is also fun for me, as my current one is).
(If it was the group coder situation Jim Nelson suggested, that would be worse for me, because I’d end up spend too much time having to guess what the other people in the group wanted from the code, something that I find inhibits my creativity quite a lot). Plus I’m the worst person at making something conventionally marketable I know, because conventional marketing doesn’t land the way marketers expect it to land.)
Part-time commercial IF? That’s a completely different ball game. Part-time lends itself to being part of a “balanced” diet of different activities that helps keep my mind fresh and my body creative. (Technically, I already am a part-time commercial IF writer, I just haven’t made any money yet due to the whole “lack of finished or anywhere-near-finished IF” issue )