A Month with Kratzen
Writing is Hell. Every professional knows it. Never do you ever have inspiration come to you like a bolt from the blue, so brilliant that you create something of such lucid detail in a stream – of – consciousness which causes all who reads it to drop their heads in shame. What you instead get, most of the time, is something begrudgingly slogged up from the depths of your mind and shipped off to an audience who may not even exist.
This is the age where you may send a message to anybody in the world, and yet you never get a reply. As a writer in this climate, you are sending one or two good messages to an audience of what amounts to a few hundred people, and yet you never get anybody giving you praise or saying how much their work impacted you. When you write, you are flying blind. The radio silence is deafening. The criticism that you most need never, ever comes to you, and you are forced to rely on yourself through it.
Kratzen is an experiment. I follow the numbers, because I never get praise. The numbers say 5,000 views this month, half the rate of 10kB, my previous project. But I’m not a slave to numbers; they tell me that it would be best to stick with 10kB, but the reason I stopped updating 10kB is because I thought it was time to focus in on something I could really care about, and spread that message to people who care about the same things I do. I wanted to make an indie game site you can view in public and not feel ashamed to read. I’ve done that. But nobody is viewing it.
The only reason I must continue on is because, clearly, I’m not doing this for views, as Neocities is a dry well as far as getting publicity goes. I am forced to go on because of the benefit it brings me, for in making this site the best it possibly can be, I have also made myself the best I can be, at least for the day, as with the next day I will be even better. I have learned a few lessons: the value of hard work and considering things, trade journals, opinions, artists, that I would have never before. And these are lessons I must share.
Hard work and me… we don’t get along. I had a love affair with it and Froghand and I finally understand why the Japanese kill themselves all the time. Writing down five thousand words in a day sounds like a brilliant thing to do, if you’re a scribe in the Dark Ages with absolutely nothing else in your life. But being someone who judges their view of the world on the present – day and not a thousand years ago, that attitude leads to a mindset where everything you do is a dull haze, and the words you produce end up foreign to you. A bad thing for self – reflection.
A Scottish proverb states that hard work never killed a man. Boredom, mediocrity, and shame does. It wilts at you over time and leeches your very soul. I agree with everything but the first part; a lot of miners work very hard, and they still die down there. What also leeches your soul is feeling obliged to stick to your word and update, day in and day out, or else the sky shall fall. The mentality of treating an artist like a machine to produce work and not as a human being is one that so many adopt; a dangerous one, where we define their worth based on how much they create, and now what they create. To be sure, being prolific is good for practice. But to be too prolific, to the point where you are a husk, will cause your writing career to be a short one.
One of the things you have to learn as a professional is that, no matter how hard you work, it simply may not be good enough. I worked very hard on Froghand, 10kB, and Kratzen, and I can tell you the amount of success I had with each property is not as much as I would have liked. I’m fine with that. The Web owes me nothing by way of compensation for my grievances. But no matter how much I worked, I would not reap the rewards; this was one property where being the best in the world at my brand at writing only made me notable within my own — and this is a very small world.
Why work then, if the rewards are piddling? For the same reason one does anything: for yourself. Writing is one of the best things one may ever do. It is essential, for one to have an easy life, to learn how to make points in a persuasive way, and to be agreeable to a fault. To write improves your charisma. To indulge in the fabric of life and weave its texture makes you more appreciative of it on the whole. To understand, fully, what somebody is saying, rather than letting it be heard, is something that only comes when you, too, are forced to say things. My job involves a thousand ideas a year, and each idea must be persuasive.
When you work hard, it brings with you the benefits of being better than your peers, and to be better is to be the first resort and the last word for any problems you fans and admirers go to — as few as they are. The simplest things, the smallest things, matter. If one neglects punctuation, your sentences are as awkward and stilted as the way one speaks in the real world. To neglect typography is to neglect an art, invisible, but still an art that adds dignity and grace to all that you write. There is benefit to working hard. But the benefits are not popularity, but quality; it is cancerous the two are rarely related.
This magazine, through my creating it, taught me more about business than almost any other venture. Experience is the best teacher, and one learns best by doing. In creating an excellent product, I have become an excellent person. Did it teach me about art? Little that I didn’t already know. For it is easy to learn about art by virtue of having experience it. Business, however, is a different set of rules, and few artists realise that art is business in a beautiful cloak.
I’ve read trade journals about games, and realise the saddest things. I realise that you may pour your heart and soul into a game, and still sell worse than what I can only describe as “bad meme games”. I realise that the idea of creativity is dead; everything may be slotted into templates that sell, and those outside these templates are going to have an awful time. I have learned that games are not about the art, but about the business, for a studio that does not sell is a studio that is extinct. I have learned that Rocket League will always make millions upon millions more dollars than The Difference Between Us. That’s just where people’s sensibilities lie; it doesn’t matter how much it affects you.
I have become a pragmatist over the past few months. I have always known it, but have only put a name on it. I no longer protest against how it isn’t fair that a game I enjoy will never be seen; I can only realise why it failed, and how I may learn from its failures. I see the cause and effects of games that sell, these creatively – dead games like Raft that continue to be downloaded in the thousands because it fits a template that has sold before, and understand the vast majority of people are not interested in becoming better human beings. I see pearls before swine, a feast before rats, and all they consume is garbage.
What I have discovered is a game of wits where the rules are easily – defined and all one may do is find best to manipulate them. When I saw the success of games like Undertale, I felt jealous, for I believed that it did not deserve success. I realise that nobody deserves success — it comes at the whims of the market. I feel disgust when Cemu, the cancer of emulation, makes $41,000 a month, causing the past decade of open standards and free software to plummet into the abyss for the sake of parasitic, monopolistic, profiteering. I cannot complain, for the market demands it be so. There are no ethics. There is only cause and effect, and the cause of someone wanted an emulator outweighs the effects of causing the greatest rift in the emulation scene since this decade started.
But I am no longer jealous. I see before me a set of rules I have to learn. Rules such as “earn a monopoly,” and be like Cemu, ethics be damned, for ethics do not sell. Rules such as “pander to Let’s Players,” despite being on the bottom rung of cultural contributions, because pandering is all that sells. These are rules that are insulting to the many games that try to break them. And yet they must be obeyed, for this is all that sells. Another rule? “If your game doesn’t sell, it doesn’t exist.” This is the state of the world we live in. If I was God, I would make us all live longer, so we may experience more. But there is no God, and this is not a fair world. One must realise this to make their way in it.
Having learned much about games and about myself, I am forced to continue on with this experiment, for it is an experiment, and it has brought me great benefit at the small penalty of using my time for greater things. As it takes me a great deal to update this website, so does it take for me to delve deep into the heart of this silly, stupid industry, and to learn all I may about it so that I may enhance myself for the future.
Kratzen is an experiment, and its continued success will rely on the whims of the world. I’m continuing it for another month. At the very least, failure is cheap, and the rewards matter most to me. For I have a hundred years to live — and as I do, I demand I spend these years making something worthwhile.
My purpose for living is to help you find yours. If Kratzen does that… it’s earned its keep.