You don’t really believe it. This has got to be a dream, right? Your game wasn’t THAT good, was it? Oh no, your Twitter’s blowing up. All your friends are congratulating you. You feel momentarily self-important, but the feeling then gets overshadowed by how guilty you feel for your self-importance.
You struggle to figure out who to invite to your VIP table. You have all these seats to fill, given that tables like these are meant for actual games studios with actual teams. In the end, you put out an open call on social media, so as not to hurt anyone’s feelings. The people who take you up on it are grateful, sometimes effusively so. Some of them even bring glowsticks.
You discover firsthand the sensory hell of the expo floor, now that you’re actually forced to be there. You field questions from baffled business dudes who don’t understand how you would monetize something like this. (That is, after they go up to chat with the cis dude friends you asked to help out at your booth, who have to explain to the business dudes that um, actually you, and only you, were the one who made this game, yes, all of it, even the programming.)
You discover what it’s like to have a game on Steam. You get a lot more money out of it than you expected, not enough to quit your day job, but enough to help cushion your savings. You also get a hell of a lot of vitriol from angry anime avatars who complain that this is just an unsophisticated Flash game and people shouldn’t be paying money for it. You wonder how many of the people who bought your game have actually played it, given how oversaturated people’s Steam libraries are.
You become an Important Indie Games Person. People invite you to give inspirational talks. Some of them even pay your way. Eventually, the invites dry out. Maybe they realised you didn’t really have all that much to say. Maybe they just moved on to the next Important Indie Games Person.
You keep getting asked to jury games festivals. You see for yourself how broken and arbitrary the processes for selecting games are. You do the work because you want to make a difference in the kinds of games that get selected. But you are just a person, and you get overwhelmed too. You feel guilty about not putting more effort into your jurying, but you also have work to do that you’re actually being paid for.
Meanwhile, you keep making more games. You take more and more creative risks with them. You put all your love and feelings into each and every one. But then every time you release a new game, it seems like no one really notices or cares. You enter your games in festivals and they come back with juror comments that laughably miss the point. You even get the eye-rolling “this isn’t even a game” remarks. It would be hilarious if it weren’t so frustrating.
You continue to only be known for that one thing you made years ago, that got all the attention. It’s not that you’re not proud of that game, but you’ve done so much more since then, and better, even! You go so far as to make a sequel to that one game, in an attempt to deal with these feelings. It too, is ignored.
You feel more and more out of touch with what’s going on in videogames. Like, when and how did streaming become a thing? And what is this latest controversy about a racist game dev or creepy game journo or whatever all about? You can barely even keep up with Twitter anymore; it’s too exhausting. Also, nazis.
You don’t really post on Twitter anymore, either. It feels like every time you say something, someone takes it the wrong way, or pushes you into a discussion you don’t really want to have. You feel guilty for saying anything negative in public, because people still see you as this Important Indie Games Person and maybe you actually don’t have a right to feel that way because you
won got nominated for an award once.
People still recognize you at games conferences and events, even though you attend fewer and fewer of them. You talk a lot about mental health and burnout. You think about all the people you don’t see anymore, and wonder what they’re up to. Part of you wishes you could reach out, but you doubt they’d want to hear from any games people, let alone you, Important Indie Games Person.
Life goes on.