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Wednesday, 21 October 2015

10th Anniversary Classic Rant: More Proof of Storygamer Elitism

If you thought that the Storygame-Forge Theory-IPR people were all honest brokers who were really all about advocating for the Small Press Publishers, whatever their ideology or "coolness" factor might be, and yesterday's article didn't convince you; why don't we ask one of the original and most small-press guys out there; Gareth Michael Skarka?

In a recent Storygames thread, he had this to say about the Forge and their booth at gencon:

"What this all gets down to is the rather insular nature of the Indie games crowd -- which appears, at times, to border upon hostility to perceived outsiders. This sort of badge of self-identification that sets the "Indie" folks seperate from everyone else.

As some of you know, I was once told on The Forge, that I wasn't "Indie", mostly because I work with d20 in addition to my original designs. Sadly, I heard this said in a discussion at GenCon as well, at the IPR booth, in reference to another small-press publisher....specifically saying that his company would not be welcome at the booth, because they "weren't Indie enough."

I also had the misfortune of having someone relate a conversation back to me, wherein a third party was apparently critizing me for being a "carpetbagger", because I was coming in, taking the FATE system, and using it for a "commercial" product (Far West). Like I am somehow "The Man", cherry-picking from the Indie movement, just so I can sell it to the masses. I was told by the relator that I should expect a cold shoulder from "Indie" fans when FAR WEST is released, because they know that "I'm not one of them."
In another instance, I was on a shuttle bus, talking about my plans for Adamant with someone I had just met, who self-identifies as part of the "Indie" community. He took the opportunity to lecture me on the fact that "The Supplement Treadmill Is DEATH." And, when I pointed out that I was aware of this bit of Ron-Edwards opinion, he shook his head and told me that I obviously "just don't get it, because I'm in the industry."

What the fuck?"

And this:

"I also see statements from Indie folks like "people are annoyed by Indie games" -- which speaks to a sort of "oppressed underdog" indentity, I suppose......but really, as someone on the "other side", I don't see the annoyance, or even negative comments about the games. What I do see, and see a lot of, is a general dislike of the attitude which spurred this thread. For better or worse, I think that this is the "Indie movement's" biggest problem -- that this view of the attitude is fairly widespread. Or, to put it another way -- Indie Games don't annoy people; Indie Attitude does."

Ah, and this too:

"The attitude: "Gamer than thou." How many times have you heard this, or something like it? "I get more value from a 150 page indie game than from a 300 page mainstream game." The pervasive sense of chic that comes with the belief that somehow, because you've decided to use an odd format and don't offer your product through three-tier distribution, that it somehow makes it better or more "pure."..I'm talking specifically about the attitude of "Indie" designers towards the "Traditional" or "Mainstream" industry -- that we're somehow separate, and (again), that "indie" is somehow a badge of distinct value."

and here:

""Creator Ownership" as a distiction of "Indie" (which is often the fall-back definition) is meaningless, as most games in this industry ARE most cases, the creator owns the publishing company. For example, Shane Hensley created Deadlands and Savage Worlds, but you'd never hear Pinnacle referred to as "Indie" by the self-declared "Indie" movement. The closer-to-actual-use definition of "Indie" which is communicated by behaviors (i.e., more pure in intent, more "cutting edge", more "artistic", more meaningful, better, etc.) has even less meaning, as you might imagine."

So there you have it. GMSkarka, one of the first great innovators of the small-press publishers, pointing out that the whole "Indie" label has more to do with who you're friends with or what newsletters you subscribe to than with whether you're actually a Small Press company or not. Which is why certain incredibly good products (like the stuff being put out by P.I.Games, or Better Mousetrap, or Hinterwelt) will all get ignored or even shat upon by the "IPR" people, while pathetic dull games no one gives a shit about involving victorian university professors and sexual decadence will end up being hailed as "masterpieces".

Of course the answer from the storygames crowd is to blame GMS for his statements, to suggest that it was just his own isolated personal experiences, that there couldn't possibly be anything wrong with IPR or the "indie" movement that makes them feel exclusionist to others, or to suggest that anyone who criticizes the (often smarmy) self-promotion tactics of the Story-gamers to push their gamebooks could only possibly be someone who's jealous. They never stop, do they?


(Originally Posted August 28, 2007)


  1. On the one hand, the complaints about the attitude this person received from those in the indie community are fine and valid. They shouldn't be dismissed.

    However, this Gareth Michael Skarka shouldn't be heaped with praise either. He is the same charlatan who has had a four year long confidence scam running from his Far West Kickstarter, which ended in 2011 and which still hasn't even been completely laid out, much less delivered. The product was due in December 2011. Almost four years late, and from his updates it isn't even clear how close to done he is (no more than three quarters, from his August 25, 2015 update).

    1. Yeah, well, he mentions Far West in the quote, and this was in 2007. It's astounding that he's been on this for at least 8 years now.

  2. I've finally figured out what's been driving me nuts for the last three years: You can't discuss technical issues (such as behavioral analysis, game design, or even _computer programming_) without someone claiming it's a reflection of your politics or using it as a reflection of theirs. And you, GMS, the edition warriors, and all the 'indie' folks who wield their identity as a weapon are part of the problem. So you weren't allowed at the cool kids table? Who fucking cares?

    I'd love to start a blog or forum for people like myself, but then _I_ would be part of the problem too.