Games are fine but the business isn't - Rami Ismail

"We talk about the funny bugs in a Ubisoft game for weeks, but take months to respond to harassment happening straight under our nose."

Vlambeer's Rami Ismail (Ridiculous Fishing, Luftrauser) has become one of the bigger names in the indie development scene in recent years, and the developer is not afraid to speak his mind on important issues affecting game creators and the industry at large. In a new blog post, "Everything is not fine and that's fine," Ismail takes the industry to task while also celebrating its many achievements. The crux of the issue for Ismail is that the industry spends too much time thumping and puffing up its chest and far too little time being introspective.

"We're in a creative industry. Of all people, we should know the way we get better isn't through celebrating our successes, but by reflecting on our failures," he says. "We're in this industry because we see something special in this medium. We don't have to brag. We don't have to prove ourselves. We don't have to create heroic mythologies to justify our existence. We're here because we care. We need to acknowledge our failures so that we can learn."

In the post - which is well worth reading in full - Ismail laments the state of AAA, of mobile, of Kickstarter (which he calls a "cruel joke"), and the fragmented media landscape, but perhaps most important of all is what he notes about the problems the industry has faced with harassment and a lack of diversity.

"We're trying, as an industry, we're trying so fucking hard to just be fine. We talk about our successes and our achievements, but we shun mentioning our failures. We talk about the funny bugs in a Ubisoft game for weeks, but take months to respond to harassment happening straight under our nose," he notes.

"we're dealing with people that represent some of the worst distrust and hatred we've seen in the history of the medium. But the medium itself is fine"

"You know what is a failure? That our audiences still believe a game as Destiny is not a risky proposition. Five hundred million dollars, assigned to a project that is an entirely unproven property years ago, with a projected dependency on non-existent internet infrastructure, for consoles that didn't even exist back then.

"You know what is a failure? That when I travel, a complaint I hear more often than not is that people around non-Western world feel excluded from not just the industry - but from the word diversity. While we always define what type of discrimination we face - be it sexism or racism or anything else - we're sloppy enough to not identify what type of diversity we mean when we speak of it.

"You know what is a failure? That rather than pricing our games at the price we believe is right for our work, we price our games where we believe it'll sell. In our blind rush to make ends meet, we're continuously hurting both ourselves and others. The expectation of what you'll get for a dollar has gotten so out of proportion, that on mobile you can't even say 'what you'll get for a dollar' anymore, because that's too expensive already. Games launch in bundles, are fine with pricing down over three quarters of the value to get some eyes on the game and are made to bid against each other in terms of how deep we'll go for major sale events."

All this negativity isn't meant to put people off games themselves, however. In fact, as frustrated as Ismail is with the business of games, he's equally happy with the state of game creation.

"We are making beautiful games. The quality of games has increased so rapidly, in AAA, in indie, in mobile. Games are fine. Games, that what we're here for - games are just fine, and they're getting better every day. Game development is fine. Maybe as an industry, we're not doing great right this moment. Maybe, as a community of creators and enthusiasts, we're dealing with people that represent some of the worst distrust and hatred we've seen in the history of the medium. But the medium itself is fine," he says.

"I'm nothing but optimistic about the future of this medium, of this industry. It might not survive in its exact current form. It might not be all the same people. It might not be me, and it might not be you. Or we might be fine, or we might be doing something else. When people ask me whether the industry is headed for another 1983, I wonder where they were looking when we crashed over and over again in the past few years. Where do you think premium on mobile went? Did you miss the mid-budget console game go extinct between today and five years ago? There won't be the spectacular train wreck in slow motion that everybody seems to be expecting. We lose some things, and then celebrate other things to ignore that and just be fine."

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Latest comments (1)

Ron Dippold Software/Firmware Engineer 6 years ago
Those people have always been in this industry though. It's just the first time the industry has actually considered it a problem. Yes, it's ugly right now, like lancing a boil, but it's hopeful for that optimistic future.
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