my post “Day of the Devs” observations about how people view/treat art games and their creators

“Everything is going to be OK” was included in Double Fine’s Day of the Devs. Yay!
This is probably the first time, outside of E3, that this game was shown to a more “gamer” crowd. By that I mean, much more consumer based. People without knowledge of art games or the discourse around them. Basically people expecting game-games, with goals, and magic circles, and in some way or another keeping up with the standards of game design…

I had some interesting experiences at Day of the Devs. It led to me already talking the ear off a friend with my venting (thank you for listening, love you), but I feel like it’s important to share these observations. When people ask me how it went I don’t like being critical of an event because I know how much work one involves, but I’ve been very transparent about how it was like working on this “game” so I’ll keep doing that.
The transparency is important to me because I want other creators that set out to make this stuff to be ready for this (it might not happen to you, it might be bad luck on my part, but just know it happens). I would hate to see people leaving alt-games because they had bad experiences, so they decided not to make games anymore. There is a place for our games. We have a right to be here. We just have to work hard on also carving out the space, and understanding, for them.
Before sharing more, I want to make clear that I’m not at all dissing Double Fine. I don’t want to be critical about this event. I love them. I loved the event. It was an honor to be there, but maybe (in retrospect) not that good of a thing for someone like me and the type of “game” this is.

The morning crowd was pretty awesome (press crowd). When the doors opened the place got crowded really fast. People either REALLY loved it or didn’t get it, which is expected.
Around two in the afternoon, when people started to bring their kids, things started to get kinda hostile. They were pretty rude, and it got kinda unbearable, so I had to leave the area. I stopped hanging around the booth after that (I mean, I get it. The “game” doesn’t belong).
I occasionally came to make sure they didn’t delete the game. It wasn’t ALL like this, but it was enough to be hard.

I point this out because the rude stuff was totally inline with how streamers and popular youtubers talk about these games: “What the fuck is this, what the hell, weird ass game, lol acid, haha who the hell would make this…” You know, the default slew of mockery. This came mostly from younger people.
It hit me how much influence streamers and youtubers have on public opinion of these games, and this is REALLY becoming a problem. I mean, I know it was before, but damn.
We should start talking about this, and some constructive criticism should exist toward how streamers talk about these games. I feel like this is a kind of pressure that’s building and it’s becoming unbearable.
It’s negatively impacting how people are able to talk about art games, or even be open to these more experimental interactive experiences. Screaming “what the fuck” and all the other standard jokes, is not a good predominant attitude to propagate towards these “games”, or their creators.
I think this also damages the medium because experimental creators should not be shunned or ridiculed like this. We have a right to be here too! A lot of thought goes into making these games the way they are. A lot of thought also goes into making them different. Philosophies, planning, putting the art together exactly the way it is, making sure it functions in an unexpected manner. It’s DESIGNED to be this. We don’t just throw a bunch of bullshit together and YOLO (although yes, we do that too, ok guilty as charged, but still). This isn’t really a game. It’s art. It matters that it’s different. We WANT it to be different.
The popular dialogue around these games centers pretty much on the basis that they shouldn’t exist, and if they do they exist to be laughed at.
Streaming kinda comes off as a public shaming them. It’s not constructive AT ALL.

My feeling about this event, and showing something that’s “what the hell is this, who would make this, lol acid”, is that maybe if the event can’t host them properly maybe they shouldn’t include games like this. I’m so sorry to say that. I am SO gratefully that the game was shown there, and I’m honored, but I’m saying this because the creators get a lot of crap for this and this isn’t an easy thing to endure. They are different, and will be met with hostility. It seems like they represent something too many people believe shouldn’t be in games. They just should not exist.
These games, by their uniqueness, automatically have a target painted on their back. It’s REALLY cool to ridicule them. Games made by women automatically do too.
I feel like some sensitivity, or understanding, that this will happen is necessary.
IndieCade does this so beautifully (speaking only from my experience, having had my work there a few times now). I mean, I was at E3 with “Everything is going to be OK” and was already bracing for loads of hostility and it didn’t happen. People may not have “gotten” the game, but it wasn’t direct rudeness or hostility.
I feel like, if you show games like this to total consumers audience, you have to prepare the audience for it. The setting and context has to be differentiated. You HAVE to create a space that basically screams “THESE ARE ART DON’T EXPECT A TRADITIONAL GAME”. You have to make some kind of point that people have to be open minded. Create a space that encourages respect. I’m not criticizing the event. These are just my observations after all this.

I really love what Klondike did a couple (few?) years ago at Screenshake. I may be getting some details wrong because memory, but they set up this room with their games on laptops, and there where bean bags everywhere (very indie), and it was a totally dark loungey area. The atmosphere was really quiet there. Like people actually whispered and they didn’t have to. Nobody told them to whisper. I was told they didn’t intend for people to whisper but that was the outcome. I’m not saying that events like Day of the Devs should encourage whispering (no, stop, that’s the wrong takeaway). I’m saying this because Klondike/Screenshake created an environment that had an outcome. It kind of directed people’s behavior in a positive different way. It might not be the best example, but right now it’s my one comfort-myself-with-this-example example.

Ok, anyways… My point is that wow Streamers and Youtubers have created a steadily growing culture where it’s kosher and a fun pastime to laugh at these types of games.
We should be aware that this is a problem (more than maybe we thought). I don’t know what to do about that. I really would like to encourage some constructive criticism toward Streamers and how they talk about these games. Just because some famous guy with whatever million followers plays it, this isn’t an “honor” or necessarily a good thing. It doesn’t really help sales, or exposure. The last time one did that I got a SLEW of hateful comments and email. It kind of hit me hard because this is also a personal game, and people will cater their attacks based on what they know I’ve been through.
The way Streamers treat these games can be really damaging. It sets a precedent to how other people will be behaving.

In light of a similar topic, I wrote a metoo on mastodon. Even though I said I might delete it I’m leaving it because here’s to feeling free someday and hope. I have lots of hope. This game is about hope in dark times. I suppose all this stuff fits the subject matter and I should enjoy the irony of it.

Ok, I’m off to Fantastic Arcade now! Will be there to live collaborate on stage to make a game again. Yay!

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10 /B/romments

  1. Steven
    Raged November 14, 2017 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

    Wasn’t able to make it out there. Very surprising that a bunch of indie game fans weren’t into weirdness. Good luck at the next events!

  2. Raged November 14, 2017 at 6:33 pm | Permalink

    This was the standout game for me and my friends at the event! This amount of emotional sincerity is delightful and missing in most “traditional” games.

  3. Sergio
    Raged November 16, 2017 at 6:18 am | Permalink

    Thanks for your insight! Extremely sorry to hear about the other experience. I too hope that composer is named at some point, I don’t want to inadvertently support or work with such a person. Maybe I even have already…

  4. Raged November 17, 2017 at 5:56 am | Permalink

    Thank you for sharing your experience with us. I never attended it (I live in Germany) but I always thought that Day of the Devs is one of those game events that are a little different and the crowd is more open minded and into experimental stuff but it seems most of them are just the same h4rdc0re gam0rs you’d expect at most game events. I also wasn’t aware that YT/Twitch etc. are that toxic towards alt-games (I thought most of them would just ignore these games). Have you been to A Maze fest here in Berlin? I’m sure it would be the perfect placce for your projects.

    Anyway I wish you all the best and just wanna say that “gaming” needs people like you and that there is enough space for all kinds of projects be it traditional stuff or experiments.

  5. Raged November 22, 2017 at 9:34 am | Permalink

    You’re pretty much describing the Gaiete Lyrique in Paris.

  6. nobody
    Raged November 23, 2017 at 2:46 am | Permalink

    Someone did a better job at responding to this article:
    I do not like your game. Golden standard has to be followed in work to call it an Art.

    • consumer
      Raged November 23, 2017 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

      Art has no consumer standards because art is not a consumer product. And with art I don’t mean fucking Star Wars. If you want to make a fool of yourself, go into an art exhibition and demand consumer standards. But I know, there is nothing more outrageous than an art exhibition for some people. Golden standard, oh man!

  7. theHorribleTruth
    Raged November 26, 2017 at 5:35 am | Permalink

    If your game is “personal” as you say it is, keep it to yourself. When you expose something to the public be prepared to get criticised, that’s how the world is. If streamers / youtubers did not “get it” you and your choices are responsible, period.

    • FailX
      Raged December 13, 2017 at 3:56 am | Permalink

      Is that how the world should be, though?
      Don’t you think you yourself have a responsibility for what you say to others, be it online or offline? Don’t you think your behaviour would be different if you could see the person you’re talking to? Why is it that when someone posts something online, anywhere, they get all sorts of shit for it? Do you go to random people in the street to tell them that you think they suck?
      And if you don’t like what Nathalie does, why don’t you explain what you didn’t like and why you didn’t like it? That would be a lot more constructive and helpful, for her and for you, and everyone else who reads it. Criticism doesn’t have to be positive, but saying “If your game is “personal” as you say it is, keep it to yourself.” is pretty gratuitous.

      I know I’m probably wasting my time, you probably won’t see this and if you do, you won’t reply, and if you do, should I hope for a real dialogue? Prove me wrong…

      Nathalie, I have not played your game, I don’t know if I would like it or not, but I am so happy that people like you choose to make unconventional games. Old habits die hard, it will take some time before these art games are more widely accepted. Thank you for sharing your observations, I hope that you told Double Fine about it, maybe they’ll change their ways, at least they will know.

  8. notethecode
    Raged July 7, 2020 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

    OP: creates an artsy game far out from the usual games that won’t appeal to the mainstream
    also OP: is surprised mainstream YTers and streamers trash their game.

    Also if you don’t want for your creation to be judged as a game, don’t call it a game, rather an ‘interactive experience’, just to clearly express it ain’t the same

12 /B/robacks

  1. By Exhibiting Difficult Games | on November 16, 2017 at 8:31 am

    […] think a lot of games curators will have spent today thinking about this post by Nathalie Lawhead, in which Lawhead recounts a recent experience of showing her game Everything is going to be OK at […]

  2. By A Bestiary of Delphic Feels - New Normative on November 20, 2017 at 1:59 pm

    […] you’re yet to read Nathalie Lawhead’s blog on her experiences showcasing interactive zine Everything is Going to be Ok at Day of the Devs, do […]

  3. […] « my post “Day of the Devs” observations about how people view/treat art games and… […]

  4. […] was originally posted at Nathalie Lawhead’s […]

  5. […] was originally posted at Nathalie Lawhead’s […]

  6. By YouTube culture is turning kids against art games on November 21, 2017 at 6:54 pm

    […] was originally posted at Nathalie Lawhead’s […]

  7. […] do suggest that you read my original post (all the way through, before attacking me. also try playing the game before attacking me). To […]

  8. […] in the idea that games can be “correctly” played (and understood) at all. The response – in this case, mockery and hostility – arises from a fear that sincere engagement will somehow result in […]

  9. By Playtesting Considerations – Joshua Bidwell on December 6, 2017 at 11:35 pm

    […] fantastic article Exhibiting Difficult Games, which reflects briefly on Nathalie Lawhead’s post my post “Day of the Devs” observations about how people view/treat art games and their creators. In the future, out of school, the considerations regarding playtesting and exhibiting listed in […]

  10. […] reactions to this where almost as toxic as the reactions to my Day of the Devs post. It absolutely fascinates me how poorly games culture takes to criticism, or just about anything […]

  11. […] of abuse, the need for empathy in a world starved of it. On her personal website, she pens a sharp polemic against inane reactions by gamers while presenting her work at Day of the Devs, in which a culture […]

  12. […] No mater what I did, I could not separate my work from the “game” term. That’s all it took. Saying “game” almost felt like a death sentence for interactive art. I was upset that anyone could even SEE “game” in something like this. It’s not fun. It’s meant to be political commentary. How where these topics fun? Why would you demand “game” from it? …At least, those were the questions I was asking myself. I even put in a “This is not a game!” message that you basically had to agree to, before entering the piece. Nothing worked. Ok, I talk about this story a lot, but (over the years) this is a persistent reaction to my work. […]

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