A little under a month ago, I pointed out the dumpster fire that was a lack of formal curation on Steam. I’ve kind of… changed my mind since then, and, for a really important reason. I think it’s important for us to look at this from a different perspective, and, in this one, I’m slightly more important. (So, y’know, I’m kind of fond of it.)
I know you’re probably not interested in MY opinion on this, but hey, here it is anyway, because it’s been like, a million days since I posted anything, and this is kind of my corner, so take that oregano and go sell it somewhere else. Except you, indie devs, you’re the biggest part of this problem, so stick around and pay attention.
Steam posted this whole message that has the whole video game world up in a tilly because it means that Steam is going to be full of Nazi propaganda in about 30 seconds.
Buuuut – I don’t think that’s what it means at all. I don’t think it’s bad that Steam wants to fill it’s pants with shit. You wanna get your game known? Get good at marketing on the world wide web! You COULD send ME your game, and I’ll tell the world (like, 40 people) about it! It’s time for the indie game reviewer revolution! Now obviously, my numbers aren’t huge. SNERDAPERDS.com isn’t the biggest gaming site on the planet, but, that’s okay, because I cater to a very specific audience. Fat guys who like Battlestar Galactica, the Cartesian Coordinate System, and who can’t grow a full beard LOVE me. (If that’s you, go ahead and bookmark this shit, ’cause I’m here all day.)
It isn’t about me though, it’s about every little independent guy who is trying to review/provide additional content beyond a game’s 1s and 0s. I’ve found that a lot of indies are afraid to send out keys, thinking they’re potentially losing sales, or, afraid of being too spammy, or getting their game sold in some weirdo grey market (seriously, fuck the grey market) in a world where there are almost 7,700 games released on steam in 2017. Don’t get me wrong, if I see you spamming your shit everywhere, I’m probably not going to cover your game, if it’s not my type of game, I’m not going to cover it, if I don’t have time? Won’t cover it. But, that’s part of the problem, isn’t it? 7,700 games released on Steam in 2017.
Now, people are worried about the racist games, or offensive content, or whatever showing up on Steam, how we’re going to be dealing with edgelords making offensive games, well, I can already tell you, FemiNAZI is already on Steam, and THIS GAME THINKS IT’S NOT A BROWSER GAME. This is a problem beyond the scope of this article, but, just so you’re informed, both were up before Steam Direct became a thing. There are TONS of games that don’t belong in any sort of store, but, that’s not our business. This is the internet, and it should be full of shit we think is crazy. If you don’t want it, don’t buy it.
We’re just trying to find titles we’re interested in, right? If you’re a consumer, find an independent video game review source, such as… this website, or my friends, guys like Thumb Culture, or Electric Bento. Those are pretty good places to go. I’ll link a bunch of sites at the bottom, but it’s by no means a complete list. Find someone like that, and, trust them to find the good titles for you. Support them! They are trying to help find the best titles to share with you. In fact, if you’re an indie game developer, you REALLY should be respecting the shit out of the indie game reviewer. The dude’s doing his best to promote your game, in a world where nobody gives a crap about your product. 7,700 games in 2017. Gonna be more in 2018, with a full year of Steam Direct under it’s belt here in a few days.
If you’re REALLY upset at the AAA game studios, if you’re wanting to stop fussing with lootboxes, microtransactions, silly DLC, or any other sort of cash-grabby nonsense, then you really need to support the people who aren’t making those products. A lot of those guys are on the indie scene, and the best way to do that is by finding people you want to trust, and going out and purchasing based on their recommendations. I happen to have a curator page for ease of reference and a website, (and I think most are similar, curation pages are free, easy to maintain, ect.) So, if you don’t want to keep checking a website over and over, you can always just click on the button in Steam’s window to follow a curator. Trust them! They’re just trying to help you out. Give them a shot, and you’ll find it’s easier to find games you like. It’s not always going to work out, sometimes, you’ll disagree, but that’s okay too.
And, gamedevs, the people this article is really for? You guys need to reach out to us as much as we try to reach out to you. We’re all in this together. You want to be successful? Make us successful. Send us keys, all of us. Send keys to your mom’s co-worker’s best friend’s son’s youtube channel that has 4 followers. (<- This is hyperbole) He probably can’t afford your game, and he’s getting TONS of free games through keys anyway, so he probably doesn’t buy games anymore. (or, at the very least, buys very few games.) Work with reviewers or other content creators to get your products known. If you keep in touch with them, they’re more likely to review your product. Maintain that press list, make sure to keep them all apprised of what’s going on. Communicate. We always complain about being stuck in some weird echo chamber on the internet, you don’t like that ever since you accidentally clicked on a post your dad left about “God damned Hillery and her liberal elite stealin’ muh guns an’ takin’ muh President’s good name!” you’ve been stuck with a bunch of confederate flag profile pic having friend suggestions on the ol’ Facebook. Or, Google+, or whatever you kids are into these days. But, that’s what game developers need. You NEED to be associated with the people who are associated with indie games. Create your own echo chamber, and, instead of filling it with, “What about me and my blue collar?” and “Fackin’ footballers need to stop kneelin’ except in Church!” tomfoolery, yours is going to be filled with, “Incredible video game about hockey, surprised? I was!” and “If you like Stardew Valley, play it again, but in THREE DIMENSIONS!”
The average Joe who buys video games doesn’t want to dig through mountains of garbage to find your product. It’s not fair to ask him to. You need to dig through mountains of websites to find reviewers, and reviewers need to promote in such a way to get eyes on your games. It’s something that both parties need to work on, definitely. I do what I can, and, you’re here, reading this, so, there’s that.
Like game developers, game reviewers are a dime a dozen. They’re inconsistent, sloppy, and most of the time, their product isn’t worth the time spent looking at it. It’s just the law of the land, you’re gonna have more people trying to do something than people who are reasonably competent at it. (I’m no exception to this, the irony of me saying this is not lost on me.)
If you’re one of the 7,700 – get your big-boy pants on. It’s a lot of work, but if you’re destiny is to be a game developer, you’re gonna have to earn it. If you’re a reviewer, remember, you’re riding the coat-tails of a bunch of guys and gals struggling to even get their video game LOOKED AT by 100 people, not to mention that they want people to pay for it, most aren’t making enough to pay their cell phone bill. And finally, if you’re a regular run-of-the-mill consumer? Trust in your local independent video game reviewer. He’s right around the corner on them internets. Heck, trust two or three of them.