To Rule is Cool
I was born in the Haight Ashbury district in San Franciso, USA, and spent a carefree childhood steeped in the lore and traditions of the area. As you may be aware, the Haight is famous for having been a key location to the "Summer of Love"�, when hippies gathered in droves to live a free-wheeling bohemian lifestyle and preach about love and understanding. Most of my youth was spent believing that "the summer of love"� simply referred to the peak of a long period of living a life free from struggle while providing an example to the world of peace to the world. It was years later that I discovered the "Summer of Love"� was literally that -- a summer. It wasn't the peak of a several year-long movement. It was, in fact, the entirety of a several month long movement.
This saddened me and crushed all my ideals of peace and love, turning me into the caustic and cynical creature I am today. But on reflection, the short duration of the "Summer"� made sense. After all, the lifestyle was the only "job"� these people had. They lived it fully and enthusiastically, but all that love took a great deal of energy, and they didn't have time for such things as making money for rent or groceries. It was a brief, glorious flash of good feelings and flowers and then it was over and done. The hippies "sold out"�: found employment, purchased homes by the beach, created families and adopted puppies.
My painful memories of bitter disillusionment came to me recently when I read a comment by one of our long-time fans that said they liked us better when we were edgy and suffering. Doubtless this was meant to be ironic and he doesn't actually want us to suffer (or at least I hope that's the case). But it did make me think: what happens when Telltale quintuples in size and succeeds in taking over the world? Will our fans abandon us in search of a younger, hipper, edgier, more drenched in suffering company? Is the inherent "coolness"� of a company directly disproportionate to the size of its market share, the number of employees it has, or the square feet of its offices?
True, there is a certain masochistic romance to working in a sardine can, sweating to death in the oven-like San Rafael heat, and losing two hours of work a week to power outages. However, while suffering for one's art may be the height of nobility, it is not long sustainable. Game developers need room to stretch, grow oxygen-giving plants and play floor hockey. Without these essential needs being met, developers quickly become cranky and unhappy and eventually will leave to make someone else's games.
No one likes the "sell out"�. Your favorite local band, for example, who suddenly gains nationwide attention and is now on every radio station and leasing their songs for commercials. Or your favorite game company that has a brilliant title, makes some money from it, then is paranoid about losing that hard-earned money so instead of continuing to innovate just produces endless re-hashes of that title in slightly different forms ad naseum. On the other hand, everyone likes the underdog, because everyone has at some point themselves been the underdog.
Suppose your favorite local band gains nationwide attention and their songs only appear on television in commercials about starving children? Does that then make them "sell outs"�? Or suppose your favorite game company makes a fair amount of money on their first title and goes on to spend that money to get bigger, yes, but also to continue to put out interesting games that you enjoy playing. Does being bigger now nonetheless make them "uncool"�?
Sadly, only a few of us at Telltale are truly evil-minded individuals. In fact, most of the company's goals are fairly benevolent. Make games that are enjoyable and immersive experiences. Draw in new fans by making games that are accessible to a wide variety of people. Make enough money that we can continue to pay our very talented staff to continue to make these games. And of course, to take over the world (at least, I believe the company is behind me on this one).
Quite frankly, we will always be cool. Even if our suffering eventually ends. (Hopefully that will come about sooner rather than later.)
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