Art is not easy to create. It takes time, patience and in some cases even a bit of trial and error. However, more than anything else, art requires creativity which can introduce an interesting problem because while qualities such as time and patience are not usually left up to interpretation, creativity can be quite subjective despite it being a skill in itself. For example, a person might say that a work of art is creative by utilizing minimalistic design choices. While on the other hand, someone else could look at the same piece of artwork and say that it’s “lazy.” Unfortunately, this is where the perceived value of art can come into play. The value of art isn’t always measured by effort, scope or even quality. Instead, art is measured by appeal, opinions and, in a lot of cases, sales. This is most likely (if not definitely) the reason why some art forms require “project pitches” in order for the artists or creators involved to gain funding for their work.
Yet, different forms of creative works are appreciated in completely different ways. For example, my professional experience in creative projects had its beginnings rooted in the world of music. Music is probably one of the most cherished forms of art both emotionally and socially while at the same time being the most neglected when it comes to monetary value or even ownership rights. People LOVE music but it seems like they HATE paying for it! Moreover, fans also tend to memorize the melodies of their favorite songs before even acknowledging the artists who produce them. At least, that has mostly been my experience as well as the experience of other artists that I’ve collaborated with who each saw varying degrees of success. Then, there’s the challenge of actually finding an audience that appreciates the value of your work while at the same time being willing to support what you do. However, that’s not the case when it comes to every creative form of art.
Lessons Learned as a Budding Indie Game Developer
The varying levels of appreciation given to different forms of creative mediums was one of the reasons why I finally decided to shift into independent video game development. I also loved video games growing up and I always wanted to make them since I was a kid but I didn’t quite know where to begin. My journey as a game developer all started with a little-known project called “Tales of the Elements” which I recorded as a 2-part Hip Hop album between 2013 – 2015. In one of the final recording sessions that I had, an artist collaborating with me at the time came up with the idea of making a game based on the project since the album itself was already heavily inspired by a specific genre of video games. However, while I worked on developing the game in the years following I ran into several issues which taught me quite a few lessons.
My skill in music production, composition and engineering definitely helped push the project forward when I realized that I lacked the amount of music or sounds needed to complete the game. However, when it came to a lack of resources in other areas such as animation, artwork or even marketing, I had very little in the way of solutions to deal with these challenges. Not to mention, there were days where I didn’t have the time needed to work on the project due to power outages and interruptions from my job as an English teacher. Yep, my day job was an interruption and for projects as complex as creating video games, unrelated occupations can hinder progress. Then, after releasing the entire game, it reached a small audience so despite working on the project for over 2000 hours, I barely made a dollar per hour for it. Funny enough, for all the issues that I had run into, there was one simple solution.
The Quest for Funding a Game Studio
I needed funding. Having a project budget would not only eliminate the need for another job but it would give me the ability to invest in better artwork, animation, effective marketing/PR and maybe even extra help to make my vision for the game a reality. At the time, I thought that the only way I could put food on the table with my game was by releasing it. However, I later learned that projects like video games would normally secure funding early in their development–sometimes before development even began.
There are a handful of methods to funding a game project and, of course, they all come with their own pros and cons. One method is to obtain a grant which is mostly difficult because they are usually given out to projects meeting specific requirements. For example, Epic Games offers what they call “Epic MegaGrants” to projects that work with their game engine, Unreal. A more common method of securing funds for a project is through a publishing deal. This has become a more favorable option for indie developers in recent years but it’s also beginning to be more difficult to achieve. Publishers are now often writing contractual agreements that are giving more rights and creative freedom as well as complete ownership to developers but successfully pitching projects to publishers is growing more difficult as they are understandably becoming more picky about the projects they invest in.
After I was done with Tales of the Elements, I started another project of which I was extremely passionate about: Astraverse. At first, I tried pitching this game to a number of publishers but while they could see the passion I had for my game, they replied that it wasn’t what they were looking for at the time. Eventually, I probably would’ve found a publishing deal but I decided to try a different avenue of funding–one that played a significant part in pushing indie video games to the forefront of the game industry in recent years: crowdfunding.
It’s almost every indie game developer’s dream to run a successful Kickstarter to fund their dream game project. Even though I was a bit more inclined to go the route of scoring my first publishing deal, I also desired to have a successful Kickstarter project. That’s why I decided to go through with it and try my hand at crowdfunding. However, while I did find a measure of success in widening my community, I did not reach my project’s goal. The problem wasn’t that my game was bad or that it didn’t have any appeal. I even put into practice as many of Kickstarter’s crowdfunding recommendations as I possibly could within my circumstances but I just didn’t have a large enough community to reach my goal. I didn’t give up, however. Fast forward and I successfully funded a smaller project with the hopes of building a larger community to support Astraverse.
My first successful Kickstarter project is the one that I’m now working on: T.O.T.E., which is an enhanced re-release of my first project, Tales of the Elements! It was great being able to finally launch a successful project through crowdfunding–I even gained more supporters which gave my small community a boost in growth. However, the amount of money in pledges that we had reached was only enough to start this seemingly smaller project. More money has been needed to continue development and the source of this funding is what brought me to Unit.
A token economy future for gaming
Kickstarter wasn’t the only place where I received financial support for T.O.T.E. I have a friend who’s been acting as my advisor recently and he’s shared with me a lot about Unit’s token economy as he’s been getting more and more involved with the DAO. He contributed to the project a small amount of money in Unit tokens and yet that small amount has grown so much that it now equals twice the amount that I raised via crowdfunding on Kickstarter! This has allowed me to continue development on the project completely unhindered and it’s also set the stage for me to reach out for the opportunity to officially launch the video game media studio that my wife and I have been trying to start together!
LB’n’Mie is the name of the studio that my wife and I have started and it’s short for Last BeNeVoLeNcE and Kimmie-Immie.We’re developing our own games as well as running a Youtube channel where we have discussions and reviews on video game topics with our community. At the same time, we’re mixing in the flavor of my Hip-Hop music background by providing clean video game rap reviews and music. The game industry has enough negativity so our goal is to create a positive voice in the industry. Additionally, we’ve seen that over the years, the games and franchises that have been releasing have trended towards more adult themes and content. On the other hand, we want to provide creative video game IPs like the classics that those who grew up with video games so fondly remember. We want our games to have stories and worlds deep enough for adults and mature people to immerse themselves in without the need to have explicit or adult content. That way our games can reach a wider audience and truly be “E” for “everyone” if they are rated as such.
My wife, Kimmie-Immie, and I are launching the COOP token to fund our projects and finally give us the budget we need to reach out to the right audience and build a loyal community around the creative content that we release. COOP is short for “cooperation” and it’s a term used in the gaming community to mean that 2 or more players can team-up with each other. So, not only does this token represent the cooperative nature of LB’n’Mie but it also represents the positive unity that our games and media could encourage. Our hope is to build a community around what we do, continue creating what we’re passionate about for a living and give back to those who have supported us.
The token economy that Unit is pioneering can greatly enhance the future of gaming and perhaps even usher in a renaissance of creativity within the industry. For example, what we’re doing with LB’n’Mie is quite niche but the token economy has the potential to effectively fund what publishers and what typical crowdfunding could not. Rather than only securing project funding by following specific trends, small-time developers like myself and my wife will be able to not only find funding for unique creative works but give back to other projects that we believe in as well. Not only that, but developers can finally make a living for what they do. On the other hand, gamers could also benefit as this would open up the possibility for a market containing a wider variety of creative styles and types of games in the industry. On top of all this, gamers could even own parts of their favorite games which will lead to them earning from the success of their favorite titles. This is a win-win situation for everybody.
Yes, art is not easy to create and its subjective nature often leaves it to go unappreciated even in different ways depending on the type of art. Video games are often not referred to as art but when you think about it–there’s more creative and skillful talent involved in the making of a video game than any other creative work. Unfortunately, that can sometimes be overlooked by consumers, reviewers and even publishers. But, Unit’s token economy has the potential to usher in a new future that will not only encourage creativity but also support the creative minds behind video games as well as the gamers who play them.
Support us by purchasing our token at the link below! Kimmie and I appreciate any and all support.