Frequently Asked Questions
A: I have mixed feelings about that, too!
I was one of the original founding editors of Polygon back when we started the thing, in 2011-12. I was in charge of "features," which—at the time—were longform, magazine-style articles that were heavily researched, edited, and designed.
I did some of the best work of my career at Polygon. Including many of the articles on this page: http://www.falsegravity.com/longform/
I also produced Polygon's "Human Angle" webseries: http://www.polygon.com/human-angle
And that series is more-or-less the kind of work I'm still doing today.
Having said all of that, I can't speak to what Polygon is doing today. I left in 2014, and my leaving was not entirely amicable. (You can read more about that in my book Sex, Drugs & Cartoon Violence bit.ly/cartoonviolence) I also can't speak to anything that happened at Polygon while I was there that wasn't something I directly worked on.
Polygon is a very large site run by a very large media company. There are many hands in everything they do. I'm enormously proud of what I helped accomplish there, but that's really all I can say.Last updated:
A: I find all people who make games fascinating. And I knew going into the "How Video Games Are Made" project that bigger teams are harder to cover. Mostly because, at a certain size, a game making team starts to specialize beyond the point where the contribution of any one person is easy to describe. I've enjoyed Geoff Keighley's "Final Hours" work, and that was definitely an inspiration as we talked to AAA studios about "Human Angle" style pieces at Polygon, but indies are just so much easier for people to relate to. When you have 3-5 people working on a thing, it's just straight-up simpler to make sense of what's happening. So I tend to gravitate to the indies. Also, with indie teams, a lot of times the story of their lives is wrapped up in the story of what they're making. The stakes are higher for them, and so their motivations and dreams are easier to connect with.Last updated:
A: Ideally Stage of Development is a series we can do anywhere, and about anyone who makes games. But in practical reality (the most miserable place), we needed to focus on a location that I could get my crew to relatively inexpensively, where I already had good contacts, and was an interesting enough place to support the kind of storytelling we like to do. Those considerations narrowed the list considerably, and Chicago was a nice confluence of all of them. Most importantly in regards to how in love with the city I am. It's simply a wonderful place full of wonderful people. And it's story as an indie hub is a little different than in most other places with a thriving indie scene. I'm hoping that the final film will communicate to people who watch it why that is.Last updated:
Q: Why does it fall to someone like you to invest their time/money in this kind of coverage? Why do you suppose major games media sites aren’t already doing this for their audience?
A: I mean, I've done it with a major games site, so I feel like I have a clear perception of why they're reluctant to do it. Over the course of my career, every time I've wanted to take a video crew out to do a long, detailed piece on a game team it's been an argument about how long it would take, how much it would cost, and how many other things those people could be doing instead of working on my project. When you're deep into a "every pageview matters" business model, you have no choice but to slide your editorial direction towards creating only content that will efficiently spike the pageview needle. It's not even about ideals, really. You literally have no choice but to slash content that radically opposes a high pageview-to-cost model. So even when you start a thing with good intentions of doing quality over quantity, if you're tied to the ad-driven content model (which all websites currently are) you're going to eventually focus on quantity over quality. And that's ... basically the opposite of what I do.Last updated:
Q: You’ve tried the Kickstarter route at least once before. What did you learn from the first go-round and how did you adjust for this latest effort?
A: I learned a number of lessons from the last SOD Kickstarter, three of which, at least, I hope I've successfully addressed.
The thing is, with the Kickstarter from last year, I didn't have any hard data. I knew what I wanted to do, but I'd only worked inside of another media company's umbrella. I had no clear data on what kind of audience I had versus what audience Polygon had for my work, etc. So I didn't know how big my audience was, how much money they would be willing to help me raise, or what they even wanted, really. I just knew what I wanted to do, how I wanted to do it, and how much that would cost. So that's what I Kickstarted.
So the biggest data point that came back from that was how much money I could reasonably raise. That's the biggest adjustment this year. I'm asking for less than a quarter of what I was asking for last time. And part of that is because, in the process of working on last year's project (which became the pilot for this year's Kickstarter) the Flying Saucer team learned a lot about how much we can do with a little bit of money. We've gotten a lot more efficient and focused over the past year.
The second big lesson I learned was what the audience I can say is "my own" actually wants. And that's slightly different from what I expected, but still well within what I'm comfortable making. Last year, the focus was on a broader slice of the "gaming community", but we've narrowed that focus back to indie game makers this year. And we've been able to find a nice core of narratives in the Chicago area that will tell an interesting story when told together.
The third big lesson I learned was in how to present a Kickstarter campaign and how to manage it. And last year, I don't want to make it sound like I'm blaming anyone else, but I was getting a lot of advice from a lot of places, and basically nobody actually knows how to run a Kickstarter. Some people are successful, and some aren't and sometimes those are the same people. So this year, instead of relying on experts, I was able to draw from the data I accumulated from last year and focus on clearly describing my goals in a way that I hope better communicates to my audience what it is I am asking them to help me do. And we'll see how well that goes.Last updated:
A: That's the secret sauce. And it's so secret, I don't even know what's in it. There are some things you can practice and perfect, and some things that will always come down to instinct. I trust my instinct to tell me what the stories are. And it's usually feeding off a lifetime of vague interests, half-remembered rumors, and various other bits and pieces. William Chyr, for example, I met two years ago at a video game legal conference in Chicago. We spoke for about 15 minutes. I never expected to hear from him again. But when I did, this idea he'd been hatching three years ago had matured — and so had he. My instinct was screaming at me to put him in this film, and I trusted it.Last updated:
A: Obviously, I'm hoping that doesn't happen. But if it does, I can tell you based on prior experience that I will spend at least one solid day feeling sorry for myself. Then I'll get to work on whatever is next.Last updated:
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