This article is a sort of celebratory toast/postmortem of the one year anniversary of our blog https://gamecrimes.wordpress.com. Our objective with it was to help Spanish videogame devs by giving them an outlet in English, because we thought they had a tough time reaching the English-speaking media and that there was a more open mind then about looking towards non-English devs with projects such as Gamedev.World popping out.
One year might not sound like a lot (specially when you're writing this on a website that it's closing on its 20th anniversary) but for a new blog with an innovative focus, one year seems like a big step.
Over the last year we have published over 100 articles and of all those I've actually posted two of them here, the ones that presented our blog and give a (very) rough idea of the current Spanish dev scene. You can check them here and here.
Today's article is by no means intended as a look back to the year in Spanish videogames, but to reflect on what we've done so far and what problems might be there for other people who would like to start a passion project as this.
Look behind you, a three-headed monkey!
And we start with one of the most overused videogame quotes. Still, a fitting one, since we have a three-headed monkey to look back to, the three big categories that composed most of our articles: Game Releases, Kickstarter Campaigns and our Podcasts & Interviews. Those are not the only categories we had, but they are the most noticeable ones.
- Game Releases: around 25% of our articles were devoted to games released over the last year. Covering big games such as Blues & Bullets episode I and smaller ones such as Soccertron and also trying to give coverage to the Spanish games created for Game Jams.
- Kickstarter Campaigns: This is an area I will have to come back later, but regarding campaigns we covered close to 20 of them (being the one by 2Awesome Studio the most famous one) and did an analysis on the woes of Kickstarter for Spanish devs.
- Podcasts & Interviews: this was the main drive behind our blog, and we got 6 of them out last year, being maybe the most important one the one we did about women in the Spanish videogame industry in which we interviewed Tatiana Delgado, Eva Gaspar and Mercedes Rodrigo. We also had other podcasts and written interviews. We focused those on Spanish devs, but we also wanted the opinion of non-Spanish devs and managed to do podcast interviews with Jennifer Schneidereit and Emily Short.
As best of the rest, I'd like to point some articles that can be interesting for English readers. One about Nacho Vigalondo (Spanish director of films such as Timecrimes and Open Windows) and his strong videogame connections and another about how the different Spanish political parties were adressing videogames ahead of the Spanish general election of last 20th of December (and which end up in a confused impasse that might lead to another election). And finally,a remembrance to an influential Spanish videogame artist who died last year, Jose Mª Ponce Saiz, for whom I created a Pinterest gallery.
Ponce's cover art for MicroHobby defined an era in gaming in Spain
Ups & Downs
I would go and say that there were not any "real" downsides of doing Gamecrimes, but there were definitely some things that could have gone better. First of it all, it is a project done on the side of our day jobs, which meant we couldn't devote as much time as we want to it, which in turn meant we couldn't really cover all we strived for. I personally wanted to cover everything that was related to Spanish videogames, but that soon proved to be impossible to do, unless you work full time on it. That added a layer of stress on top of my day to day (I'm sure it also did the same for the hard working and very talented Ara Carrasco, my partner on this for the last year, but from here on I will only talk about my personal views on our project). In the end I had to let it go and stop pressuring myself to cover every release, kickstarter, game jam and award that had Spanish games on it, because it was simply impossible. On that very same note, we would love to cover scenes from other Spanish-speaking communities but we have our hands full at the moment.
If you're going to start any work as a passion project be sure not to overload yourself, and if at any given point you cannot keep up, don't bash yourself for not doing it. It might be hard because it feel like you've stablished a "contract" of sorts ("Why cover game X and not game Y?") but if you are not realistic about the time and effort you can dedicate to it, you'll end up burned out and that is a worse outcome than just slowing down or leaving some things uncovered.
Other down point was having to follow so many crowdfunding campaigns, only to see most of them fail (last year there were 52 Spanish Kickstarters and only 3 of those were sucessful). It was hard to see them struggling to reach an audience beyond their natural Spanish one, and even if our objective was to help giving an English outlet we couldn't help more. Some of those games tried again or carried on with their development but the failing of the Kickstarter campaign caused some development teams to disband, which was specially hurtful in the case of GloveCat's The Intergalactic Trashman as the game looked really good and the team were super nice and I had to witness some people being mean online to them when they tried to reach out for further help via social media.
Another difficulty was for us to reach an audience. We focused more on creating content than on getting it out there to be noticed. We were lucky enough that Mike Bithell did think we were going the right direction:
And got some other articles with good viewing numbers, but overall that is something we should have put more work on (and we're doing that now!), to be better at accomplishing the blog's objective.
A final issue we had was that we realised how hard was to get people together for the podcasts, specially since we were doing them live. It is not that difficult to get one person for an interview, but to get three of them to talk in a language that is not their first language is way harder.
On the brighter side of things:
- We managed to meet lots of cool people and get them to appear in our blog, hopefully we helped building a sense of community between some of them too.
- We were with 2Awesome Studio before, during and after their Kickstarter Campaign for Dimension Drive and got to live the end of that story, which, for a change, was a happy ending.
- We helped to get Spanish writers in contact with international devs. Something that they can do by themselves, of course, but every time we help we get a great feeling of building up a community.
- We have become the main source of news about Spanish videogames in English. And as far as we know we are still the first blog of its kind: being an English written blog and podcast dedicated to the scene of a non English speaking country. But, please, if you know any other outlet that does the same for some other country/scene please let me know in the comments below as I would love to chat with them.
- We were supported by the very people we looked up to before as role models in the Spanish videogame press. And here I feel that I have to do a shootout to the amazing job the online magazine Deus Ex Machina is doing. They are currently carrying a crowdfunding campaign, and it is a shame that the magazine does not have an English version so you can read it, because it will definitely end up in your bookmarks.
The positive things outweight the negatives and we are working to adressing the issues mentioned above. For instance we recently added a third member to our team (game writer and all around IF author Victor Ojuel) and that will help a lot to share the workload. And we have plenty of things to look forward, like the positive outlook of the Kickstarter of one of the most talked Spanish games at the moment, A place for the Unwilling by Alpixel Games.
This has been quite the year, and even if it has its struggles we still believe that the objective behind our blog is worth our time and will keep doing it. Please come our way if you want to check news about Spanish games and developers!
PS: We just had a series of articles written by Spanish devs covering several areas of development from an Spanish insider POV, and it will be a disservice to the authors if I don't mention those, so I'm going to leave a taste of them here:
Game Design by Tatiana Delgado - "All my Spanish indie friends tell me sales within Spain represent only a very small percentage of their total income. If you go indie, you need to go international too."
Localisation by Curri Barceló - "...the localisation industry should be regulated to stop the abusive conditions and it should work towards educating the game companies about the real work involved in translating/localising a videogame"
Game Art by Alberto Rico - "I see a lot of great illustrators go into game development and quickly forget their previous work and just start imitating some other game’s visual style instead."
Programming by Alicia Guardeño - "Even with these difficulties, we programmers should consider ourselves privileged, since we are able to create a game from scratch."
QA by Samuel Fiunte Matarredona (yep, that's me. Sorry) - "One of the main problems QA professionals face is the absolute lack of recognition within the industry itself."
Press by Guillermo G.M. - "The media has become laser-focused, branching out with many related but different subjects. They are all trying to achieve the same goal: to be part of a new wave is revolutionising everything."
Sound Design by Pablo Ruiz - "In a country where most of the development studios are a bunch of friends with no budget and a fairly low knowledge of how working on a game really works, I guess it’s pretty obvious that getting a job on the audio side seems like almost a dream."
Writing by Victor Ojuel - "In my experience, game writers are thin on the ground here in the United Kingdom, and slightly more so in Spain. That makes it difficult to draw a general sketch of the field in Spain, except to say that it is still a largely ignored role outside of a few enlightened cases."
Marketing by Mariela González - "Over the past two years we’ve witnessed the rise of marketing agencies specialised in video games and indie studios, many of them founded by media experts, former journalists and long-haul consultants."
Production by Eva Gaspar - "Both big companies and small teams find financing to be the biggest issue. In Spain, finding professional private investors is tough work, even though the quality of our work is up to par internationally."