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My Invisible Alec Holowka

Sometimes people picture little invisible angels sitting on their shoulders, temping and guiding them through life. I have an Invisible Alec Holowka on my shoulder.

[This post originally appeared on my devlog at]

You know that old trope in cartoons, where a character has a devil or angel on their shoulder who criticizes their every decision?

I have one of these on my shoulder.  I have an Invisible Alec Holowka.

For those who don't know, Alec is a long-time indie developer.  He is the co-creator of Aquaria, host of the Infinite Ammo podcast, member of the Vancouver Indie House and all around awesome guy.

Alec started the Infinite Ammo podcast shortly after I went indie.  They are long, personal and frank discussions about game development and life.  As I listened to the early episodes, Alec frequently mentioned the Invisible Jon Blow that sits on his shoulder.

Shortly after I started listening to the podcast, Invisible Alec Holowka first appeared on my shoulder.

Invisible Alec Holowka (not Invisible Alec, or just Alec - always "Invisible Alec Holowka") became a moral compass for my game decisions.

While I work, Invisible Alec Holowka whispers:

"Is this worthwhile?"

"Does it push the medium forward?"

"Is this something you care about?"

"Why are you doing this?"

"What does this game mean to you?"

Invisible Alec Holowka never asks if something is going to make money or if I've targeted the correct demographic.  Invisible Alec Holowka only cares if I am doing it for the right reasons.

Why did he show up? Where did he come from?

With a long background in AAA development, most of it spent as a Producer, I have spent entirely too much time worrying about target markets, demographics, deadlines and profitability.  So much so, that it dominated my creative decisions.

I couldn't think of a game concept without attaching a demographic to it.  My creative box was narrowed by old habits of satisfying a eternally naysaying executive committee.

Invisible Alec Holowka constantly strives to move my thoughts and ideas into a different box.  A personal box.  A box where I am the executive committee.

I sincerely believe that Invisible Alec Holowka showed up because I needed him to.  I needed to break old habits.  I didn't go indie to worry about whether boys aged 14-18 would like my game or whether urban mages summoning dumpster golems would appeal to housewives.

I went indie to make my games.  Games that are important to me.

About a year after Invisible Alec Holowka showed up, I became friends with Real Life Alec Holowka (or as I call him - Alec).

Alec and Invisible Alec Holowka are quite alike.

They both have a deep love of video games, wonderfully messy hair and compose themselves with an open and honest candor.

They both give me their opinions when I ask for it and often when I don't.

Earlier this year at GDC, after a night of drinking (pictured above), I confessed the existence of Invisible Alec Holowka to him.

He just smiled.  He understood.  He has his own Invisible Jon Blow.

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