A couple of weeks ago, I spent 2 days attending presentations and panel discussions at the Game Masters Forum, a developer-focused event that was organised as part of the Game Masters Exhibition at ACMI Melbourne. It was really interesting and insightful but as I said, very game development focused, so I want to try and analyse what I learnt and see how I can apply it to Hooby Groovy.
These series of talks were definitely more focused on independent game development than most other game development talks I've been to in the past. Well, in the same way, Hooby Groovy is very much 'indie'. I make the products I want to make, no one else is invested in Hooby Groovy or can dictate the way I should go. The freedom is wonderful of course, but at the same time, it's a really hard slog too! Often, I feel like my products are very much like the little games you find on the App Store, a needle in the haystack or a plankton in the ocean, waiting for the big whales to swallow me up and poo me out. There's just so much things in the world these days! So many choices and everything easy to access. Great for customers but as a seller, there's always that drowning feeling. How do I get my products noticed in the great, great never-ending sea of stuff?
One of the talks in the Forum discussed the importance of being inventive. I really enjoyed that talk because it was just so right and made so much sense. As an indie, I am in the perfect place to be inventive. I have no one else telling me that I can't, because there is no one else but me involved in the risk of being inventive, no cautious investors or shareholders that just want a return on their investments.
And at the same time, because I have no one else, I can't afford not to be inventive to stand out. All projects and businesses are about balancing available resources, namely time, money and labour. That's one thing an indie has in common with the big players, the only difference is the quantity of said resources. If I were to compare myself to say Crumpler for example (because I really like Crumpler products and would love to grow my company to be something like that), they have so much more money available, which would give them the chance to hire more labour, which would make the most efficient use of their time, which would then result in more money being fed back into the system.
Unfortunately, I don't have much money, labour is me and me alone, and time is 24 hours a day minus sleeping and eating. Immediately, I've lost the battle. Fortunately, I have the option to be inventive, there's no limit to that besides my own brain. And if I can invent something good enough, that will help set me apart from all the other companies that will always beat me hands down in all other areas like manufacturing or marketing.
So, the big question now is how to be inventive. I haven't quite solved that one yet. But just the realisation that I really should venture out more and try to do more crazy stuff has galvanised me into thinking about my products and how I can expand on it and that I shouldn't be scared to just try!
Another discussion at the Forum dealt with the old question of Creativity vs Commerce. Does the business side of game development limit or even harm the creative side? Well, bringing that whole issue of money vs art back to Hooby Groovy, the answer is quite easily No. It all goes back to being that struggling little plankton trying hard to get noticed. And while it sounds quite harsh, this little plankton does need the whole money thing in order to pay the bills just to keep staying in the ocean with the other planktons. And I do honestly believe that being creative is the only way to go if I want to evolve from a plankton to a shrimp.
Looking back at my body of work with Hooby Groovy, I honestly don't think I've been very inventive or creative. And a lot of that is to do experience and knowledge and confidence. As time goes on, I will gain more experience, especially if I do actively try to be more brave in my creations.
As for knowledge and confidence, that's a bit harder. I grew up in a culture that was very focused on academic achievements and pathways. People around me entered universities, studied a certain field, graduated to work in that field. So I think that deep down in a very deeply planted seed, I think that unless I've studied something properly through the traditional avenues, I don't really know it at all. Of course, I tell myself that's not the case and as I've often experienced myself, the best way to learn something is to do it! But there's always that self-doubt. I've never studied design or art or sewing (besides a short 4 session course on how to use a sewing machine), I have no prior background in any of these fields and before Hooby Groovy, never did anything remotely like this professionally. And that's where a lot of the self doubt in my creativity comes from. There's a whole lot of "Am I doing it right??" questions going around all the time. When I make something, I think, "yeah I like it, I think it looks good", but then I also think "but what if its not really good because I don't know how to know its good".
Well, besides going back to school to study design or art, there's not much else I can do about it at this point in time besides keep on chugging and just keep learning! And mostly challenging myself to take on new things and try out new ideas. Which is why I really enjoy getting custom requests! Each is a new lesson learnt and a bit more to add to my tiny pile of experience and knowledge. Each is an emotional journey of self discovery. I get happy, I get sad, I get downright depressed, I get frustrated, I get excited but most importantly I get it done and I get to learn something.
Most of my custom requests have been creating cases based on popular characters, which is a real honour because I really love these characters and look up to their designers and to get the chance to really study the design that goes into these characters that make up what they are is really insightful. I dream that one day, I can achieve something close to what these designers have achieved and somewhere in the world, someone can look at my product and say "Oh that's a Hooby Groovy!"
This has been a very personal reflection kind of blog post, sorry that its not more exciting but thank you for letting me use you to sort out the thoughts in my head! :) Here's a sneak peek of the my drafting process of the custom order that I'm currently working on :) Stay tuned to see the finished product!