The long, slow descent into insanity

Reading Fark today, I came across this thread which linked to this Joystik article on Bob's Game, a single-person initiative to design and build an RPG for the Nintendo DS.

I have absolutely no opinion on the game itself. My fascination is with the guy, Bob. It's very clear that he is a passionate man who believes in his product, and wants nothing more than to let it breathe its first breath and have a chance at life. I don't know that I'd agree with staging a sit-in of any sort to get his point across... Protests are the last refuge of oppressed people, and aren't generally going to convince anyone you're attempting to do business with that you would be a good person to do business with.

But I do feel for him. I know what it's like to pour your life into a project, only to have seemingly external forces keep you from allowing it to live. And when you read through the front page of your site, you get a reverse-chronology of a man slowly being driven insane by his own passions and love for his work. Although, I do think trashing your own home and faking your death and having the police show up is a bit... Much. But I guess that's what it means to be driven insane... You're insane, right? So you do insane things.

I think the most insane thing Bob did occurred long before he staged his sit-in and trashed his place and threatened to burn down Nintendo and proclaimed himself the greatest game designer in the world (greater than Miyamoto, Itoi, Kojima, Carmack, and Wright COMBINED...). I think the most insane thing he did was to choose to develop on a platform he couldn't be assured would allow the release of his game. He painted himself into a corner - and not just any corner, but a corner wholly owned and walled-in by someone else.

Now, this isn't some open-source rant... I use closed-source stuff all the time, and I actually like it, because usually closed-source software is created on an actual budget which affords actually talented developers with actual payoff for their work (there's a really, really, really good reason why funny photo manipulations found on the web are called "Photoshops" and not "Gimps"). But even closed-source software (for the most part) isn't developed in an arena where you must have a gate key and permission to release the code. I download tons of Mac software that isn't licensed by Apple. I play Microsoft XNA games on my Xbox 360 which are created by the community and released into the wild without the direct permission of Microsoft.

I don't think I would ever choose, on my own, to just start an iTunes Store app or Nintendo game (wii or ds or any other) without at least knowing I'd have the opportunity to release the thing. I wrote my first book on the net with no one's permission and no eyes toward getting it. I just did it.

I guess my point here is that it's very easy to stare up at the ivory towers of the big guys and think "You know, all I have to do is impress them, and I'm IN!" It's so much easier (and healthy for your sanity) to just make your project where you know it'll be allowed to breathe, and let that project push you somewhere new. Don't shoot your movie with the hopes Paramount will buy it, shoot it with the hopes that you'll be able to finish the shoot and let people check it out on YouTube (or your own personal site). Don't write manuscripts for Penguin or Random House, write them for your intended audience and let them see the light of day. If they're any good, the big guys will pay attention...

...But only after the audience has paid attention. And how can the audience pay attention if you never get to finish it?

Never, ever give anyone the ability to control your future. Make THEM notice YOU.