It's Art for Art's Sake on Waypoint Radio This Week

This week's Waypoint Radio is about the anxieties surrounding commercial art and the way they can often overshadow art's cultural value, and how the latter often has more to do with personal meaning and artistic goals than performance in "the marketplace". Our first point of entry to this topic comes via an article by Liz Ryerson, over at the New and Improved Deorbital, called "There Are Not 'Too Many Games': What The Indiepocalypse Panic Ignores". Then we look at a gorgeous personal essay over at Unwinnable by Amanda Hudgins, "The Kentucky State Fair", which ends up providing a way of considering one way of practicing what Ryerson is alluding to. More importantly, it's a story about the place you come from, and the ways you work and experiences can be a gulf between you and the people that you care about.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

I read Ryerson’s piece and listened to a lot of this podcast just metaphorically pumping my fist and shouting “hell yes, tell 'em!” (It was metaphorical because I listen to podcasts while walking my dog and that would be awkward.) We absolutely, desperately need cultural room for small games and games without commercial aspirations. With that said, it’s a little bit frustrating to see criticism of indie-pocalypse theory from this angle not because the criticism is false or unimportant, but because it’s missing a more direct line.

The “too many games on Steam” indie-geddon story is revisionist history. It ignores all the people making games who didn’t find a hit in the so-called gold rush. The idea that ~2008-2012 was a utopian period where any game dev in their garage could build a game and sell truckloads on Steam can only be sustained by carefully disregarding those who didn’t get by on Steam, or didn’t get onto Steam, which was nearly everyone. It’s a story built on anecdotes of studios who had a hit and then a flop, constructed into a terrifying line on a graph. Back when SteamSpy was a thing they wrote statistical horror stories from napkin-math: estimating average revenue per title on Steam, showing a year-by-year downward trend as the title count increases, then shouting “boo!” An honest telling of that story, if the data was available, would include everyone whose games didn’t get on the only system PC players use, and that old median wouldn’t look nearly so shiny.

And this is so much older than Indie Game The Movie. While the famous Atari Crash was going on in the mid-80s, hobby coders went right on writing £3 arcade cassettes for their ZX Spectrums and shareware RPGs traded between Apple IIs on floppies and BBSes. There have always been “too many games” for every game to get the attention it deserves. What we have now on PC between Steam and is precious, the closest we’ve come to equal footing between publishing giants and lone creators, and I don’t want us to throw that away because some folks find it too inconvenient to discover cool games. A problem I don’t relate to at all, by the way, given that we’re drowning in amazing games and people begging to tell you about them.


A genre that suffered from my real life hobbies/job for me was the Zachlike programming puzzlers (named after Zachtronics), as a student I used to love the efficient, super small hacks that you need for getting good scores in Zachlikes but software development rewired me so that I find hacks of any type offensive and only want to see well structured, clean code. That runs counter to the Zachlike idea though.

I’m just here to say that this was a great episode. It was both entertaining and thoughtful and had one of the best bits in Waypoint Radio history when diving into the question bucket.

Also, I deeply sympathize with Natalie not being able to get her friends to play board games. I moved relatively recently and not having my gaming circle anymore is one of the things I miss the most.

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Everytime you play the outsider and act like Kentucky is a blanket conservative rathole where everyone who isn’t a cishet white protestant is gonna get pariahed at best, it means another year till we get KRZ Act V.

Also, what are the rules about talking about life experiences the crew volunteers up on the podcast? Because I nervously have some thoughts about Patrick Klepek’s stories of him and his father in the episode.