Indie developer Tale of Tales announced last week that they’re closing up shop due to the commercial failure of their game Sunset. The announcement was made in a blog post from their site. Barely over 4,000 copies of the game have been sold, despite generally positive reviews from big game press such as IGN and GameSpot. But what is Sunset?
Sunset: An SJW Wet Dream
Sunset is the kind of game that every SJW says they want. It stars a black woman named Angela Burns who is working as a maid for a Central American bachelor named Gabriel Ortega. Angela is tasked with doing mundane chores but is also given an opportunity to look around Gabriel’s apartment. The game is narrative driven, so you don’t get to do anything exciting besides exploring the apartment, and there is a war going on in the background.
The game’s graphics are in 3D, but they look worse than a PS2 game by 2015 standards. Based on that description, I can guess that none of our readers would be remotely interested in playing the game, certainly not for $19.99 and maybe not even for free. If you want to see how uninspiring the game is, take a look at any of the numerous Let’s Play videos of it on YouTube.
If you think I’m being too hard on the game and its creators, there’s a good reason. If you feel sorry for them, don’t. Tale of Tales brought their ruin upon themselves thanks to their pretentious hipster attitude towards gaming to hiring Leigh Alexander’s consulting firm Agency. Yikes! Hipsters and Leigh Alexander? Yeah, it’s that bad.
Origins Of An SJW Game Company
Tale of Tales was founded by Auriea Harvey and Michael Samyn in Ghent, Belgium back in 2002. The more and more I looked into Harvey and Samyn’s backgrounds, the more I noticed that neither one them seemed particularly interested in video games themselves. Here’s an excerpt from Michael Samyn’s Patreon page:
In 2002 I chose to use videogames as my artistic medium. The more I got to know the technology, the industry, the creators and the audience, the less I liked what I saw. I used to be quite vocal about this until I noticed that people seemed to hate me so much that they didn’t want to play our games. So I shut my mouth, closed my Twitter, closed my Facebook, and only spoke publicly in diplomatic calculated marketing terms.
Nothing much has changed in videogames. And I don’t see a bright future for this medium if some radical changes don’t happen soon. I am ready to share my views on this and the broader economic, political and social context. I have no commercial interest in the game industry anymore. I have nothing to lose. I can safely bite the hand that was unable to feed me.
But I only care if you do.
A long list of topics I am eager to discuss has been piling up for years. I’ve had to bite my lip so many times that I’m not even sure if I can still speak. But with your help I will try. I will try to express my feelings in concise articles published monthly or fortnightly for all to see. Maybe this will inspire some to make the many changes necessary to improve the situation. If not I hope it will contribute, however modestly, to the utter annihilation of videogames as we know them.
That would be nice.
Well Michael, no wonder people don’t like your games! If you don’t have a passion for what you’re creating or like the medium that you’re creating with, why bother? This would be like if I decided to write a rap album about being bored in suburbia: no one would want to listen to that crap and I don’t have a passion for rap. You can’t tell me that someone with no passion for their “art” can make anything of worth.
If that wasn’t enough, Tale of Tales is unwilling to take responsibility for their own failure. They want the video game industry to conform to their ideas of gaming. Tale of Tales would also like to blame capitalism, since gamers vote with their wallets and no one is interested in giving hipsters money out of the kindness of their hearts.
No: instead they would rather blame capitalism for their problems, based on their Tweets above. Of course, if you struggled to keep your company afloat without government grants, you might be pissed at capitalism too. Evidently, Belgium had been providing grants for experimental media, but with economies ailing across Europe, the amount of money available for hipster welfare programs has been dwindling. Tale of Tales discussed this with Giant Bomb’s Austin Walker:
Previously we had to submit our grant proposals to a film commission. Which was a bit weird but at least they judge our proposals on artistic merit. And they have rejected a few as well. The new Game fund consists of game industry professionals. Let’s just say that it’s easier to explain games to art people that to explain art to games people.
There’s also a few rules in the Game fund that are different and less art-minded than those of the Film fund. Like they will only cover up to 50% of your production budget, eg, as opposed to up to 85% if you make a film.
Government support for the arts is sadly dwindling as right wing politicians take control. If we don’t want to lose civilization entirely, something needs to be done to support more non-commercial art. The game industry, with its much touted millions of dollars, could easily cause a global cultural revolution by spending a tiny fraction of its budgets on a few promising artists. Maybe some of the more forward looking studios and publishers will start realizing this soon. There’s a lot to be gained from expanding the market and improving the social and cultural esteem for games, including dollars.
Personally, if I found out my tax dollars were going to some entitled hipsters to make a game that I have no interest playing, I’d be upset. Even if they did make games that people want to play, I’d still have a hard time being okay with my tax money being used to create games.
Enter Game Journalism’s Biggest Alcoholic
Lastly, it should come to no surprise that Leigh Alexander was part of this game. Her disdain for gamers, as shown in her infamous “Gamers Are Dead” article, makes her the perfect consultant to work with Tale of Tales, since they wanted to reach a broader audience.. not. Alexander might get the whole art as games perspective, but when it comes to actually understanding gamers and what they find appealing, she fails drastically.
I’ve written about her website Offworld before, and from what I’ve seen on there, she offers very little value to game journalism. Agency was the PR company that Tale of Tales had hired to help promote their works. It has also been implied from Tale of Tales’ original blog post that Leigh Alexander suggested they buy ads on Rock, Paper, Shotgun. For those following GamerGate, Rock, Paper, Shotgun is one of several websites that GamerGate is boycotting due to shoddy ethics.
Hopefully, there are some indie developers who will learn from the fall of Tale of Tales. Treat all criticism as constructive. Gamers are your primary audience, so respect them: they’re the ones who are buying your products. Don’t advertise on websites that are boycotted by Deep Freeze. No one feels sorry for sore losers.
Finally, don’t hire Leigh Alexander or her consulting firm Agency, You could probably get better advice for free or much cheaper than what Agency was charging. Hell, I’d be happy to consult on a game if I was asked.