I am a game developer. Specifically, I have written and edited for Dungeons & Dragons and then went on to create my own little tabletop roleplaying game called Our Hero Neighbors: A Game of Community, Collaboration, and Cooperation. It was a game I designed specifically with my mother-in-law in mind. She’s the kind of person who wants to know things experientially. I figured why not give her a game that celebrates the things she values? It made for a nice Chanukah gift, though I’m certain she would have been happy with the traditional gift of socks.
I have tried to honor the spirit of both the game and mother in-law’s ideals by putting the game on Itch.io and submitting it to a number of contests that celebrate various aspects of the games (women developers, games with safety tools built in, etc). When I heard whispers that Itch.io was going to raise money for Black Lives Matter, I submitted the game as part of a bundle deal. The Bundle for Racial Justice and Equality exceeded all expectations. By the end of the fundraiser, the bundle had 1,741 games and a minimum donation requirement of just $5. The bundle was easily the most attractive deal out there. Big titles in the industry for both video and tabletop games were included such works as Ironsworn: Delve, Blades in the Dark, Oxenfree, Overland, and Celeste.
But even though there are titles that have hit the mainstream radar, all of the games featured in the bundle were created by indie developers. That’s not to say that Triple-A studios were sitting on their hands: logging into Apex Legends brought up a massive screen that said, “Black Lives Matter” and provided a link to publisher EA’s statement of solidarity with demands for justice. EA donated $1 million and matched their employee’s donations. It’s not nothing, but EA projected a revenue of over $5 billion for 2020. That means they donated about 0.02% of that projected revenue.
I charge $3 for a copy of Our Hero Neighbors. I’ve made ~$6 from the game, though admittedly I give out the game for free on a whim because I didn’t create it for the money. Over 800,000 people have purchased the game through the bundle meaning that I donated approximately $2.4 million in estimated value to the bundle. My game wasn’t even the most expensive or most costly to produce. The beloved Blades in the Dark which won Game of the Year in 2015 and 2016 retails for $20 and features stunning original artwork throughout its pages. That’s roughly $16 million in potential revenue. These are just two examples of indie titles from virtually unknown to highly celebrated.
$1 million seems like a lot for people like me whose highest salary was $30k annually. For EA, it’s the spare quarters on the desk at work to buy a snack from the vending machine. What’s that famous Spiderman saying? Great power, great responsibility? It’s been a month since George Floyd was killed, Apex Legends has moved on from #BLM to their weeklong shameless cash-grab event.
I guess Black Lives Matter to Triple-A companies for as much as it costs to buy a vending snack and for as long as it takes to eat it.
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