Act Locally

Despite the advance of technology that makes our world seem smaller, it is still important to take action locally.

On Sunday, March 20th, I had the privilege of addressing the Southern Michigan Chapter of the IGDA (International Game Developers Association) on the topic of independent game development and shareware marketing. I spoke about the differences between the retail and online software channels, and I also presented some information about the ASP Indie Games SIG. (A brief summary of the meeting is at

My talk followed a review of the 2005 Game Developers Conference, so it was almost a rebuttal of certain points of the GDC. Specifically, there was a call for a different distribution channel for games, without any recognition by the “mainstream” game industry that there already is a well-established online channel for software distribution. I started my speech by reading the absurd claims by one “expert” that such a channel did not exist before 5 years ago. Recommended reading on the topic is Thomas Warfield’s A Shareware Life, and specifically “Comedy at the Game Developers Conference“.

I presented a handout that showed highlights from a member survey conducted by the Association of Shareware Professionals. I drew attention to the fact that, of those who responded, more than 30% made almost all of their income from shareware (question #3), more than a quarter made $50K or more per year on shareware alone (question #4), and that 9 out of 10 had four or fewer people (question #6). Given that the poll also suggests that a large number of respondents were just getting started, these are fairly impressive numbers.

After the introduction and brief discussion of the survey results, I went into a laundry list of differences between retail and shareware game channels, having experience with both. I broke the list into the differences as experienced in development, publishing, distribution (and retailing), and by the consumer. I tried to balance the discussion, which generally comes down to creative control, quality of life, and a larger share of profits (with shareware) versus more funding, larger number of units sold, and greater recognition (in retail).

Before the end of the meeting, the chapter discussed its plans for promoting game development within the State of Michigan. Unfortunately, as if to make such a prospect much harder, our Governor, Jennifer Granholm, happened to make a public statement the following week in favor of recently introduced legislation that is opposed by the IGDA (a position that I strongly support). If nothing else, these events have really energized the chapter to get involved in advocacy for the local game industry, so we will be taking some steps toward that goal in the very near future.

Push Mode

In the context of content delivery, information can be communicated via either “push mode” or “pull mode”.

Push mode is when the publisher “pushes” the information directly to the consumer, and includes such methods as newsletters and direct mail. The publisher controls the content and the timing of the message, and conversely, the consumer has little or no control. It is convenient for the publisher, and it is also convenient for the consumer IF the information is desired. However, it is often inconvenient or, in many cases, downright annoying (“junk”).

Pull mode is when the publisher makes information available to the consumer, who then “pulls” the information from a known resource. This method includes web sites and newsgroups, as well as more traditional media such as print periodicals. It is convenient for the consumer, who controls when to obtain the information and, to a greater extent, which information to obtain or ignore. While publishing is just as easy, it is more difficult for a publisher to get and keep the attention of the consumer.

Both push and pull modes, using the above context, refer to information flowing from publisher to consumer, either the former doing the pushing or the latter doing the pulling. This is a convenient distinction to make when discussing a single service or protocol, but it does not apply so easily to the evolving concept of online communities. In this context, participants are (or at least can be) both publisher and consumer, which is a much more natural social structure. It is “give and take” instead of “master and pupil”.

Looking at this from the perspective of an individual in a community setting, it makes more sense to redefine “pushing” as providing information (i.e., publishing) and “pulling” as consuming information. Except when in a dialogue (or monologue), one is outnumbered. In other words, there are always more people pushing information than the single individual trying to assimilate all the data, which leads to the possibility of information overload.

In just over a decade of using the Internet and the prior decade using BBS forums, plus traditional research and learning throughout my life, I have realized that I have more ideas and plans than anyone could complete in a lifetime, yet I continue to spend valuable time on “pull” activities that are progressively less effective. Most of what I read online, after filtering/ignoring the junk, is information I already have but, ironically, have not found time to properly utilize. More and more, I find the benefits of such activities to be either inspiration to actually do something or just the hope of finding that diamond in the rough.

As an attempt to find a solution to this problem, I am embarking on an experiment with my own version of push mode. For the next six weeks, I will forego all general data research activities in favor of publishing more of my own work, plus utilizing information and implementing ideas I already have. I will still participate in forums where I have an integral role (such as the Action Solitaire beta forum) and in email dialogues, but I am going to greatly reduce the incoming flow of non-specific information. My goal is more tangible results and fewer unrealized ideas.

We shall see…