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Indie developers suffering from cognitive dissonance

Some time ago I watched a presentation about indie games and how much money they earn and the result was that 82% of all indie games make less than minimum wage, 7% make enough to at least survive and only 11% make profit. To make it simpler, you got a 90% change of failure, if you go into indie game development. Imagine applying for a job and the boss tells you "Well if you work here, there will be an 82% chance you will be paid worse than in any other job or not paid at all, 7% chance you get the worst payment and 11% chance you get more than the minimum".
So one must be pretty insane to start working developing indie games, yet many people still do. Well and from my experience of meeting other indie game developers, I can say, many of them are probably pretty insane. I do not really count myself as an indie developer, but those are just the people I meet, since as an open source game developer you have no company, since other open source game developers are too nonexistent for that. I may be a bit insane in that regard as well, but at least I knew that it would be pretty much impossible to make profit developing indie games and knew that indie open source games will be even harder to make profit from, like factor 10 harder, so I did not even bother with that, it is just my hobby and what I like to do. However most others are not aware of the problems and think they can become successful, being an indie developer now is like the modern version of wanting to be a rockstar in the past. The chances of you succeeding are so slim, that they are almost nonexistent, yet most people still believe they can do it.

That is just the first cognitive dissonance those people suffer from. (Just as an info, cognitive dissonance is, when you hold a worldview that conflicts with reality, which then causes mental pain as you are confronted with reality). So reality shows them, that they are about 90% likely to fail and they can see 90% of people like them failing, yet they still think they can succeed for 100%. So when the (well predicted fate) finally hits them, instead of accepting reality, they flee themselves in even more illusions and through that suffer from even more cognitive dissonance.

One example was a developer I talked to who already probably suffered from cognitive dissonance pretty hard, as he seemed to be very angry, calling distributors unfair and all other indie developers being scammers and fakers. My argument towards him was just, that the conditions for indie developers are now better than ever, since there are multiple larger distribution platforms allowing indie developers on there, mostly for free. They give free distribution services, free promotion, free hosting etc so pretty good deal, if you ask me, I mean compare that to the past, where you had almost no chances to get anywhere as an indie developer as the stores had a very high entry barrier, so only option for you would have been to do everything yourself and starting at zero. Whatever that is not the point here, my point is, that the guy was just blaming everyone else for his failure, but somehow not blaming those, who could have been responsible for it for real, like big companies having monopolies for example.

When he found out, that I'm a game developer myself, he started attacking me as well, calling me faker and scammer etc even though having zero evidence for any of his claims and probably not even done any research on me, he just assumed everything based on nothing. Then when it came to argue why other indie developers fail, he would just say "Well they were just not good enough, since everyone who is just good enough and works hard enough will be successful". So when talking about others, he entertains a worldview where everything is 100% fair and legit, but when talking about himself, then everyone is unfair and a scammer. I don't know what I should think about that other than this is just pure insanity. The first worldview was already wrong, but the other contradictory worldview the same person held was also wrong, so he was holding two wrong and with each other conficting worldviews in his head, that must have given him serious mental pain. I mean it hurt me already just looking at it.

I did encounter such insanity loaded indie developers multiple times now and am just writing it down as therapy for myself. Sure he was not entirely wrong, the problem of those kind of people is just, that they encounter a problem, but refuse to acknowledge it existing and blame it on something else and do nothing about it. Fakers and scammers exist and are a real problem in the industry, but I think even a faker is intelectually superior to such a person suffering from cognitive dissonance, since the faker encounters the same problem, realizes it, realizes that he has to do something about it, then realizes, that he cannot and then decides to fake it to make it. The cognitive dissonance idiot already fails at the first step of this thought process. The faker just takes an immoral action somewhere down the path the insane person does not even walk down.

The faker also realizes that you have to do fakery to become popular and successful, it is almost 100% necessary. For example to sell more products you have to do marketing and marketing is just a form of lying or faking, lying and faking is 100% essential to marketing. When I told those facts to an indie developer, he would just go into cognitive dissonance mode again, switching to his reality where everything is 100% fair and legit and claiming that you can win the game by playing 100% fair, but he only did so when argueing with me, to show how wrong I was, just to later go back to his worldview where everyone is a faker and unfair towards him. This is true insanity.

I mean, even if you are wrong, you have to pick a side or a worldview that does not contradict itself to be able to act upon it. You could pick either side here, like everything is 100% fair and therefore you play fair, or think that everyone is a cheater and also start to cheat, you would at least make some kind of progress in some kind of direction for sure, but if you hold contradicting worldview inside you, you are just going nowhere or in circles or your brain blows up, since it cannot handle so much illogicalness. I for my part prefer to be honest and not become corrupt just to be successful. This is not just about game development and probably applys to any areas in life, but it was just where I encountered it a lot and used my personal experience as an example.

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Open source game development is now just mobile game development

Of course I'm still observing the open source game development scene (which is mostly nonexistent, but this is not the topic now) and noticed a clear trend towards mobile game development, so much that almost everything looks to be just geared towards the mobile market. It seems to have been an easy transition, since the open source game development scene was mostly 2D or retro game development anyway, but now the rise of the mobile market has given it so much justification that basically everything is just mobile game development now and nobody tries to do something real anymore. Before people complain, that most of those games are released on PC as well, to those I say, that is not what I mean with mobile games, mobile games I define as games that are released for mobile as well or can be released on mobile or web browser or look and feel exactly like mobile games.

So what are the problems with this? Well very simple:

1. Mobile games do not equal open source games

2. Almost all mobile platforms are completely incompatible to open source

3. Lower quality of games, since they have to be primitive enough for mobile platforms and audience

4. Open source game development is dead

 

I wonder why almost nobody gets even the basics of the open source philosophy, why would you develop open source for a platform that is closed? Well you can't, there is no way. Some people may argue you can jailbreak those devices and run them with free software, yes that may work to a degree, but you are never sure how jail free you really are and how long it will stay that way. The companies designing those platforms don't want them to be open and if you open them up, they will just try finding ways to prevent you from doing so and they have countless of lawyers and zillions of money and you don't, so don't even bother with that. If you have devices that need to be jailbreaked it means they are designed to be a jail for you and you should not be using them in the first place.

When I tell people those things they almost always come with the same non-argument like "Oh but you are using Windows" or cherry pick any other non open source software you use and if they cannot find any flaw in you, they will just start philosophical arguments, that you can never be really free etc and therefore it is no problem to be using an 100% iPrison device all the time. People will try to find a flaw in you and even if you use 90% free software, they will point to the other 10% and say "You are a hypocrite" and use that "argument" to justify using 0% free software themselves. I often wonder how people cannot see how illogical they are with their arguments, pointing a finger at someone elses flaw does not change anything in your own flaws, absolutely nothing.

Basically all their argument is like "Oh because you cannot be 100% perfectly free 100% of the time, it is justified to be 100% perfectly a slave 100% of the time." - This is just pure insanity.

Frome a sane point of view, any progress is better than no progress or even regress and the point that you cannot get absolute perfection instantly should not demotivate you doing something, since then you would never get anything done.

This mobile hype is not just bad for open source,  but also bad for quality of games (and all other software). So the result is, you are getting less open source, less progress, worse software, less freedom, less privacy, less fun, less life etc. Mobile games should be a niche product, something you can play in the waiting room for the doctors (or whatever place you should not be to begin with) and not make up 99% of the indie game dev market and more than half of the total games market (Yes I don't know the exact numbers, but I know the numbers are high).

The mobile market just makes people go corrupt and many developers just abuse the open source content creators to make the most money with the least efford. I once talked with a guy who claimed to make six figure income per year just taking free content and make simple games with it. When I looked at what he produced it was just simple mobile games, like default quality, full with microtransactions of course and all for the extremely proprietary apple market. Of course strictly speaking it is legal to do that, since the content is open source, but it is still not a nice move, though such creators are a bit more limited in their choice, since many open source licenses do not allow such use, or better to say, the proprietary platform they use does not allow it. I don't want to trash that guys work, I mean he seems to know what he is doing and his games had average quality, if you ignore that he was not creating any content himself, but why would anyone play such a game. Those kind of games were like what you had around 20 years ago, but now on a mobile device with lots of microtransactions. Why would anyone play that? You can play games like that on the PC for free all day long, having better visual quality and better controls etc.

Many people like to go with the flow, like that new super open source game engine that is newly developed that seems to flourish only because of the mobile market hype, since I know a much better game engine that existed far before that gets no hype at all. That specific popular game engine seems to target the mobile market, as it is designed exactly to produce those kind of games efficiently and support those mobile platforms well. The big problem I have with that is that it basically motivates people to develop closed source games for closed source platforms, large parts of the previously open source game dev scene even switched to straight proprietary engines only to develop their indie games.

On some parts it may look like the open source scene is growing, but the primary reason is always that it grows because it can be abused for easy money making in proprietary products on proprietary platforms. Well and this means that basically everything goes to shit.

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Are proprietary developers better for open source, than open source idealists?

Well this is mostly from my experience in the past, but now I think I got enough confirmation that I can formulate this as a theory, at least regarding game development:

Proprietary developers benefit the open source development more, than the idealistic people dedicated to open source development.

 

In the programming world, there are different camps with different ideologies, like conservative people who do it for money and make proprietary software and different open source communities, from BSD philosophy to GPL philosophy. So a little backstory, when I began game development ( with Torque 3D ) I thought now that this great engine is open source, probably a lot of people from the various open source communities will use it, since it was the best open source game engine ever to be released in computing history, but I was wrong, almost nobody came. Not only did nobody came, even when I tried to encourage people or talk to them for help regarding programming problems, they never were helpful. Quite the opposite was true with the regular community that was with the engine before, they were engaged and motivated and also willing to help, even though they were all doing closed source proprietary projects. Not only were those proprietary developers more friendly and more helpful to newbies, they also were more liberal about their help regarding licensing than almost any open source idealist, since they did not even bother to add a license to their work or demand attribution.

It seems to be quite common even in the proprietary commercial work to just reveal your secrets, even big companies often release paper on their technology and how they did it, of course they are not releasing everything, but the basic mechanic. The algorithms are basically public domain, I mean you would need patents to protect those things anyway, regular copyright cannot protect a way to do things. One proprietary developer once said, that it is not a big deal to tell how it is made, the work is in the implementation and if you can write an implementation and optimize it, you can have all the credit.

In communities around a software like a game engine in my case, it also seems to be normal to contribute back to the community, which then is basically public domain content, or in my case it will become the same license as the original software, so everyone who owns the software also owns all the add ons and contributions towards it from the community, which in case the original software is open source as well is pretty cool, since you never need to buy anything. However also with proprietary products this mentality is common, since user contributions will enhance the value of the product for the company, so the company is interested in as many contributions as possible and the contributions have to be as liberally licensed as possible, so people can use them, which results in everything being basically public domain, if you own the original product.

If I watch the open source communities now, their policies seem to be quite different and their end results as well. The first thing most open source idealists ( especially GPL people ) think about is the license and who gets the credit and who can use it how, why and what you cannot do with it etc. The difference is basically the open source communities bother with licenses first, the other proprietary ones bother with licenses last. This results of course in many cases, that nothing gets ever done and even if, the quality and quantity is bad and on top of that, the license added to it is worse than what you get with proprietary software ( if you ignore the little restrictions that the base product is proprietary ). Yes many open source idealists may complain now like "But the proprietary stuff is proprietary and not really free" - Yes that is correct ultimatively, there is a copyright barrier that restricts you, since of course the company tries to bind their customers to their products and services, so there has to be some kind of restriction. That is the tactic of user lock in, they try to keep their users in a sandbox, but within that sandbox everything is much better and more liberal as people within the sandbox share much more.

Well in my case such a proprietary sandbox as a whole got open sourced, so the initial copyright barrier that locked users in got removed and what was left, was all the benefits without all the drawbacks. Well back to my theory, I think that still, even though there are always some barriers to lock users in, aka make them unfree, that what is left is still more beneficial to open source as a whole, since even commercial companies usually producing only proprietary stuff, sometimes give something back and if they do, it is much better than the open source idealists, who often already fail at the production stage, so they are often not even left with anything that they could contribute. Another case is that companys fully fund open source development, since they need it for their business, or a company goes bankrupt and then source dumps everything, so it at least survives as a product and gets maintained.

However my initial point was, that I experienced people comming from the proprietary world producing proprietary commercial products, seem to be more friendly, helpful and especially more productive towards open source software development, than the open source idealists ( probably due to the open source idealists being nonexistent for the most part ). This is kind of an add on regarding my article about why I'm not for GPL license, showing how unproductive it is in reality. The other open source factions are more productive, but still less productive than the proprietary world. Of course there are big exceptions where open source development is very productive and high quality, but this is mostly due to big commercial companies donating all the money for it, since long term people usually do not work for free.

The other exception are of course art assets, since art assets are usually proprietary and no proprietary developer ever shares them as open source, they are liberal with sharing relatively often, but then only under certain license conditions that are not open source compatible. The art is what makes their products image, at least in case of games so they will not share it. Sometimes they will share base material, but hardly ever finished assets. So in this case the open source community is clearly better regarding sharing free art, but I was focusing here on the programming side, since with the exception of games programs do not need much art assets. But regarding the usefulness of open source game art, I also wrote an article, which conlcuded that it may not be that useful at all.

It seems the proprietary developers are always the leading factor and the most productive, even for open source software, since even their leftovers are better than what most open source idealists produce. The most obvious factor why this may be is probably money, since money makes the world go round (and if you GPL your project, you get no more money). But there are also other factors and that is hierarchy and leadership, commercial companies are total dictatorships, the leader tells the direction and then everyone focuses on achieving that goal, while the open source community is mostly disorganized and anarchy, so everyone splits off their own projects when someone disagrees with them and you are left with lots of small branches of a project that never get big in quantity or quality, since there is just not enough manpower and direction.

It may sound a bit depressing to realize that the open source idealisms do not work for the most part and the open source community has to be satisfied with only the leftovers of the big players. However I'm quite okay with it at the moment, since it is better than nothing at all and the best thing for open source would probably be for companies to be a bit more liberal and not attach to their copyright forever, but open source it, when they made the most of their profits, which is what copyright was intended for initially anyway. Copyright was invented for book distribution in the very old days, where it took very long to distribute it around the world and it was only intended so the author can make a living out of his work and after that everything becomes public domain, but now as the time needed to distribute ones work is vastly reduced the copyright time should also be vastly reduced. This little change will probably benefit open source more than all the whining about ethics and morals.

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