less indie more coöp?

The hardcore independent scene, where one person is doing everything from concept to delivery, is great fun for me. But it’s not in any way lucrative because I’m not good at everything. I really don’t want to get involved in conventional methods, though, with all the middlemen I don’t know taking a piece of the profits. And I don’t like the distance that comes with paying someone to do spec work.

I want to collaborate. I really want to be able to lean on a coöperative.

Consider a community (shared goals: real community) of people with various skills that can gang up to produce games. Maybe the organization sets the profit percentages to some standard so that everyone gets paid. But basically you’d have a pool of people you can collaborate with.

A user named tropical depression brought this up on the dice.camp Mastodon instance and I would love to develop it. Well, I would love for someone else to develop it: I am not a brilliant organizer of humans. But imagine a place where you could find that person who kicks ass at getting kickstarters out the door? Imagine a place where many of the people had a vested interest in your success and consequently helped hype your work? And all with keeping the risk down by avoiding pre-publication payments, instead sharing profits in a fair way? This would break down the whole publisher role and concentrate on creation and selling product.

Is anyone doing this already? Sign me up. I find the recent re-focus on traditional print-warehouse-sell very disheartening, moving us backwards from the power creators have with POD. It re-introduces risk that doesn’t need to be there and it reinforces boss-minion power structures, paying “staff” instead of collaborating with other creators and sharing the fruits of that work. The new old way makes me a marketer and I’m not a marketer. I want to leverage grass-roots enthusiasm, not develop a Twitter brand. I want to share and get shared.

Shamayan FINAL.png
Juan Ochoa is so much better at this bit than I am. Why not let him flex?

I also don’t want to work for free. I don’t want anyone to work for free. But I want an artist I work with to come to the table with creative input, not just fill a spec. Artists, it turns out, are really good at art. They excel at colour balance, composition, and all that good stuff that they often set aside to meet a specification. Usually from someone who’s not as good as they are. What if, instead, that cover art was the best art a real artist could make based on their reading of the material? What if we worked together, not just on the same schedule, but to share the creative process in its entirety?

Similarly with writers and developers: what if we genuinely brought our creative energy together to write that text? I always talk about letting the players bring their creative vision to the narrative of a role-playing game — isn’t the logical extension of that belief in others’ creativity allowing others to share the conceptualization of a new game?

What technology would be necessary (I hate to burden actual work with picking technologies since technology is sexier than working) to collaborate effectively? Would a coöp need to standardize or just cope with everyone’s favourite workflow? Could it at least provide advice based on expert knowledge? It could.

And distribution: it seems like working with the existing sales and fulfilment experts would be valuable for everyone. DriveThruRPG and Indie Press Revolution could both benefit from some kind of relationship with an organization that consistently produces in a fair and diverse way. And that relationship could streamline the rough parts of working with those marketplaces. I’m sure there are others as well.

Could I relinquish enough of my own vision to let that happen? I’d love to give it a try.

But I don’t know where to start and I’m the wrong person to start it. I’d be a very enthusiastic member, though. Vocal, opinionated, and producing work at a regular rate.

7 thoughts on “less indie more coöp?

      1. I am very curious exactly how Hydra Cooperative distributes duties among members.

        The closest other example I know of is Image Comics in the ’90s. Not sure if they still operate that way (or at all) anymore. Probably worth noting that that arrangement worked as well as it did thanks to some star power among founding members.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I should add that a number of tools make collaboration easy. I’m personally a techie, so my usual combo is irc + github issues + github repo, but Google Docs + any kind of chat + something to track responsibilities would probably be almost as good.

        Liked by 2 people

  1. I think the mystique of the independent creator is as much bullshit as that of the bohemian writer. [ https://danielhighmoon.wordpress.com/2018/02/02/the-beautiful-lie-of-the-bohemian-writer/ ] But it has the same legendary allure, so we perpetuate it, and on some unconscious level, work against anything that would destroy the legend.

    The coop idea is a white whale I’ve seen be chased since OGL days when short PDF publications flowed like rivers, and especially during the Forge epoch when indie games emerged from the primordial ooze. It is an extremely appealing model, and I’ll be honest, it’s one I wish I could be a part of as well, but whenever tried to some extent, it flies for a few months before crashing majestically like yet another Enterprise in one of the movies. I sound jaded, I know, and I’m sorry. It’s not my intention to rain on this idea because it’s a good one, it’s just one that overall never seems to take off. But I’d love to be wrong. Artist studios work in other disciplines, so maybe it’ll work in gaming creation/publishing.

    Liked by 1 person

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