The Stories That Make Content & Game Development Worth It

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Often as a creator, it can be hard to see the forest for the trees, to see the impact your work has on others. Whether it be as a game developer, as a content creator, or as a passionate advocate of an industry or community. Taking an idea and making it into something tangible, takes perseverance and passion – passion to create something you hope others will enjoy and take something away from.

In Ian’s latest video over on the OK Beast Youtube channel, he talks about how the charismatic and chore-filled Stardew Valley has helped him cope with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD. Ian’s experience with Stardew is an incredibly personal one, and a testament to the impact video games can have on people. However, everyone’s experiences can often be very different for each game, and the influence they can have on each individual is often surprising.

Earlier this year, a particular Twitter thread about the wonderful messages and interactions creators have had with their audiences caught my attention and tore my heart apart multiple times while reading, due to the unexpected and moving experiences people have gained from others’ work. It was such a fantastic discussion filled with so many remarkable stories that surprised me and reminded me the impact that games can have. After reading through dozens of these stories in the thread, I decided to highlight several of them as similar examples to Ian’s, of how games have influenced them in positive and regularly unsuspecting ways.

The ever Twitter present and game industry globe trotter, Rami Ismail, who makes up half of the game studio Vlambeer (creators of Super Crate Box and Nuclear Throne), was who kicked off the thread asking, “What are the nicest/coolest/friendliest/most touching messages people had received from viewers/readers/players about their work?” Rami shared his own somber yet uplifting story to help get the ball rolling. Back in 2011, he received an email from a kid who was enduring pain and fatigue from some tough treatment in the hospital. Vlambeer’s games provided an all too important distraction with their fun and addictive gameplay, and helped the kid to take their mind off the harsh reality they were in. Thankfully, Rami last heard the kid had made a full recovery. Then, the responses to the tweet erupted.

Vlambeer as a studio and their collection of games have made many people happy, but the influence of just one game can reach far and wide, impacting people in a multitude of ways a developer could never expect. Jane Ng, the lead artist for Camp Santo, explained how the team has received several touching messages from fans telling them how Firewatch has had an influence in their lives. One entailed how the game had taught a fan that running from their problems was not the right answer, so they eventually reached out to their estranged father, who turned out to have a terminal illness. He was grateful to say the least.

Another said the narrative heavy experience gave them the digital metaphorical space to process and reflect upon their feelings around the suicide of a close friend. Reminding them that art and other people’s stories, can help you process and better understand your own feelings and experiences. Many wrote in saying the walking simulator’s location inspired them to take up hiking as a hobby and appreciate the great outdoors more. Some signed up to become Park Rangers, including one message from a fan, who said they had actually taken up volunteering as a fire lookout. While I was writing this article, a 14 year old boy called Jack from the USA who was influenced similarly by Firewatch, created a thread about how he had become fascinated with fire watch lookouts and has visited over 120 different fire towers/lookouts since Firewatch released 2 years ago. Incredible.

Often walking sims and are some of my favourite experiences nowadays and become regularly thought upon memories in games for myself. But to think some of them such as Firewatch, had have this influence and positive change on others, is really special and awe inspiring.

In another wholesome example, Indonesia-based developer Kris Antoni posted a story about Toge Productions’ influence on a certain kid called Brian, who has autism. An avid gamer, Brian was a big fan of Toge’s Infectonator series and wanted to visit the studio to meet his idols, particularly some of the artists from Toge Productions. They were more than happy for Brian to visit and he had a fantastic time and he talked about their games and the experience often to his friends and teachers at school. Recently Kris and the studio heard from Brian’s parents that he is graduating high school this year and is studying to become a pixel artist, inspired by Toge’s games and their talented artists.

Celeste, a recently released game which many of us here at OK Beast loved, has had a huge positive impact on players with mental health illnesses. The composer for the brilliant two dimensional platforming game, Lena Raine, said they had received an outpouring of friends and fans messaging them, about how happy they were that they addressed anxiety and depression through Celeste’s surprisingly deep narrative and in its music. One fan said that Celeste soothed their own anxieties and depression. Safe to say all of the messages had a profound effect on Lena and the rest of the team; and their decision to make mental illness their focus for the game paid off in the way that it has helped bring joy and comfort to its fans.

While not every message was as subtle, or graceful, as previous stories mentioned, the message the developer behind SpaceplanJake Hollands received, was just as heartfelt. “Fuck me dead, Spaceplan is the TITs”, or as Jake prefers to refer to the message as, ‘The day Rufus got into game dev’. This lovely fan from Sydney was so taken aback by how much fun he had pushing one button millions of times, said that Spaceplan is easily the best mobile game he has ever played.

Rufus, the fan, was so inspired that he bought a Mac mini to try his own hand at app & game development. “I’m not for a second suggesting I’ll get 1% as far as yourself but the point is, you’ve inspired me that much with the brilliance of the game ~ I hope it catapults you to fame, wealth and available parking spots wherever you chose to go,” said Rufus. I can attest to how great Spaceplan is, having played through it myself on mobile when it first released. I wonder if Rufus has released his first app yet? I hope it’s brilliant.

Game developers weren’t the only ones jumping in to share their stories, as some prominent members of the games media also contributed their experiences of joy and heartfelt messages from fans about their work. Creator of the  game documentary Youtube channel NoClip and ex-Gamespot employee Danny O’Dwyer, said his work on NoClip has influenced several fans. Some have used the documentaries to help them explain their love for games to their parents, and one fan even said they helped them to reconnect with their Dad.

Fellow Aussie David Milner, the editor of Game Informer Australia, said the best feedback he’d ever received was when he heard from a teacher who was having trouble getting a specific kid to read. After several months without showing any interest, the kid finally started reading after they gave him a couple of copies of Game Informer. Helping a kid to embrace reading is damn fine news!

Halfcoordinated, a well known and respected member of the speed running community and a regular attendee of the incredible semi-annual charity event Games Done Quick, contributed to the discussion, saying he often receives several heavy hitting messages of support and thankfulness for his work. One particular message, came from a young girl named Samantha, who had lost use of an arm due to brain cancer. Her story would stick with Halfcoordinated forever. His Games Done Quick runs had helped her learn how to play and enjoy games again, despite her disability. Samantha and her influence on Halfcoordinated is even mentioned in one of the many fantastic Waypoint online documentaries. My Heart. Also if you don’t know what GDQ is, please check it out here. I fell in love with it last year and it is now one of my favourite times of the year.

My final example comes way of Jean Leggett, CEO of ‘One More Story Games’ who shared a story about a streamer, who played through and streamed the entirety of one of their games, Danielle’s Inferno. After five hours, she finished it and was so moved by the story, that she broke down crying. She said it was one of the best games she’d ever played. Her followers felt the same. Not only a lovely and touching experience for the stream and her fans, but it impacted the developers deeply. Watching the streamer’s emotional reaction was magical, humbling and incredibly validating for them that their craft was most definitely, worth the time and effort.

Rami’s thread was humbling and wonderfully heartfelt and was filled with many more beautiful and inspiring stories, which I highly recommend you read through. All of them serve as a stark reminder not only for those in game development, but to creators in general, about the impact their creativity and work can have on people all around the world. Many developers and creators have said to me over the years that if all of their hard work helps to impact just one person positively, then it would all be worth it.

I think it’s safe to say that many of us here at OK Beast have been influenced and inspired to create content due to our love and following of other enthusiast sites over the years. Back in 2012, during my final year of high school, I was starting to understand how games could become experiences I never thought possible, a few examples being Journey, The Unfinished Swan and The Walking Dead. At that time I also started listening to Podcast Beyond, a show hosted by Greg Miller and Colin Moriarty, which would lead me to have a greater interest and passion for the video game industry as a whole. This in turn lead me to eventually studying a degree in communications and journalism, in hopes of being a part of the industry that I had come to love. Podcast Beyond, IGN, and many more creators are to thank for that, and I’ll be forever grateful.

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