Obviously the change of the Patreon from being a “per work” thing to being a monthly thing would be a big change in the relationship between me and the backers so I felt like I would need to think about it a lot. I thought it may also be a good idea as part of this process to share some of my thoughts and reasonings.
It’s always uncomfortable for me to talk about money when it comes to my work. It’s never been a thing that I have done for the money, I just love doing it. So it’s a weird transition to try to start thinking about the work as also something that maybe I could (or god forbid, should?) get money for. However, I have definitely gotten a lot of support and positive feedback on stuff lately from friends and people that I admire. Also people tell me that artist-types (and maybe I am one of those) tend to greatly undervalue their work. I am still super wary of falling into being an entitled douchebag who expects people to pay him, but maybe it is worth something.
When I started the Patreon, I didn’t know how much support I would get. Since I tend to produce things somewhat sporadically, I felt it would only be fair to ask people to pay if I actually put something out. However, I’ve only charged the backers for one thing since I started the account about seven months ago, and many of the backers I have never charged at all.
This could really be a sign of two things. That I haven’t put out any good work over the past seven months at all and therefore the backers shouldn’t have been charged. Or that what I put out I must’ve undervalued greatly.
So, what have I even done in the past seven months?
Well, one obvious thing which I have put out is a monthly mystery box, exclusive to backers. There could be an argument that these are not worth anything, since I never originally had any intent on charging for them. But on the other hand, although I was thinking the mystery boxes would just be me sharing some of my unfinished/unreleased projects, I greatly underestimated how quickly a monthly thing churns through all of your things. (Especially considering I lost about ten years of my stuff due to a hard drive failure, so I only have fairly recent stuff) This means that it’s actually mostly been me making new stuff to put in them, which kind of turns it into a different thing than my original conception. That in and of itself has had me considering putting an end to the mystery boxes, so perhaps a monthly Patreon payment is a way to help me feel more like I have a good reason to keep putting those out. (Plus people like them)
Additionally, I worked for a while on an unnamed project with the lovely Martin Cohen (of Disposable and Hale fame), which although I loved and was super promising both from a gameplay and aesthetic perspective, I have put aside until I feel I am up to carrying the weight of my own ambitions there. I have not yet reached a point where I can have the productivity level needed to complete a large project like that.
So, instead I have returned to a small project which I began a couple years ago. Initially called Dive Dive, it will probably be renamed Ushanka Jones, and it is a roguelike game with heavy design inspiration from Zelda 1. I have been slowly redoing the artwork for that before I move on with adding more gameplay complexity, but I have a lot of fun ideas there.
Time is continually an issue. I have a reasonably long commute (around 45 minutes) to my day job and back. Also, I have been working 6 day weeks for 5 weeks now. So my free time for personal work is actually quite limited and consequently progress on things has been a bit slow.
Even still, I’ve started a new season of the dunceCast, a podcast featuring myself and my brother, doing what we do best, which is basically just goofing off and being morons. Maybe that’s worthless, but I prefer to consider it “priceless.” 😛
Anyway, this has perhaps become a digression, but it answers the question of “what I’ve been up to lately” pretty well. It does perhaps fail to answer the question of if all that stuff should be worth cash monies from all my lovely backers. Unfortunately I guess I can’t answer that one, but I did put a poll out and around half of the current backers feel as though they would not be being ripped off if I switched the Patreon over to monthly.
I suppose that’s really the core of my concerns. I don’t want to rip people off or leave people feeling like I tried to trick them by changing the terms of the Patreon out from underneath them. That’s why I’m making such a concerted effort to draw attention to that I’m even thinking about changing it.
So let’s go into another reason why it would be good to switch over, which is what I like to call the “Strategic Reason.”
As I have said earlier, I have never gotten paid for my work on games or essays before so it’s terribly unfamiliar to me to see it as having anything beyond intrinsic value. Still, for some time now I have seen going full-time indie again as a long term goal. Achieving that really means that I have to start taking some steps in that direction. I’m not a very hasty person, but there needs to be some forward momentum and risk taking in some capacity to make any progress at all. I don’t want to always feel like I am spending the vast majority of my time not doing what I should be doing with my life.
I see the Patreon as a possible path towards financial independence from my day job. Even a relatively small income from backers would be enough for me to be able to spend less time at the day job and more time on games and essay work. And if I somehow miraculously could reach $1000 a month or something, I wouldn’t need the day job at all. (I only make like $15,000/year now)
So, there’s the “Strategic Reason”, and maybe it’s a good reason or maybe I’m just entitled. After all, it’s just one possible path, and (for better or worse) it happens to be one that is within my comfort zone. It doesn’t require me to set aside my timidity and take a big risk by jumping out of my job without a real safety net or plan.
On an additional note, I also have backed a few people on Patreon over those months, so having set up the account has actually been a net financial loss. That’s my choice to back other people, so it’s not really the responsibility of my backers to foot the bill for that. But it’s worth mentioning since I’ve been thinking about that as well.
Anyway, this post has all been a bit rambly but I wanted to share some of my thoughts and reasons for considering making this change. I hope you will understand, and be sure to answer the survey if you haven’t already.