Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Tomb Raider, Torture Porn, and Looking For an Audience That Exists

Someone thinks this will arouse you.

So let's talk, months late, about the recent Square Enix Tomb Raider reboot, which I played on the PS3.

First off, let me say that it's a really well-made game. Excellent production values. Flat but reasonable writing. Fun gameplay. Enjoyable combat and puzzles. Environments that are neat and worth exploring.

I have to make it really clear before I get into the mess: This is a good game, and the people who made it should pat themselves on the back.

And yet, one simple decision, one minor choice of tone and content, blows the whole expensive thing up.

Here's the thing. Yes. Tomb Raider was a hit, kind of. It sold millions of copies.

But this Tomb Raider is the newest game in an iconic franchise, with brilliant design and top-rate production values. Of course it sold a lot of copies. It just wasn't the hit it could have been, and, more importantly, it wasn't the hit Square Enix needed it to be.  This is a phenomenal shame.

I think it's obvious why it didn't perform.

Yes, this is a lake of blood and rotting human flesh. Alas, the game does not contain soap.

First, About the Bewbs

I have no problem with using sex appeal to sell games. As of this writing, I've spent the last several weeks listening to females in my acquaintance wax rhapsodic about Benedict Cumberbatch and Thor. They can let me have an athletic young archaeologist/grave robber in a tanktop.

However, here is the first rule of Sex Appeal: If you want to make something sexy to sell it, it has to be sexy.

This game is meant to be an Indiana Jones-style romp, with a sense of lightness and fun. I mean, watch Raiders of the Lost Ark again. (This is never not a good idea.) This is a movie full of gory death and violence and Nazi melting faces, but it's still FUN. Look, Spielberg is a true master, and I don't expect everyone to pull off the miracle of getting this tone right, but you have to come closer than Tomb Raider did.

The problems start with the packaging. When I picked up the box and turned it over, I saw three pictures of Lara Croft covered with mud, filth, and blood. It's gross. Not sexy. Also, ewwww.

This doesn't stop when you're playing. The game is full of gratuitous gory bodies and chopped off limbs and cannibalism and tortured corpses. Set aside that this is the most obvious, cliched way to depict the evil cultists that serve as your foe. It's excessively gross and boilerplate, but that's not even the real problem. 

Warning: Do not look at this image.

Tomb Raider is violent. Like Saw movie murder porn excruciating to watch violent.

Sure, Lara brutally kills hundreds of evil guys. It's a video game. We can kinda sorta live with that, though I really wish they'd come up with a more clever solution. Instead of killing ten guys and then ten guys and then ten guys in a series of boilerplate shootouts, I wish they'd had a way to have there be far less killing but for it to require more care and cunning. 

(The Ellie boss fight from The Last of Us should be played by all designers for a perfect example of how this can be done. Also the Mr. Freeze fight from Batman: Arkham City.)

But that isn't even the problem.

Tomb Raider has lots of Quick Time Events ("Press the triangle button now FAST or die! Ha! You suck!"), which is already unfun design. They are really tricky and fast, which is even more terrible. And when you fail (and you will, a lot), you will see Lara die in a really horrible way.

You will see Lara, for example, have her throat ripped out by wolves. Be hacked with machetes. Have the neck impaled on a wooden stake. Swim through a lake of blood and rotting human flesh.

When you die, we're not talking about the camera cutting away and you hear nasty sound effects and get to imagine the gruesome thing that just happened. No, when that bad guys strangles her, you will see it lovingly animated, no detail lost as the life slowly drains from her eyes.

Gamers are inured to this sort of horror. It's time for a reminder that most people aren't.

This is what fun looks like.
The Finest Game Critic Working Today

Talk show host Conan O'Brien does a series of segments for his show called Clueless Gamer. In them, Conan, a self-professed non-gamer, tries out the hot games. Watching a civilian come face to face with all the bizarre design choices we've all trained ourselves to take for granted is a humbling and educational existence.

They're also hilarious.

It's real game criticism, the sort we need, the sort that doesn't shrug our shoulders and let us get away with lazy crap. (His Grand Theft Auto V segment does an awesome job of getting at what works and doesn't work about the series. I wish so much they'd had him play the torture mission.)

The Tomb Raider segment is particularly informative.  Jump to 6:00. Watch the gruesomeness. Listen to the audience reaction. Listen to what Conan is saying. "Don't let it happen again." "This is a nightmare."

This is what the game industry is selling. This is what we're proffering to people as Art. The problem isn't that Normal Humans see us as creepy sociopaths. The problem is that it's hard to argue they're not right.

The Real Problem

Kurt Vonnegut wrote, about writing, "Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia." This is brilliant advice. Don't try to write for too many people at once. It will just dilute your work.

So who is Tomb Raider written for?

Is this game for people who want to ogle a young, attractive woman? Hey, I don't categorically oppose using attractive people to sell product. I'm as intrigued by a sexy assembly of polygons as the next guy. 

But I have a hard time getting into my "Hey, that's sexy!" headspace when the woman I'm supposed to ogle is being constantly horribly mutilated and coated with filth. I don't want to ogle her. I want to give her a sweater.

Is this game for people who want a rollicking Indiana Jones style of adventure? The sort of thing promised by the name "Tomb Raider"? Then bear in mind that most people who want to explore catacombs and look for treasure may also have a small tolerance for watching young women being strangled in long, lovingly animated segments.

Is this game for young women who desperately want to play a game with a protagonist who, in some way, reminds them of themselves? Like, say, my daughters. My seven year old was playing a little World of Warcraft the other day, and she asked me, exact quote, "Why are all the pandas boys?" My family wants games with women in them, and we spend money.

Well, I won't let my seven and eleven year old daughters get within a thousand miles of Tomb Raider. Pity. They might have become lifelong fans of a series that wouldn't give them perma-nightmares. 

Is this game for young dudebros who grew up watching Saw and other torture porn and get off on a bit of the old ultraviolence? Well, I get e-mail from these kids all the time. They will only rarely play a game where they control a female character. I think they're afraid they'll catch the gay.

So I'm really trying to think who this otherwise terrific game is being aimed at. Apparently someone who's saying, "I want to spend my leisure time watching a young, talented woman being repeatedly tortured and mutilated. But I also like puzzles!"

Hope For the Future

It's a real shame because, I must again stress, there's a terrific game in here. If you can look past the gruesome (and many people can), Tomb Raider is a ton of fun.

I've read that a sequel is in the works. I really hope so. If I can get through it without needing therapy, I'll totally buy it. My little hope? Man, I would love to play it (or parts of it) with my kids. I hope it works out.


Another good analysis of the game is at Errant Signal. And, as always, we're still on Facebook and Twitter.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Why We Need Video Game Critics, Even If the Whole Topic Is Boring

Video games need more of this ...
We've reached the point where video games have a huge place in our culture, and yet most of them are ... well, I want to say "terrible," but that's not true. Look at the top of the sales charts, and you'll see a lot of Product. Competently made, bland Product with good production values and a lack of thoughtfulness or creativity or interest in exploring what these odd electronic contraptions can do.

Video games have gotten big faster than they've gotten good. We have fantastic tools at our disposal, but, apart from a few remarkable works (The Last of Us, for example), they aren't being used at anywhere near their potential. I think this is why video games need more and better critics.

Not reviewers. Reviewers are necessary, but we don't need more people to say, "Yeah, Grand Theft Auto V is deeply flawed, but it has lots of polygons and it doesn't crap itself and I don't want to get death threats. 9/10." We have plenty of that.

I was recently in a discussion with some indies where someone commented that too much discussion of the game business was about business, not about the craft of making better games. I agree with this totally. If you want to write games, anything that helps you to make a better game is better for your business.

We need people who take the time to think about these games, break them down, understand what works, what doesn't, and why. They then bring their opinions back to the masses, and we can agree or disagree and have a conversation about it and then, if we're lucky, we might get better games.

... and less of this ...
Who Criticism Is For

Grand Theft Auto V is a huge, ambitious, high-profile title, and it deserves to have a lot written about it. (And, for what it's worth, I plan to.) But who would that writing be for?

Well, first off, it wouldn't be for Rockstar. Sure, they wrote the game, but that really is the end of their part of the conversation. They made a thing. They made a ton of money. They'll make another one. Maybe they'll read what people write about it. Maybe it'll even make a difference, though I doubt it. It doesn't matter.

They wrote the game, but the discussion about it isn't for them. The discussion is for two sorts of people.

First, us developers. People who make games. We should always be playing and picking apart new work, mercilessly deciding what works and what doesn't. This is how we get better.

Second, criticism is for gamers. In particular, it's for gamers who want to enjoy games in a more thoughtful, engaged way. You don't need to understand how editing and cinematography work to enjoy a movie. However, better understanding of the craft can help you to enjoy movies on more than one level, and thus to enjoy them more.

It is possible to play a game and have a part of it really engage and excite you (or disappoint and frustrate you), and not really understand why. Good criticism can help you see exactly why the game worked (or let you down).

I know, some people don't care. They don't want more understanding of what they watch/read/play. I really don't understand this, but it's there. If you don't care, I can't make you care. But if you do care, these discussions are how you learn.

... but I would settle for this.
So ...

I have a lot to say about Grand Theft Auto V and the new Tomb Raider reboot, both hugely ambitious, partially successful titles. Discussion about what they do right and wrong are merited.

I don't know if anyone will care. But writing is what I do, so let's go.

In the Meantime

There is some thoughtful game criticism out there. For starters, take a look at the YouTube channel Errant Signal. In particular, the videos on Bioshock: Infinite and The Last of Us.

I think the Bioshock: Infinite video is a terrific analysis of a game that, despite its good qualities, was embraced with an excessive and insufficiently considered enthusiasm. And I think their The Last of Us video is poorly considered. It's blind to the real appeal to the game and holds it to an unfair standard not applied to other titles.

But that's the great thing about criticism. It's not about agreement. It's about conversation and, yes, argument. That's where the fun is.

If you care about movies and storytelling, Film Crit Hulk can't be recommended highly enough.

Monday, November 11, 2013

The Joy and Despair of Writing These Stupid Games.

Please, Charlie Bucket, save me from this hell of my own devising! I've been in 80-hour-week crunch for 15 months!
"We are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of dreams." - Willy Wonka
"Forget it. Music makers and dreamers of dreams make no money." - Every Sensible Human

Last week, I wrote what is probably the most viewed blog post I've ever written, about the rough road of writing indie games for a living. I decided not to post it like ten times before I finally hit the Publish button. Now I'm really glad I did. The response I received was far more positive than I ever expected.

Also, I made a lot of young, talented, ambitious people sad. Which is its own reward.

As is my style, I want to follow up with a few points raised, questions I wanted to answer, the occasional rebuttal, and a few words about making a living in this marvelous, gruesome industry.

The Good and Bad News

I wish I could remember where I first heard this, but it's true wisdom:

Video game development is not a software industry. It's an entertainment industry.

If you want security and stability in your life (and believe me, if you are sane, this is what you want), write web infrastructure or banking software. Trying to make a living writing games is like trying to be an actor, or a musician, or a cinematographer. Not as bad as wanting to be a poet, but close.

This is a business for misfit toys, people who are in it because we love it, because we live and breathe it.

This doesn't describe everyone who makes games, of course. Doesn't describe the executives. (But what can you do?) Doesn't describe the people who moved into the casual space  and iOS to chase the easy money. (They will be winnowed soon enough.) But the people who design the stuff? Who test and build it? We're the freaks. The true believers.

You want to write indie games, and you're scared? You should be scared. I'm scared every damn day. I've been writing games for my whole life. I HATE writing games. I'm sick to death of it. I do it because I have to. It's all I'm good for.

(But sometimes, every great once in a while, I do something right. Some tweak of dialogue, some clever design decision, some encounter that just comes off right. And ... It's just joy. Wouldn't trade it for anything.)

Games workers are treated like garbage. If only there was something that could be done. If only someone had faced these same problems before. Hmmm. It is a puzzle.
But Also, Game Writers Are Victimized. They Don't Have To Be.

This is a truly fantastic article about how gruesome life in the games industry is, and what needs to be done about it. Everyone who cares about games should read it. It explains why almost nobody can spend a full career writing games and perfecting their craft. And, thus, why most games are so derivative and terrible.

Where Baby Indies Come From

In Chekhov's awesome play The Seagull, Nina, a young actress, says, "You have no idea how awful it is when you know you're acting badly." This is true across all art forms.

Sometimes, you play Dudegunshooter XXXL 1 and say, "Wow, that was awesome!". Then play Dudegunshooter XXXL 4 and say, "This is sort of getting tired." Then you play Dudegunshooter XXXL 7 and says, "Boy, they're really phoning it in now." Then you stop buying them and last you heard they're on Dudegunshooter XXXL 10 and everyone is just sort of sighing and shaking their heads.

You ever play a game and think, "This is so tired and phoned in and joyless."? Well, imagine how painful it is to write that game. To burn your life and youthful energy away in a cloud of 100-hour-week crunchtime to create a big pile of creativity-free meh.

I've done it. I've written games where my heart wasn't in it. It shows in the final product, and it's excruciating. (You might not like Avadon 2: The Corruption, my new game. That's fine. But there's a lot of neat stuff and attention to detail in that game. Like it or not, I think it's clear I'm at least trying.)

It's hard to be young and creative and ambitious and burn those super-productive years away on something you don't believe in. That is why developers turn indie. Not for money (though that helps a lot), but for the joy of creation.

I don't want to discourage anyone. I don't want anyone to give up. I want them to make awesome games for me to play. I just want them to be prepared. I want every word I write to help make more successes.

Never forget. If you are willing to pay any price to work in a field, someone will eventually try to make you give up everything.

Let Someone Tell You a Story

In my previous article, I came down way too hard on Alexander Bruce, creator of Antichamber. He's the real damn deal, putting in his years in the trenches to make good work. If you want to write indie games (or start any small business), treat yourself to this talk.

It's all there. The passion. The good luck and good connections. The quest for perfection and the toll it can take on you. The recognition of and correction of mistakes. It's a perfect example of that old, true aphorism: It takes ten years to make an overnight success.

But this was also the path taken by a relatively unencumbered young person with the serious chops necessary to win design competitions (and the precious funding that comes along with that). If you lack this sort of superhuman energy or have the obligations that can come with getting older (such as, Heaven forbid, having kids), you will have to do less. This has a direct cost, paid in lower odds of success.

Luck, and the Making Of Same

Antichamber is the story of what it takes to make a HIT: Write a first-rate title, and market it until you're on the ragged edge of a nervous breakdown.

My previous article was trying to say, among other things, that this isn't the route you have to take. Some games don't lend themselves well to this sort of press. Some developers aren't capable of it. Heck, I'm close to freaking out all the time doing a fraction of what Alexander Bruce did.

I mean, I'm not a hermit or anything, but I'm really introverted. I hate meeting strangers, and I like my house a lot. If I had to go to a million conventions doing heavy PR to sell my games, my games would not exist. Like my work or not, I don't think gaming would be better off without them.

However, this bit is key: The less you do, the smaller the rewards and the more you need a lucky break. The more you do, the less you rely on luck. If you listen to the talk, don't let it destroy your will. Only understand that it is showing you one point of the yardstick that will be used to measure you.

These children will not be successful game developers. Must be because they are lazy.

And One More Thing About Luck

I knew that the thing about the previous post that would get up peoples' noses the most was the luck part. That luck makes a difference in whether a business succeeds. It's the most controversial obviously true statement I can think of.

Look, you have to work hard. The more you scramble, the more often good breaks will come your way, and the better you will be able to take advantage of them when they do.

And I know why people hate talking about luck. People who haven't made it want to believe they are entirely in control of their own destiny. People who have made it want to believe it was entirely because they were awesome. Neither are ever true, but facing it is too scary, so we don't.

Luck matters at every single point along the journey. Look at me. I'm lucky. How was I lucky? Well, I was born in a wealthy, safe country where I wasn't at risk of dying from dysentery or civil war. (Not a lot of hot indie talent coming out of Syria these days.) I had supportive, reasonably affluent parents who were able to get me a computer and programming lessons and didn't freak out when I spent 80 hours one summer beating Bard's Tale II. (And they worried. I know they did.) I'm lucky that the brain tumor I had removed when I was 18 didn't take me out of the game entirely.

Obviously, this isn't about games anymore. It's a whole way of looking at life. In the end, we'll all believe what we need to to get where we want to go. Sometimes, however, someone needs to point out the reality of the thing.

Thanks To Everyone Who Said Nice Things

I really appreciate it. Thanks to everyone who follows me on Twitter now. I'll try to be cute and clever and not murder my career. And that's all I have to say about the business end of things for a while.

I want to do some game criticism for our bit. Our art form is flourishing in a lot of ways, and people trying to say intelligent things about how to make it better are really needed.


Edit: A Quick Addenda About Luck

The frustrating thing about this topic is that everyone hears a different thing when I say the word "luck." Here is a quote from my previous article in which I make explicit the mechanism in which luck works (and helps or doesn't help niche developers like me):

"Some gamers will love you, and some won’t. You have to hang on until one of those gamers becomes an editor somewhere. The more niche your product is, the longer you will have to wait."

It's not about magic. It's about how you can search in the wilderness for a while until you find that person who can appreciate that weird thing you do and has the power and willingness to help you. You have to do the searching, and luck tells you how long you have to endure until you find what you need.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Marketing, Dumb Luck, and the Popping of the Indie Bubble.

This article is kind of depressing, so here is a puppy hugging a kitten.
Sigh. I hate writing articles like this. Even if I’m right (and I really think I am), nobody thanks the bringer of bad news. If what I predict does come to pass, people will resent me more, not less. But I really think what I have to say should be considered by the jillions of ambitious game devs who are quitting their day jobs to go indie. So here goes.

Interesting game article in the news recently. This guy named Alexander Bruce wrote a puzzle game called Antichamber. It did very well. He just did an interview (written by Brendan Sinclair) about how it’s very important to do marketing and develop a good relationship with the press and your players.

The article contains a lot of questionable statements (by the writer, not Bruce) like …
"Just a few years ago, developers didn't need to worry so much about their relationship with the end users."
Does this match the experience of anyone trying to keep a small software company alive in the last few decades? The ability to keep a good relationship with end users was our best tool for staying alive. But I digress.

(Edit: Just to be clear, a lot of stuff Bruce says is very sharp and worth heeding, especially about how dealing with limited resources forces you to be clever.)

Despite the weird stuff, Bruce gets a bit of good advice in too. To a point.

Now, first, it's evidence how amazingly sweet things have been for indie devs for the last few years that anyone would even think "You should do marketing." is news. When I started out writing shareware in 1994, the first piece of advice anyone ever gave anyone about anything was, "Yeah. Marketing. Do that."

Not the right way to market your game.
But, Um, Duh, Right?

Isn't it kind of an obvious bit of advice? When you finish your game, you'll tell people, won't you? Is anyone trying to succeed at business by finishing their game, putting it in a lead box, and burying it in the backyard?

But here is where the article sort of falls apart. There are many paths to success in the indie biz, and each needs its own marketing plan. Each developer has their own set of strengths and weaknesses, both mental and in cash and time resources.

Just because one path (Hint: Steam) has been popular of late doesn't mean it's the right one for that particular game (since the genre you are working in will require its own strategy, depending on how niche you are), or that it will be a plausible path forever. If you are trying to make it writing high-cost, boutique games in a serious niche field like, say, turn-based wargaming, following the strategy Alexander Bruce used for his puzzle game will lead to ruin.

You see, the conventional wisdom now is that, to make it in indie games, you need to blow it all on one big, flashy title. Spend all your time at GDC giving the gaming press hot oil massages. Then release it on Steam, get fifty articles written about you, and make meelions of dollars. Buy a Tesla, give interviews, have your next game be a 2-D platformer, and die happy.

But buried in the article is the real news. The little tidbit that really says where things are going ...

"Even being featured in a coveted place like the Steam Daily Deals doesn't mean as much as it used to."

Yes. This is true. A Steam Daily Deal used to mean doing a happy dance and putting on your Super Money Pants. What? That's fading? Uh oh. And this is the beginning of the real story.

By The Way …

I’m not happy about any of this. A few years ago, there was a huge demand for indie content, and I had a bunch of quality games ready to go. I profited from this temporary state of affairs far more than I deserved. I am not gloating about sweet times coming to an end. My modest games will be the first on the chopping block.

I can't get rich selling THIS anymore? NO FAIR!
When Can We Start Using the Term "Indie Bubble"?

On October 29, Steam accepted 100 titles for publishing from their Greenlight system. A HUNDRED. IN ONE DAY. JUST ON STEAM.

This is the problem with so many indie devs cozying up to the Escapist and Kotaku and the PA Report. There is a flood of new titles, so many that Humble Bundle sells them in Costco-sized bundles of a dozen for a dollar. A lot of good titles won't ever get that press. They just can't. There's not room.

And that's just for the flashy titles (the "AAA Indies"). My turn-based, low-budget, word-heavy RPGs are a lot of fun and have a real audience, but nobody at Kotaku gives a crap about them, nor should they. Why would a Let's Play channel on YouTube want to do one of my games? It'd be like putting up a movie of someone reading a book. Alexander Bruce's marketing path is useless to me, but my business is still valid. Has been for 20 years.

Also, the gaming community doesn't care about indies as much as we like to think they do. (Minecraft is an ultra-mega-uber hit, right? Well, Grand Theft Auto V made more than it in like 18 seconds.) The gaming press knows that gamers only want to hear about so many indies. Soon, they'll start picking who lives and who dies.

The point? Any article about marketing indies that doesn't mention the word "luck" is lying to you.

Even if she was alive, she still wouldn't want to play your 2-D platformer.
By the Way, Luck Exists

I know all you young developers are brash libertarians who believe in a just, deterministic universe. So feel free to get angry at me for this part: Unless times are really good, you need luck for your business to succeed. You need the rare sort of good times where there's a ton of demand and very little product. A time like the period that is now ending.

Yes, Luck: Getting a good break. Meeting the right editor who will champion you or making the right publisher connection. My company, Spiderweb Software, has been lucky. Many times. I'm not ashamed to admit it.

Worthy titles sometimes fall by the wayside now. There is no inherent universal justice that decides that the "best" games succeed, whatever you mean by "best". Some gamers will love you, and some won’t. You have to hang on until one of those gamers becomes an editor somewhere. The more niche your product is, the longer you will have to wait.

Disagree? Think that everyone who fails only fails because they were lazy or stupid or just suck? Fine with me. It's your call if you need to believe in a universe based on justice and fairness. I hope someday to join you there.

This article is kind of depressing, so here is a puppy.
Can There Only Ever Be One Path?

Here's how it works now. Everyone makes a team, puts something together with flash, pushes the heck out of it at GDC/PAX/whatever, and waits for Steam to wave its magic fairy dust wand and make them rich.

Which is great. If it works. But there's a problem. There's still a lot of fairy dust in that wand, but it's getting spread awful thin.

Is there another route to success in this business?

You could try what I did to make a long career. You could pick a neglected genre, write the best games you can for it on a limited budget in your spare time, release one game after another, and push your work where you can to build a loyal audience with word-of-mouth and good customer support. Then, maybe, years later, thanks to your persistence and hard work, you might go full time. A loyal audience can keep you in business through good times and lean.

All you need to make a game is a $299 computer, a chair, time, and some software which we'll pretend for the moment you didn't get on BitTorrent. It will probably look cruddy, but a lot of people don't care (and many people get off on the rough DIY thing). You won't be on Steam, but there are plenty of ways to sell it like on your own site. It'll be tough, but starting a new business is never easy.

When I did it (shut up, grandpa), there wasn't even the web. Now there are forums and communities galore. There are a million places to start assembling that customer base, and you don't even need to say the word Steam.

Is this possible? It should be. It happens. I'm not the only small dev who has made a living this way. But, sadly, there aren't many. I don't know how feasible the slow and steady building of a clientele is in indie gaming. I am, however, confident that we're going to need to start finding out.

Dear God, please let Polygon notice meeeeeee!
But What About the Future?

I think we're in for an interesting few years in the computer game industry. I have my own opinion about the future of small game development, and it's this:
If your game can't succeed based on word-of-mouth marketing, unless you get real lucky, you need to adjust your budget, your quality, or both.
I know, I know. "Jeff Vogel is just being a crazy old coot again." Sure. Nobody wants to hear a whole business model being called into question.

But I've lived through rich times and lean times, several of each. Small-scale software development is a rough business, and you need to operate lean and mean to live in the long term.

Some indie devs will use their bubble money to get big and survive. Anyone who can't grow huge and doesn't have the patience and persistence to go the small company path will have to seek opportunities elsewhere.

Don't get me wrong. I don't want to see anyone lose their jobs. I've actively enjoyed seeing people who do what I do getting rich.

However, Microeconomics 101 is still true. When people start making a ton of money, they will attract competitors until nobody makes easy money anymore. It’s an iron law of capitalism.

Alexander Bruce deserves his success, but it is important to remember that the path he described in his interview is only sometimes the best way, even if the press often treats it as the One True Route. Not everyone can market their way to success.

(Edit - The final sentence was perhaps a bit too hostile, so I changed it.)


My incoherent mumblings are now available in condensed form on Twitter.