“Thank you, that means a lot.”

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SNAKISMS was rediscovered by the internet over the last few days, which has been a pretty fun experience. As far as I can tell, it traces to kottke.org picking it up (I emailed the game to Jason Kottke on release because I feel like it’s his kind of thing, guess it was!). That led to BoingBoing writing about it (twice!), and then the AV Club. All lovely things. It’s especially meaningful to me, personally, when games claw their way out of the game ecosystem to be scene by a more general slice of “internet people”. The biggest splash the game made, though, was on a site called Hacker News, which I hadn’t heard of before, but which sure drove a lot of traffic (for my standards anyway).

In the interest of reporting numbers because I always secretly wonder what the hell is going on with other people’s games, lately (like for the last years?) the standard number of plays for one of my games would be something like, I don’t know, between 500 and 10,000 unique players over their (continuing, but tailing off presumably) lifetimes? There are exceptions (Let’s Play: Ancient Greek Punishment has been played a lot, as has Trolley Problem oddly), but that’s most of it (and most of them are on the lower end of the scale). Thanks mostly to Hacker News, SNAKISMS has currently been played by a bit more than 65,000 people. That’s a lot of people from my perspective. Like I say, I don’t actually know how ‘impressive’ that number is in relation to other stuff out there, and my instinct is that it might just be laughably small potatoes, but for someone mostly making pretty obtuse and often unrewarding games it’s remarkable to me (though I think it’s pretty clear SNAKISMS is more accessible and fun than most of my stuff of course). So now you know that piece of information about an actual game by an actual person, anyway. Bet you’re just sighing with relief.

One side-effect of the game’s surge in popularity is that I’m getting quite a few emails. The Narcissism level ends in launching the player’s mail client with an email preloaded with praise for me and my email address. Only a very small percentage of people send this email, but even that has added up to me getting around 250 emails in the last three days.

I’m replying to them all. It just feels like the right thing to do, especially since I brought it on myself. One fun thing about that, especially given the volume, has been that if someone just sends the default template email to me, I always respond by clicking on one of Google Inbox’s automatically suggested replies. Hilariously, the two key responses this has enabled me to give are “You are so sweet, thank you!” and “Thank you, that means a lot.” I’m sending the latter one quite often because it just seems hilariously perfect as a reply to a template email. Even if the person kind of meant it when the sent the generic email it works, because I kind of mean it when I say “Thank you, that means a lot.” too!

A percentage of the emailers, though, are also writing actually messages in there, and that really does start to mean a lot. You know me, I’m not necessarily a big community guy, so I don’t necessarily have a great way of engaging with people who play my games outside of the developer community on Twitter. Reading emails from people out there in the world saying the game made them “laugh and learn” and so on is really very nice. Most of all because I think it re-concretises the idea of players as real actual humans sitting in chairs with eyeballs and an internet bill and so on. It’s very easy to lose track of the reality of players, especially when you have your head in making the next thing immediately after releasing a game, and I find myself hugely appreciative toward these people who share the semi-mundane fact that they played with this thing I made and enjoyed themselves, especially if they laughed – that’s got to be good.

So I reply to those more personalised emails with a personal reply. This has led to all kinds of entertaining conversations over email with people I only know for this one reason. One thread is just this endless chain of emojis we’re sending back and forth (because the person sent me an emoji along with the template and I replied with an emoji, and off we went). I’ve also ended up making some suggestions for getting started in game making to a couple of people. Somebody actually modified the game itself via GitHub to make it better compatible with Android devices (I need to merge that with the game!). This morning two people from Taiwan just sent me a photo of them giving me big thumbs ups! It’s all so charming!

I guess I don’t have a very impressive point to make? Just kind of wanted to report in on what that particular thing of “your game is popular for a couple of days” feels like (mostly: good), and particularly this idea of being able to conceive of players as human beings bothering to devote a couple of minutes of their limited life-spans to a thing you made. It makes the whole enterprise have an extra resonance beyond my usual personal motivation of just being semi-obsessed with a particular idea and wanting to make something that gets at it. It really does “mean a lot.”

Geez, well, that was probably way more about my life right now than you ever wanted to know! Sorry bye!

8 March 2017
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