As an indie developer I’m always keeping an eye out for independent game competitions to participate in. Alas, a new breed of competition has appeared. This new breed doesn’t pay you in money, or critical reception like a real competition would. Instead, it pays you in vanity.
Here is an example. Zero Punctuation, a popular video game review site, opened a contest called the Stonking Great Game Contest where the goal is to create a Zero Punctuation game. The reward for winning this contest? They will review your game, put it up on their website, advertise it, and send you some Zero Punctuation Swag. You gain access to the Zero Punctuation intellectual property for producing your game, but do not retain the rights to any part of the game using that property. This means if you had a good game design and wanted to release it on your own, you would have to redraw the art and re-work game mechanics centered around the Zero Punctuation theme.
Sound like a good deal? It shouldn’t. This is in its essence, contract work. Zero Punctuation wants a game, but they don’t want to pay the prices a contractor would charge to make a game. With this realization, the “prizes” begin to disappear. Even if they contracted this game they would want people to play it, so they’re going to put it on their website and advertise it. What’s left as payment is the Zero Punctuation Swag. Would you spend weeks making someone a video game in exchange for a mouse pad and a t-shirt?
Today I showed my artist friend Tim Wendorf an art contest that popular casual game site Jay Is Games is hosting. They need a logo and banner for their upcoming yearly competition (which is the GOOD kind of competition) and they’re holding a mini competition to choose that art. The winner will receive $300 dollars, which I’m told is peanuts for the work they want.
Tim couldn’t help but notice the similarity between this new breed of contest and reality television. Where reality television takes real people like you and me and lets us be on television produced by famous networks, this new breed lets real people like you and me perform professional work for famous companies.
I present to you, Reality Work. Like the television before it, you too can scab someone else’s job and be paid with a pat on the head.