The Indie CEO: On Ripped Jeans and Being Thankful

As the chill winds tuck in to the coast and all of us here prepare for winter, I’m taking a second to reflect on the year’s work and the close of the conference season.

Oddly, the most poignant thing I noticed about this last year would have been no more than a passing bother if it weren’t for the context.

Ripped jeans.

flateric

“Wok – wok?”

Ripped jeans. Exactly.

It’s a weathered, separated, dime-sized patch just on the right kneecap; I noticed it while getting ready for the final day of Spacefest at the Museum of Flight, where I was scheduled to give a talk about finding and holding onto inspiration – even if, like me, you’re not a real astronaut.

A patch like that doesn’t come from a sudden shock, a cut or puncture. It’s wear. And I figured out why.

These jeans have been my constant companion through nine conferences, through 13,000 miles, showing our game Habitat to players of all ages, all over the United States. People sit down, keyboards and mice at the ready, and ask the same question: “So, what’s this game about?”

And before I answer, I kneel down next to them.

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Even if they’re robots.

So they can see me. Hear me. So my 6-foot-3 trunk isn’t looming over them, making them feel like I’m here to judge them.

I did it without thinking about it. It was natural. Knelt down on that same knee, in the same jeans, and wore that patch down against the conference hall floors, in Redmond, in Boston, in San Francisco, in Los Angeles, in Austin, in Seattle. Everywhere I went. I must have personally shown Habitat close to fifteen hundred times in the past eight months.

It’s been a life-affirming experience for me, personally. Talking directly to players – not lecturing them or just shuffling away to let them “figure it out”, has resulted in a lot of advantages. Candid feedback, useful suggestions, important questions, and – perhaps most importantly – a genuine connection. I get to see people figure out Habitat. They get it. Their eyes light up. They see the possibilities. And I know I’ve done something worthwhile with this crazy indie dream I’ve worked to make real.

I have a lot to be thankful for this holiday season. We were a Kickstarter success, we have the support of indie publisher Versus Evil, we’re signed on with Microsoft and Sony for console releases; heck, we even got mentioned in the New York Times.

But these torn jeans remind me that what kept me going – and what will help us cross the finish line – are the players. The believers, the supporters of Habitat. We’ve got our first set having launched in Early Access in July, and we’re working hard to attract more, building new features and reaching out every day. I’m encouraged by what I see in our discussion forums, and I won’t rest until we’ve delivered a game they love.

The winter months are always hard for game development, but inasmuch as I can take a moment to reflect on where we’ve been, the sights we’ve seen – and delivered – I’m both humbled and energized all over again when I think about the players who have been our bedrock as we strive to make this game great, including those players still to come. Our Kickstarter backers, our early mailing list subscribers, our conferencegoers, skateboard winners, our forum denizens, our Early Access subscribers, our screenshot-takers, Twitch-streamers, YouTube video makers, Steam Workshop creators, our Facebook fans, Twitter followers, website visitors, YouTube channel visitors, Sony and Microsoft supporters, fellow Indie devs, 509th patchholders, Steam reviewers, press writers, reporters, bloggers, and podcasters of all stripes who have taken the time to play, believe, and be the spirit of Habitat.

I’m thankful for you.

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One Comment

  1. I don’t have the words (and I’m a writer; go figure) for how very proud I am of you. You’re special, Charlie, not just as a craftsman, but as an individual. Never change. Keep that enthusiasm and that same spirit of innovation that sped Bill Gates, Paul Allen, Steve Jobs, and (whatever his name is) Wozniak — pioneers who spawned the future generation of digital technology. Love Gram D

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