It is my hope and prayer that everyone reading this had a safe holiday season and was able to enjoy it with loved ones: whether that be family, friends or (hopefully) both. At the beginning of December, I asked for your patience as I weighed the future of this small corner of the Internet we call VNs Now. I want to explain how I got to the decision I did, but I see no point in drawing out the inevitable so here’s what’s going to happen.
I’m not going anywhere yet, but there will be substantial changes.
The VNs Now Podcast will continue and begin providing reviews and previews along with news and commentary of visual novels, interactive fiction and the gaming business until at least 2022. The official press release will be coming in the next few weeks from the parent company of this site Ishmaelic Arts and The VNs Now Podcast will return to air in the next few days with a fixed schedule that I will go over at that time. Reviews and previews will shift from the detailed format I use now to a digest format that I can release once a month, along with new features that will track things like VN crowdfunding. The specifics of this I am still hammering out because it will all depend on my schedule. Finally, the website will be completely revamped to focus on the digests and the podcast with most of the old stuff put into an archive.
Now, how did I get to this decision?
Last December, I was ready to hang it up. I would love to blame it on my work schedule outside of reviewing or pure burnout: but that has become normal to a degree. The problem, at least on my side of the fence, is a fundamental divide between myself and a prevalent group of EVN developers that have some influence in this community. I can sum it up fairly plainly: a lot of y’all hate yourselves.
I have noted for years, maybe from the very beginning, that the EVN developers community was one of the most relaxed, welcoming communities I’ve ever seen up close. The only problem seemed to be that once the game was over, the community disappeared. This has annoyed me, frankly, because a lot of talented developers were left in the lurch when trying to figure out the basics of selling their work. It seemed to me that more needed to be done and I did my best to cover the financial aspects of this things and point those who wanted to know. I thought I was doing a service, but this past year made it very clear that I wasn’t. I had utterly failed.
I’m a Capitalist, folks. Capitalism, at its core, is a system based on being honest about the human condition. It’s an admission that we all have self-interested goals and humanity works best when we as individuals respects the self-interests of each other. In doing so, you naturally divide the worth of your work (your interests) and the worth of yourself. You have to, because not everyone will be invested in your self-worth. But, they can and do get interested and invested in the worth of your talents. In The Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith said it like this;
It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest. We address ourselves, not to their humanity, but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our own necessities, but of their advantages. Nobody but a beggar chooses to depend chiefly upon the benevolence of his fellow-citizens.
When I came in, I naively thought that the majority of EVN developers, especially those who were clearly planning to commercialize your work, had already made that natural separation between your work and your self worth. I ignored the many, many anti-Capitalist rants many of you go on daily on social media as simply a sign of the times: not a fundamental part of your nature. But it is a fundamental part of many of you guys’ nature. You say you hate Capitalism, but that’s not necessarily true. You hate acknowledging your own self-interests. You hate admitting you believe your work has some worth on its own. You’ve connected the worth of your work to your self-worth: seeing your projects as an extension of who you are. And, in doing so, have to continually face the crushing reality that not everyone values the work you keep linking pieces of your mental and psychological well-being to. Then you smile and try to press on as everyone else cheers the purity of your intent. It’s self-abuse. It’s toxic positivity. And it all comes from the exact same place: self-hatred.
Again, I’m not saying this is every single EVN developer. That’s just ludicrous. But, guys, it is a lot of you: maybe even a plurality. The response to the KFC VN more than cemented that thought into my head, I’m afraid. Anywhere else in gaming and media, a multi-million dollar enterprise producing something in that medium to reach a completely different fan base is a cause of celebration. Here? KFC International were shamed for not being ‘pure’ enough. For, somehow, making a mockery of a medium that produce some of the most ridiculous pieces of fiction that has ever existed. Sakura Spirit is a visual novel. NEKOPARA is a visual novel. But somehow, Colonel Sanders doesn’t belong in that space because they ‘aren’t sincere’. Because that’s the metric here: sincerity and self-worth. Either you invest in the person and their emotions, or you’re the problem. That’s the standard. It’s insanity.
The reality is that I’m just a simple country boy. I cannot help with the legion of psychological issues lurking just underneath the surface of this developer’s community. And staring into that shadow damn near pushed me out entirely because I don’t want to see decent people get hurt when they realize just how dark their own souls are. However, as Bruce Wayne told Ra’s al Ghul in Batman Begins, ‘There are still good people there’. For all of the problems, many developers have worked for a very long time in the shadow of corruption and toxicity. And many developers who know the depth of their self-loathing are trying their best, too. So many deserve an opportunity to market their work and be recognized for what they do. Now, to deflate my ego there are plenty of people who will do this besides me: a growing number of sites and critics, in fact. But, at least for a little while longer, I want to keep telling those stories, both good and bad, while refining the tools for those ready to take the big step of admitting that their work is worth something on its own.
VNs Now was originally designed for mass market appeal. It looks and operates like IGN, Game Informer, etc because I had hoped to . That is going to change. We’re going to lean into the niche nature of the product and start focusing on delivering a consistent, focused product. And, in doing so, we’re going to focus on more than just visual novels. I want to see the whole picture of how narrative is evolving in gaming and VNs are just one piece of that evolution. My hope is that by bringing all of this pieces together it can create a piece of work that is the link for other works that have been missing a piece. And, if not, then as I noted before the podcast is only slated to run until 2022. You guys will only have to put up with me and my strange Capitalist notions for another two years anyway.
Thank you to all of my readers, followers and to everyone who has sent me a kind word while I was seriously considering shutting it all down. What is coming is a much slimmer experience: something wildly different that where we started. But, I do believe it has some worth still. And that, for me, is enough.
JP the Third
PS. No 2019 Best Ofs this year, guys. Sorry, but it’s for the best until I get everything back on track. In its place, I’ll be working on a different list: the 50 Best EVNs of the 2010s. More information as it becomes available.