feature image via Shutterstock.
I beat the drum on women in technology a lot — and it’s an industry that’s hemorrhaging really qualified women. Game design is a subset of that industry, and with its open hostility toward anyone who’s not a cis white dude, it’s extra difficult to retain talent who’s not a cis white dude. I talk about it all the time, but I’ve been taken to task (and rightly so) for not spotlighting those in the industry who have moved past discussion and are actively working to solve these problems. My friends who still work in tech say to me, okay, but what about us? What about those of us toiling away in places where we’re invisible? What about people putting their money where their mouth is, so to speak?
That’s what caught my eye when Failbetter tweeted about their Fundbetter initiative. Fundbetter is Failbetter’s way of funding small, narrative games — and it’s not an arts grant or a charity, they’re looking to invest in projects and then make their investment back. But don’t fret! It’s a project-based investment, so if it doesn’t make its funding back, you’re “free to get on with your life.” If you visit their webpage, you’ll also see that they have a special place in their heart for text-based games and, oh yeah, creators who are female, black and LGBTQIA+. Failbetter is, quite literally, putting their money where their mouth is.
I’ve been including Fundbetter in our Opportunities Corner for a bit, but I figured some of y’all might need a little nudge to get out there and apply (this application period ends July 4th!). That’s why I talked to Hannah Flynn, the fabulous Communications Director at Failbetter, to see if she had any advice for our community. Here’s what she had to say.
Ali: This is its first iteration of Fundbetter, yes?
Hannah: Yes, we were inspired to do more funding after enjoying working with our first incubees (one of whom we part-funded). It’ll close for a while on 4 July while the first batch enter production and we update the application process to make it a bit simpler and more accessible.
When you say more accessible, how do you mean?
Providing resources for devs to help them make business and marketing plans, mostly — the parts people struggle with most! I think even filling in our application has helped people hone their ideas and really question how their idea will be financially viable, which is all for the good.
What platforms are people proposing to work with? Can people use StoryNexus?
We wouldn’t recommend StoryNexus as we don’t support it properly any more. Applicants so far have been using pretty much everything—from Twine to physical card games.
Now I noticed you’re looking for LGBT stories in particular. What’s the impetus behind that?
More LGBT creators, telling whatever stories they want to tell. But yeah, representation is everything, and we benefit so much from bouncing off our incubees and other devs, so we are looking for all kinds of perspectives. It makes all of our work richer.
Are you open to early career game designers and developers, or should they have experience before applying?
All comers, really. They do need to do their homework, but we’re interested in all credible applicants. Also people who are changing careers or returning to work after having a family! I love the idea of people with different experiences bringing their perspective to games, it’s the most exciting thing about Fundbetter for me.
With so many interesting applications, how are y’all choosing?
TRIAL OF STEEL. Er, we each champion a game and it goes to an internal committee.
Do you have any tips for applicants? What aspects does a game have to be worthy of a champion in the trial of steel?
Submit the game you want to make, not the game you think we want. And answer the full application, including the hard bits — it’s all stuff you need if you want to launch a game!
Speaking of that, is there any question on the application that people seem especially resistant to that’s actually really important?
Sales figures of other games like the one they want to make. SteamSpy is your friend.
Can we talk about the story aspect? I know the website says you’re loose in your definition of narrative. Would you mind giving some rough borders to that definition?
Really it’s anything where the reason for making the game is to tell the story, either by hand-built or emergent means.
And that story can be fictional, non-fiction, user-generated or literally anything?
Yeah, we’re just keen on as much variety as possible! It’s been so fun and energizing to read all the applications.
Is there anything at all you wish you could stay to an Autostraddle reader who might be on the fence about applying?
That there’s no harm in applying, really. Doing the form is a really good exercise in itself, so you’ve got nothing to lose!
Since I spoke to Hannah, Failbetter has announced the first five games that have been funded better—and there’s even a card game (y’all know tabletop games have my heart). Application information can be found at their website. If you still have more questions, there’s another Things to Consider post to check out as well.
Y’all, I’ve heard your stories. I’ve been lucky enough that some how, some way, a lot of you have told them to me. In an email, in person, doesn’t matter. You’re a captivating bunch of people with a lot to say. Please, look here. Do this. Be the game you wish to see in the world.
Editor’s Note: I edited this interview for flow and grammar, just fyi.