Self-expression vs. vesselization

Self-expression vs. vesselization

18/09/2022
indiedev

I was watching this talk by Edmund earlier and it’s a very good one. I think I agree with pretty much everything he says in it, except the very first point:

I think honesty is what art is and, you know, business makes it dishonest. It’s a difficult field as an artist to be in, because, to some degree, the dishonesty of selling something or being a salesperson can easily taint your work and you can attempt to manipulate people into feeling a certain way, playing more, putting more money into the machine, and it’s a dangerous thing.

Like if you’re an artist, you’re a voice and you’ve got to find your voice. And in order to do that, you have to know who you are and be honest about who you are in order to translate who you are into what you’re doing. That’s the only thing an independent designer has over a large company.

But you can’t be brutally honest about this vision that you have for a game, if you’re in a company of 100 people, like your honesty matters not, you know, it doesn’t matter at all. But when you’re independent, and you know, you’re in a handful of people team, or even just two people or one, being honest is what being an artist is about, and it’s not only very respectable to see overall, but it’s also, I think it’s just not done enough in our industry, and I understand that’s because of business.

But not being manipulative and condescending with your work is important. Knowing who you are is important. And allowing your flaws and eccentricities, if you will, to show in your work is honest, and that’s what makes art special.

The main disagreements are with:

  1. “finding your voice”, “knowing who you are”, “not being manipulative”, “allowing your flaws and eccentricities to show”
  2. “business makes it dishonest”, “the dishonesty of selling”

The first is mainly a disagreement with the general idea of art creation as self-expression, which I will counter with the idea of “vesselization”. And the second is a disagreement with the dichotomy between art and business. If you believe in art as self-expression then this conflict logically follows, but I’ll show that if you believe in “vesselization” instead it magically disappears.

Finding your voice and knowing who you are #

I identify very strongly with my ability to be flexible. I really like being able to convincingly inhabit perspectives other than my own. Not only those of other individuals, but also of other groups. Being able to do this correctly is something I value both in myself and in other people.

So if I have a voice, as Edmund says every artist should have, that voice is my ability to successfully be any voice. I don’t think I’m unique in this, as I think many artists have a similar core instinct, even if they don’t really think about it consciously.

And so if this is the case, and my voice shines as I succeed at creating art from any perspective, one big question remains: how can I tell that I’m actually successfully being an artist?

If you believe in self-expression the answer to this is simple. If you felt like you did your vision justice and you didn’t compromise like Edmund says you shouldn’t then you’re succeeding. Business concerns are in fact a conflict here, as they often get in the way of your vision. They should only matter to the degree that you need to have enough money so you can keep making games.

But if you believe that your voice is any one voice, then assessing success is harder. And it’s harder because you’re inherently faking something that isn’t you, and so you can’t be like the self-expressionists and go “well as long as I didn’t betray my vision under this perspective I’m good”, because “your vision under this perspective” could be wrong due to you having an incorrect view of what “this perspective” entails, and so you need some kind of external check on it.

To put it in more concrete terms, let’s say that I’m making a shmup. I’ve played shmups before, but I’m not a huge shmup player. It’s not a genre where I know the ins and outs like I do for roguelites, for instance. But I thought that it would be a good challenge to try to make a good shmup and so I started doing it. How can I tell that I’m doing a good job?

I can’t trust my own perspective on what really good shmups are entirely, because I don’t really play them that much. I could have a council of 5 really good shmup players whose opinions on game design I trust, but it’s entirely possible their opinions will be warped.

After all, they’re really good shmup players, and it’s a common theme across genres that very skilled players will often have different interests and requirements out of their games compared to lesser skilled players. So maybe I could add, like, 15 lesser skilled players to my council?

OK, now I have a council of 20 shmup players, 5 of which are very skilled, and 15 of which are lesser skilled. And I listen to the new cohort’s feedback carefully and they are in fact pointing to numerous issues that the original 5 missed. The quality of feedback has decreased somewhat, but it worked.

Because the council’s size increase succeeded, I decide to add another cohort of 20 players. It succeeds again, as they find even more problems with the game and allow me to get closer to understanding what the elusive “good shmup” is. The feedback’s quality has decreased even further, but I don’t mind it, because it’s still working.

So I do it again, and again, and again. And now suppose I did this indefinitely. I keep increasing the council’s size in 20 player increments, the game keeps getting better because I’m constantly getting a better feel for what a good shmup is, and the feedback’s quality keeps getting worse.

At the limit, the council’s size is equal to the number of people who are interested in playing this particular shmup, and the feedback’s quality has become a single data point: whether they want to be a part of the council so they can play the game or not.

This exercise, of course, is impractical. Not only for this shmup, but because for every genre of game made I’d have to keep finding people of varying skill levels and expertise in that genre to add to the council. Coordinating such an endeavour to its end would be very time consuming and completely out of reach for an indie developer.

If only there was a way to do this… If there was some kind of tool that allowed me to effortlessly build a council as large as any of my games supported, it would be easy to use it as an external check on if my perspective of what a good game in any genre is is correct, and thus I would be able to know if I’m being a good artist or not.

Now, this tool… it exists. I know what it is, but I want you to figure it out for yourself too, this is an educational blog post, after all. Think hard. The tool is shaped like something that effortlessly builds a council as big as a game supports (for any genre), and where feedback quality is a single data point that tells you whether a person wants to be in the council or not. I’ll give you some space to think about it.

And the tool is… THE MARKET! The reality of the market fits our requirements completely. The council is nothing more than all your game’s players. The single point of feedback is nothing more than their willingness to buy the game or not. The market is the most well developed and neutral external reality check we can use to assess perspective quality.

For the self-expressionist view the market is something that is in conflict with their goals. They care about honest self-expression and market forces often have a way of corrupting or getting in the way of this particular goal. I don’t disagree with this at all and I think this is a self-consistent view point that the self-expressionists have.

But for the non-self-expressionist view, or the “vesselized” view, the market needs to be embraced more openly because it’s the only way we can measure the success of our goals. The only way we can tell if our perspectives are correct is with the help of a council-like structure, which the market most definitely provides.

Importantly, this doesn’t mean that the more popular a game is, or the more money it makes, the better it is. But if you look at all other shmups and your shmup is on the top 5% of performance relative to them, then you probably did a really good job and you can trust that your perspective of what a good shmup is is not that wrong.

Similarly, if your shmup did really poorly in comparison, it probably means you don’t really get what makes shmups work. And because you’re not coming from a self-expressionist perspective of “this is my take on shmups so how it did on the market is not very important”, and because you’re flexible, you’ll be very open to criticism and feedback, such that the next shmup you make should be changed to be significantly better.

Sakurai, for instance, seems to implicitly understand all this:

In my case, I put aside personal preferences when making games. I’m an experienced gamer, yet I made Kirby’s Dream Land to appeal to newcomers. And I made Meteos, even though I’m not so good at block puzzles. In other words, I don’t design games for myself.

I view every project that comes my way as an assignment in which I create a game to fit a certain genre or goal. […] Once you understand what makes games fun you’ll be able to create all kinds of experiences regardless of your own preferences.

And so this view - where making art is about convincingly inhabiting different perspectives - can’t be cleanly separated from business concerns like the self-expressionist view can.

In Sakurai’s case this is because he works at a company and he has a duty to do the best job he can as assignments are thrown his way, and in my case it’s simply because I enjoy being flexible. But both cases have to end up using the market, at least partly, as a metric of success, because other metrics can’t match its neutrality and thus are simply not as good tools for the job.

Not being manipulative and the dishonesty of selling #

Edmund says that “to manipulate people into feeling a certain way, playing more, putting more money into the machine” is a bad thing. He is probably pointing to things like gacha games which have fairly aggressive and often times underhanded monetization strategies.

And in general I agree with this. My main problem comes with just stopping there. For instance, The Binding of Isaac is a perfect example of a game with various very addictive elements to it, and those elements could easily be read to be very aggressively and often times underhandedly designed to get people to play the game for longer. And there’s a good correlation between getting people playing a game for longer and the creator’s financial success, so there’s most definitely a conflict there.

Now, Edmund didn’t intend for his game to be highly addictive in a negative way, and this is clear by events such as the steak incident, or the many interviews he gave about where he’s coming from when he made BoI. And that place is generally a place of trying to make a good game with a really maximalist sense of exploration. Plus, even in the interview above, the fact that he’s aware that “manipulating people into playing more” is bad a thing, means that he’s a lot less likely to do it willingly.

All of this to say, I don’t believe Edmund’s intentions to be negative in any way, shape or form. But… the path to hell is paved with good intentions, so we should also look at the effects of our choices and not only our intentions. And what are the negative effects of highly addictive video games? Well, let’s start with something everyone agrees on: gacha games.

The problem with gacha games, and mobile gaming more generally too, is that they’re designed to extract money out of a small percentage of the population that can’t help themselves. These are the so called “whales”. I think everyone sort of agrees on this and agrees that this is bad, but I don’t think people have a good understanding of what this actually entails.

Have you ever dealt with people who have schizophrenia? I have, and one of the interesting features of the disease is that no matter how much you try to reason and argue with the person that their delusions aren’t real, they can’t be convinced of it. Because they can’t be convinced of it, it’s very hard to get them to accept that there’s a problem in the first place, which thus makes it very hard to get them to take medication for it, since often times the medication has bad side effects and might not even work completely on bringing the person back to reality. Nasty disease.

A good portion of people who are homeless are schizophrenics for this reason, since if you don’t have family or friends to force you into a recovery, it’s very unlikely that you’ll do it yourself, since from your perspective there’s literally nothing wrong, except for the fact that “they” really are out there watching your every move and are, in fact, about to get you. A good portion of conspiracy theorism that you see online also comes from either people who are full on schizos or somewhere on their way there.

What does this have to do with gacha games? Well, out of control gambling also shares this interesting property with schizophrenia, where no matter how much you tell the gambler that the machines are literally rigged against him, he won’t be able to stop himself.

But not only that, both diseases are different expressions of the same core instinct gone out of control. This core instinct could be described as “connection-making”. That is, the schizophrenic can’t help himself but make connections between things that are not logically connected. You see this clearly when you read conspiracy theories where usually there’s a line of argument that may start correctly, but at some point there’ll be multiple jumps in reasoning that don’t make sense, which the schizophrenic can’t tell that they make no sense because of his disease.

Jreg has a really good video on this general argument, comparing it with autism:

Gambling also has this out of control pattern matching going on, but it also has the additional feature of out of control risk taking. So if we could look at the whole population to assess its “risky connection-making” levels, we would reach something similar to this:

And this is a normal distribution. The x axis would be “risky connection-making” levels, the y axis the percentage of the population that exists at that level. As I mentioned in the cons of compassion post, most conversations people have about problems in society are conversations about a very small number of people on the edges of such distributions.

And so in the picture above, problematic gamblers would be the people to the right side of the red line. They’re maybe 1-2% of the population, but they spend way more money than everyone else because they likely have a mental illness.

I would be somewhere around the green line. I’m most definitely a risk taker, otherwise I wouldn’t be an indie developer. I’m also definitely somewhere along the schizo spectrum as I have the schizo gene, and I also like gambling mechanics. Now, I don’t gamble with real money ever as I’m very responsible with my money, but, you know, I’ve played Genshin Impact, for like, 100 hours. Didn’t spend a single cent on it, but it’s a good and fun game. I can understand why people play it and spend money on it.

But I can also understand the people who complain about it. Even though most people, like 95%+ of people, have a responsible relationship with their gacha games and spend within their means, there’s a small percentage of the population that just can’t help themselves. And so developers and gamers of all kinds naturally view that as something bad and morally corrupt, and thus don’t support it. Edmund likely feels the same way and it’s probably what he’s alluding to when he mentions that “manipulating people into putting more money in the machine” is bad.

But… if you look at a game like Isaac, and you look at a game like Genshin Impact, or if you look at roguelites and gacha games more broadly too, design wise, the main difference between both is that one asks for money and the other asks for time, while a lot of other elements are pretty much the same.

When you play a gacha game what happens is that the game locks the amount of time you can play per day, and you can increase this amount by paying money. So this is a design where there’s something the player wants to do, which is to level his characters up and grind more, and that activity is locked behind a pay wall.

When you play a roguelite what happens is that the game locks the number of items you have available per run, and you can increase this amount by playing more runs. So this is a design where there’s something the player wants to do, which is to have crazy builds and synergies between items, and that activity is locked behind a time wall.

In both designs the thing people want to do is locked behind some kind of gating system, the only difference is the resource that’s asked out of the player. The intent behind unlockable items as you play more runs in roguelites is to make the game less confusing for new players, but the effect is that it artificially increases play time by locking what people want (run variety) behind a time wall.

Suppose you agree that this equivalence is valid. You probably don’t, but suppose you agree that gacha games and roguelites, at a high level of their designs, have very similar gameplay loops and the main difference between them is that one asks for money and the other asks for time as a resource from the player.

Assuming this is true, there’s still the point that asking for money is more morally corrupt than asking for time, right? We’ve already established that for gambling addictions, the problem lies with the 1-2% of the population that can’t control themselves, and so exploiting those people’s addictions is bad, which is why gacha games are bad.

But does the same apply to games that ask for people’s time? Are there people in the world who can’t control themselves and who will play addictive video games too much to the detriment of their own lives? I think the answer to that that is yes. There’s a subset of the population who are game addicts and have no real control over it. It’s a mental illness, like gambling addiction, or like schizophrenia, and no matter how much you try to reason with them they won’t change their ways. This is similarly most likely 1-2% of the population, but unlike gambling, it feels like an invisible problem.

Why does it feel like an invisible problem? Well, consider the fact that the gambling addict is bound by something. He is bound by his ability to generate income (or to go into debt). Once he runs out of money he’s out and he can’t gamble anymore. This is very sad and it’s also a very visible mode of failure, with the corresponding very visible response by everyone who is caught up in it and witnesses it.

But consider on the other hand the game addict. Is he bound by something? Can the game addict run out of… time? No, he can’t, at least not until he dies. And this death… It’ll be a sad one, because it’ll be a death of wasted potential. The game addict suffers from a much more insidious ailment, which Tonegawa captures well in the video below:

And so when you look at games like Isaac, and other highly addicting roguelites like Slay the Spire, Hades, you know, pick your favorite, all of them share this same problem where, for a small subset of the population, they are used as tools to justify their addictions, just like gacha games are. The only difference between them is the resource used, and in my opinion asking for money is not significantly worse than asking for time.

And of course, the negative effects of games aren’t limited to roguelites only. Pretty much every other type of game also has a form of this problem in one way or another.

In any case, you probably don’t agree with this entire argument. You’re probably thinking of many counter arguments to it right now, and I could preemptively write a retort to all your counter arguments but I’m not going to do it here. I’ve had this argument with many people before, I’ve thought about it a lot, and, you know, I’m pretty sure I’m right and I’m pretty sure the equivalence between gachas/roguelites and time/money is as solid as an equivalence gets. But this post is getting long, I want to be done with it, so I’ll have to leave the full version of this argument for another post. Let’s move on and go back to the topic of self-expression.

I said at the start of this post that I value flexibility a lot. Another thing that I also value a lot is the ability to be attuned to reality, or to truth. So when Edmund says things like “don’t manipulate” or “the dishonesty of selling”, it tells me that he isn’t very attuned to reality when it comes to making video games.

And this happens because the self-expressionist view gives him an out. From his perspective, as long as he is honest and his intent is good, everything is fine. However, as I’ve just shown, everything is not fine. His game is arguably very damaging due to how addicting it is. And so it seems clear to me that the self-expressionist view pushes developers further away from reality, as evidenced by the fact that it allows someone who is clearly smart and driven like Edmund to completely compartmentalize the negative effects of his games.

Note that I’m not saying Edmund hasn’t thought about these problems thoroughly, I’m saying that the self-expressionist allows him to hide from the reality that addicting games, whether asking for money or time, are inherently full of manipulation and dishonesty.

Not only does the self-expressionist view allow him to hide from reality, but it also allows him to use it as a shield and to then project all that unprocessed guilt of causing harm to others into an easy scapegoat: gacha games, or business more generally.

And I’m just using Edmund as an example here. This same process occurs for like 99% of game developers. Discussions about the negative effects of video games are extremely limited, it’s an issue that everyone ignores and to the degree that it happens it focuses on things like lootboxes or gacha games, which in my view are easy targets that are collectively used as scapegoats to avoid considering the issue more thoroughly.

Now, do I personally care about the morality of making addicting video games? Not really. I don’t think 1-2% of the population using my games for their addictions, however helpless they are, will keep me from sleeping soundly at night. But this is also why you’ll never catch me saying things like “business makes it dishonest” or “manipulating people into playing more is bad”.

I understand that game making as a whole is, in many ways, a manipulative and dishonest activity. To make a roguelite is to exploit people’s exploratory sense. To make a base building automation game is to exploit people’s industriousness. To make a gacha game is to exploit people’s gambling tendencies. To make an MMO is to exploit people’s grinding sense. To make a game full of achievements is to exploit people’s achievement striving. To make a collectathon is to exploit people’s collecting sense. To make a puzzle game is to exploit people’s intellectual curiosity. To make a story rich game is to exploit people’s need for narratives.

For the “vesselized” view, all of these senses are equally valid as targets for a game. The gambling tendency isn’t somehow special because it’s gambling. If you can make a game that appeals to people who like gambling, good. Just like if you can make a game for people who like puzzles, good too.

Does this all mean that everything’s allowed, including the most unethical practices ever? No, of course not. Everything should be done within good taste. But, you know, Genshin Impact is a game that in my opinion does gacha mechanics in good taste, yet people still just blindly point to it as a negative example because it’s gacha. So it’s hard to take people’s opinions on these issues seriously as they clearly haven’t thought about it that much.

All of this to say, the self-expressionist view on these issues is very limited and disconnected from reality, which is why I don’t agree with it. But what exactly is my view, the “vesselized” view? After all my disagreements with the self-expressionists have been explained, I can finally define it more clearly.

Vesselization #

You should think of yourself as a vessel. You don’t have ideas, they come to you from above. You could think of them as gifts, but they are conditional gifts. The one condition is that you do them justice. You need to represent these ideas correctly through your work, regardless of your own personal preferences. This is what it means to be a good vessel.

A good vessel is empty. When Edmund says “allowing your flaws and eccentricities to show”, this is a bad vessel. A good vessel does not contaminate the idea with its own identity. A work tainted in such a way, with the specific particularities of its creators, strays further from the truth.

A good vessel uses the market as an external decentralized self-improvement tool. When Edmund says “the dishonesty of selling something or being a salesperson can easily taint your work”, this is a bad vessel. Selling something is one of the most effective ways for a vessel to tell if it’s being a good vessel or not.

A good vessel will never feel a sense of ownership over the works it produces. The works are produced by it in conjunction with a higher force. To try to claim it for itself would be selfish and arrogant. Vesselized works should be freely spread. Yes, a vessel needs to eat, but in this day and age it’s easier than ever to secure financial flows from a work while also making it widely available.

A good vessel sees all feedback and criticism as good. Any response that anyone gives to the work can be used as a means of improvement. A vessel’s goal is not the pushing of its particular vision forward, but the pushing of an idea forward that matches some general human sense or archetype, and the only way it can tell if its achieving that is by listening and reading to what people are saying about the work.

I was watching this talk by Jonathan Blow. One portion that stuck with me was this one:

It’s 18000 hours of being immersed in a subject and thinking hard about it. The Witness is a pretty big game, so let’s say someone plays it very thoroughly, 100 hours. So you have somebody with 100 hours of experience in this game. I have 18000 hours of experience in this game. I just can’t relate to the 100 hours experience on some level.

Some people are just better critics than others, right? But some of the critics, like… they think they’re being really smart about something or they think they’re like, “aha! I’m pulling a gotcha on the person who made this game because I understand why they’re being dumb” or whatever and I’m like, you have like a .01% understanding of this game, I thought about it for 18000 hours as the most important thing in my life, like there’s just… that gap cannot really be bridged.

And so I just stopped reading criticism of the game. I’ve read almost none of the reviews of The Witness, I’ve watched almost no videos about it, because I just can’t do it. That’s not to be elitist, and it’s not to be snobby, it’s not to be dismissive even, I’m just in a really different place than the people writing and viewing those.

And this is a very bad vessel. A vessel never stops reading criticism of his game. Criticism is the only way it can tell if it is doing the idea justice or not. If people are largely not understanding the idea, then it is evidence of a failure in communication on the vessel’s part.

Jonathan Blow’s frustration should be a frustration aimed solely at himself for failing to properly communicate the idea that was granted to him. For a vessel, it’s never the player’s fault and it’s always the vessel’s fault.

A good vessel is constantly improving. No vessel is perfect, but all good vessels are always striving up. The better a vessel’s skills, the more justice it can do an idea granted to it, and thus the more the idea will spread. A vessel that shies away from improvement, by, for instance, inserting itself in the work or by not reading criticism, is not a good vessel.

A good vessel understands a wide range of human nature. The vessel needs to flexible, because the ideas granted to it are random. A good intuitive understanding of human nature helps tremendously as it allows the vessel to be successfully molded into any shape.

A good vessel is morally neutral. A vesselized work should be timeless. The truths contained in it should be legible to humans 500 years ago and 500 years from now. Unless the idea itself calls for it, the injection of contemporary morality represents a failure. Is gambling bad? Irrelevant. It is a part of human nature, therefore it is the truth. To shy away from a good idea that happens to be morally unfavorable today is a failure to be a good vessel.

With all this said, you should have a better idea of what I mean by vesselization. But to end this post, let’s look at a concrete example that encapsulates all these ideas well.

A few months ago someone posted this in one of the gamedev Discord servers I’m in:

If you’ve followed me for a while you probably know by now that I’m not a progressive. I don’t believe in the core tenets of modern progressivism, and while I’m sure it’s a good religion for those who follow it, it’s just not for me.

But when I saw this video, I was immediately granted an idea. And that idea was that this would be a great roguelite. A gender identity roguelite where items are the numerous identities seen in the video and each grants your character different effects. It’s a simple idea, “just make it a roguelite”, but it’s an idea.

And, of course, I want to be a good vessel, so I should be able to make a game from this specific progressive perspective, targetting this specific progressive audience, and have that game succeed. One way to look at this would be from a… uh, anthropological/historical perspective.

Here’s this very interesting niche of human behavior with all its intricacies and peculiarities, and your job as a vessel is to correctly capture all this lore into an artifact so that humans from 500 years ago or 500 years from now can legibly read it.

I wouldn’t be able to do that from “a327ex” though, since this persona is tainted in many ways for this particular kind of game, so creating a new one from scratch would be needed.

And as I create this new persona and start making the game, she simultaneously starts building a following as I’m progressively inhabiting her perspectives more and more. One of the interesting things about her is that she is extremely status hungry. She wants to be widely known and respected, so from day 1 she’s posting progress on twitter, replying to other progressive indiedevs to make her account more visible, asking questions, and just being out there, you know?

She’s joining discord servers, having long debates about whether a fluidflux person can identify as both fluidflux and agender, or if the fact that a person often switches between gendervoid, agender and neutrois while having their female side go all the way to paragirl and their male go as far as demiboy means that they are fluidflux or multiflux? These are very lively debates.

One of her early insights was that outwardly progressive games generally don’t have very good gameplay. For some reason, progressives largely want to tell stories, and this often doesn’t result in a replayable memetically spreadable game. So while her game has very visible progressive theming, it will also be a very video gamey video game, which is what she enjoys playing.

And so as she grows, and as I learn, the game starts to take shape. And that shape is beautiful. Every gender identity is represented in a thematically sound way that also connects well with its gameplay. The overall message the game sends is uplifting and honest. The gameplay itself is fun and addicting. The music is just slightly below Undertale levels of quality, which means it’s amazing.

It all comes together perfectly, and after 1 year from inception the game is finally released. She has 10k twitter followers now, many progressive friends made along the way, who are all more than happy to help her game get the visibility it deserves. If the game succeeds then I did the idea justice, if it doesn’t then I didn’t. But either way, as a vessel, I’ll take my learnings and move on to the next idea, whatever it may be.

This persona I created is a voice. As an artist, her game comes from her heart. She has a rich lived experience around the idea the game is about and that’s who she is. And she’s honest about who she is and is translating that into her work. She’s not manipulative or condescending, she’s truthful with her voice, and she allows her flaws and eccentricities to show.

It is extremely visible to everyone that this is a game that comes from a good place from a person with a good heart who deeply cares about these issues. To fall short of any of this would be for me to fail as a vessel.

And you might have noticed here that I just sounded a lot like Edmund. Which is right, because this is an idea that calls for very self-expressionist behavior from its creator. And, despite disagreeing strongly with the self-expressionist view, I want to be a good vessel, so I should be able to convincingly take on the role of a self-expressionist and sell it successfully.

But isn’t this extremely manipulative and dishonest? Well, yes, after all, I’m totally pretending to be something I’m not. But as long as I do a good job then it doesn’t matter, right? If everyone believes that this persona is who she is then that’s reality and that’s it.

And to this point, once this game is said and done, at no point should it or the new persona be linked back to “a327ex”, as that would ruin the spread of the idea and thus not do it justice. The only time for this link to be made would be perhaps when I died. This is also useful because if I were ever granted another idea that would make sense to be made from a more progressive developer, then I’d already have built such a persona up and I would be able to go from there.

Will I actually ever do this in the future? No. I’ve been granted many ideas that I think are better so I’ll do them instead. But this is a good exercise that showcases what being a vessel is all about.

And isn’t this a much more interesting artistic life? Isn’t it much more artistically stimulating to be a vessel rather than to be stuck only in your own perspective? But on top of being more interesting, it’s also closer to the truth. The truth of game development is that it’s a fundamentally manipulative and dishonest activity. Having a self-expressionist mindset that lets you hide from this reality isn’t very useful.

Being a vessel makes you grow as a person more, brings you closer to reality, and makes your works more honest and truthful, as they will be more closely aligned with reality, because you are more closely aligned with reality.