Jon Blow Says “Fuck That”

By: Derek Yu

On: February 17th, 2008

Jon Blow

The almighty Jeff Lindsay, web god and Guardian of the Tiger Sauce, interviewed Jonathan Blow for Game Helper:

Making money is hard sometimes, and if you convince yourself that you need to make money (in order to eat, or fund the next game, or whatever), then you are automatically on a slippery slope and will start justifying all sorts of things, and eventually you are far from your original ideals but that doesn’t seem too bad because you “just had to be realistic”.
Well, fuck that. I’ve seen a lot of developers go that way, and none of them are now in situations that I would be happy in.

(Photo Source: Sklathill’s GDC 2007 Flickr Set)

  • rz.

    fuck yeah, indie martyr ftw

  • Brokenbroll

    More absolutes from a man who just can’t help himself.

  • Trotim

    “Well, fuck that” is my new paradigm.

  • trav

    I agree with JBlow, but it’d suck to have to stop making games for a year or two, work at a gas station and then try to get back into it

  • crackers

    Would Jon Blow be a more of a Sauceror or a Disco Bandit?

    I’d say he be the former because he uses his mojo to summon delicious gameplay innovations, though he could be a pretty moxious fellow. Can someone confirm this please?

  • Crack


    damn, I don’t know what you were trying to do there, but if you were aiming for funny, then you fail miserably

  • Smithy


    I thought it was funny. My sense of humor therefore fails miserably.

    Also, GTFO.

  • GirlFlash

    he makes good points in that interview, the truth is that there is a precident for what he is saying, the ‘struggling artist’ isnt a new thing, and many change their vision so they dont have to struggle so hard.

    I’m not saying its bad to try and make money from what you do, but like JB says, it quickly leads to compromises.

  • lesslucid

    I think it’s not necessary to forever foreswear ever making any kind of money from game-making… but it’s worthwhile to keep alive one’s sense of what it is that makes making games something different than just another way to try to make money. Because some compromises may be necessary… but too many and you may as well work in a bank and at least be regarded positively by the cute girls you tell what you do for a living. ;)

  • Brokenbroll

    “I’m not saying its bad to try and make money from what you do, but like JB says, it quickly leads to compromises.”

    Of course, just look at the worthless output of Shakespeare, H.P. Lovecraft, Borges, Gene Wolfe, Neil Gaiman, Cormac McCarthy, Miyamoto, Gunpei Yokoi, Rocky Marciano, Floyd Mayweather, Fedor Emelianenko, Kubrick, Hitchcock, etc.

    Perhaps Jon Blow should, to paraphrase Frank Zappa, Shut the F’ck Up and make his damn games. Guys got a big rep in the indie scene based on nothing but praise from other indie guys like Fish trying so laughably hard to be hip, with their little metro facial hair, dark rim glasses and short cropped hair.

    Make some games, and save the hyperbolic statements for corporate press agents.

  • I Like Cake

    The idea that Jon Blow is saying you cannot try to make money from your work is pretty much a straw man argument. He never once says you can’t make money from your work. In fact, he makes it pretty clear that he’s planning to make some money from Braid. The interview states quite unambiguously that it is compromising your work or designing work specifically around sales to the lowest common denominator which is explicitly negative, not just taking money for work.

    I notice your list doesn’t include Michael Bay, George Lucas, Danielle Steele or James Paterson. All (or at least most) of the people you have listed had a real artistic vision, which (at least most of the time) they didn’t give up for increased pay. Today’s commercialized environment robs games of a lot of their potential by plundering challenge, variety and complexity in favour of a stripped down, emotionally and intellectually impotent approach. Imagine how Neil Gaiman’s writing career would have gone if he had been told that Neverwhere’s ‘trial’ scene in the monastery had to be cut because readers might find it disturbing, or Borges’ if Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius was rejected as ‘too confusing.’

    I understand you’re a rebellious, self-styled intellectual, but you’re making a case against an argument no one is making: an argument which is laughably unsupportable. Additionally, although Jon Blow is, as I would remind you, working on releasing a game, and he has years of industry experience, you would no more need to release a game to understand the sad state of the industry than you would need a meteorology degree to determine whether or not it is raining.

  • I Like Cake

    If you’re wondering whether I could use the word ‘work’ more times in the first paragraph. The answer is yes, but it would take diligent effort.

    It’s late. Do you want to fight about it?

  • Eclipse

    i’m in that situation :( i code games for job now and i’ve no time to complete my own projects, that’s a shame and i feel i lost too much for money.
    But hey, i need that for real atm so i’ll break my head doing also an indie project on my spare time, it will be hard.

  • Bob Runcle

    Brokenbroll, you just got owned.

    “I understand you’re a rebellious, self-styled intellectual”
    Nicely put, I Like Cake.

  • haowan

    Orbis Tertius is confusing though ;)

  • Lyx

    While i agree with a lot of things which Blow says, i’m not completely in line with this.

    Yes, it can easily turn into a slippery slope, IF you haven’t got the necessary self-understanding and integrity to walk this path efficiently.

    The problem is that obviously, most people will asume that they DO have the above. Its always the others who overestimate themselves, not oneself. I am perfect – i do not have such faults.

    So, while Blow’s comment may be true for most people, it isn’t true by definition.

  • xvs07

    On a different subject: “… I am losing the whole time. At the end I almost never get out of the negative numbers, back up to 0.”

    The man is a bona fide messiah to this industry. Can we please try to find him a girlfriend? Think of the progeny!

  • Radix

    I think people are commenting without reading the interview. Possibly a little out of context as it is here.

  • Nikica

    Well, fuck that.

  • PHeMoX

    I think it’s not a bad idea to keep a realistic view on money and at least the basic things you need for survival… By the time you don’t do that whatever you were doing will go down the drain in no time.

    *Yes, it can easily turn into a slippery slope, IF you haven’t got the necessary self-understanding and integrity to walk this path efficiently.*

    Yeah, indeed, but there are plenty of developers that don’t really have a different option I think and then it has little to do with overestimating ourselves.

    Indie means ‘independent’ and I really think that being able to at least provide yourself with food and so on is part of that, regardless of whether you paid for that with the revenue generated by your games or simply by income of a simple(?) day job.

  • Zeno

    J’Blow can blow it out his ass until his damn game comes out.

    I swear, if that man programmed half as much as he talks, we’d be playing Braid 3 by now.

  • Dom Camus

    Interesting that Jonathan Blow thinks the PC is hopeless from a revenue point of view. It really shouldn’t be. XBox Live players are not (mostly) the kinds of people I think of in association with cool, innovative indie games. And PC gamers pretty much are.

    I wonder if he’s worrying about piracy?

    Hmm… anyone know of any sales figures for previous indie hits (like Gish, Darwinia and so on)?

  • nullerator

    I don’t think he should expect too much in terms of revenue from the XBLA-version. It might sell more than the PC-version, but Microsoft will want a pretty large chunk of that money, and based on what I’ve seen of the game so far, it doesn’t look like it will become an instant hit with the Xbox-crowd. After all, it’s not a crap remake of a crap arcade game, which is pretty much what you have to make if you want success on XBLA (ok, that wasn’t 100% serious, but still…).

  • johnny

    who is JB and why is he always telling me what to do. i wanna be independent. :(

  • Bob


    >Indie means ‘independent’ and I really think that being able to at least provide yourself with food and so on is part of that, regardless of whether you paid for that with the revenue generated by your games or simply by income of a simple(?) day job.

    You’re equivocating. “Indie” means independent of mainstream ideas and aesthetics. It’s good to be financially independent, though…that way, you have more time to make indie games.

  • Dom Camus

    Just to (partly) answer my own question, I’ve found some sales stats for Gish on the interweb. Works out at about $77K per year for each developer which isn’t bad at all (especially given that they say Bridge Construction Set sells consistently better).

  • trav

    JBlow thinks marketing is evil.

    He’s right.

    As pointed out above, doesn’t actually say it’s bad to make money.

    What he does say, is that it’s not OK to lie about your game and all advertising is Lying.

    later on he says that another thing is to be in a position where you don’t really ‘need’ your game to succeed, that way you won’t be under pressure to lie about it or make it in a way that you’re unhappy with.

  • Jad

    Hey, what he basically says is that ‘Your game will probably sell anyway if it’s made with love, and taking away the good stuff for “marketability” will probably _not_ make it sell better’, and who’d argue against that? O:

    Then I guess some people just hate that some people are popular, and, well, I can relate to that, when you get that particual feeling, it’s a good thing to keep your mouth shut :

  • Radix

    Posting a webcomic in a tigsauce:

  • Paul Eres

    Basically, ‘those who would give up some essential freedom to gain more safety will get neither’ (with apologies to Ben Franklin).

  • Brokenbroll

    Completely missed read what I wrote. Where did I say that Blow’s point is that its wrong to make money from games? No where.

    The statement, or belief, that compromising one’s “artistic” vision is a bad thing, or even bad a majority of the time, is not an absolute. It can be a good thing. The same reason why some writers do better work when a strong editor is working with them, the same reason people working together in a band compromise become more than the sum of their parts.

    I dropped in Rocky Marciano and Fedor Emelianenko as an example of how sometimes, making money as the sole, or at least the biggest factor, can be a huge motivator that leads to great results. Both men turned to their sports, boxing and MMA respectively, because they were poor and needed to provide for their families. Both men became champions, and in Fedor’s case has displayed an understanding of MMA as an art beyond any other. Yet MMA is not his first love, it was judo and sambo, things which, now that he is wealthy, he still does on the side just because he loves them. But he was never as good at them as he is at MMA. He had no motivation to do them outside of pure enjoyment, and was only good at them, not great.

    “I understand you’re a rebellious, self-styled intellectual”

    Oh no, you’ve insulted me in a completely inaccurate way! Well, at least now I know what type of person you are. Yes, I really style my self an intellectual, thats why I put on boxing gloves and hit and get hit in the head, and put on a gi and wrestle with other guys on the ground. There, no you can insult me by calling me punch drunk and gay for wrestling with men.

    Keep swinging from Blow’s nuts all you want. Its good to have people at least asking questions and making statements, even if they love to state opinion as absolute statements of fact. The unthinking agreement with everything Blow and company do and say, because they are indie, is laughable, and is not needed.