There are many common arguments against Latin American devs making games for their regional audience. They don’t tend to be false, but they do omit certain truths in order to appear much more solid than they really are. In this video, we explore some of those arguments and their shortcomings, and offer alternative some perspectives on the issue.
In the Latin American videogame community, many newcomers struggle to understand why most of our games are sold on US platforms, why they’re based on First World design traditions, and, in particular, why their titles are in English.
For decades, ever since there’s been videogames with Latin American authors, we’ve been wondering if there could be videogames with a mainly Latin American audience.
Every few years the subject comes up again in the community’s social media networks, almost always with a negative spin to it.
- “People in Latin America pirate almost everything.”
- “People don’t have credit cards or aren’t accustomed to using them for leisure.”
- “People don’t have enough disposable income for games.”
- “Latin America is 2% of the global market, don’t sacrifice 98% of your potential profit.”
- “What are you gonna make, games about cumbia and football? You’re not going to be able to sell them anywhere else.”
None of this is strictly false, but it does run 2 big risks:
- one, exaggerating the negative value of a Latin American perspective,
- and two, exaggerating the positive value of the profit-seeking perspective,
Let’s consider some alternative views, that is, let’s reclaim the Latin American perspective and question the profit-seeking one, like the hippies we very much are.
We might discover a few things we have missed.
1) Latin American perspective
Even though it’s true that making commercial games aimed at a Latin American audience is an almost assured failure, let’s not forget that simply making any commercial indie games is already an almost assured failure, no matter where you live or what audience you look for.
Between the market’s saturation, the negligence of popular platforms, and the economic recession, a regional target audience might reduce your chances at millionaire success but it’s never going to be the determining factor in your failure; those chances were pretty miniscule even before you chose a target audience.
We need to abandon any fantasy we might harbor of Latin American devs making it big overnight just because they chose to aim for an Anglophone audience, or even of First World indie devs having formulas for assured success.
The truth is, metaphorically, that we’re all begging for spare change, and the negative impact of a certain type of target audience is just a tiny drop in an ocean of adverse factors, some of which we try to avoid and some others which we accept as inherent difficulties of the project we’re passionate to create.
2) Profit-seeking perspective
Brendan Keogh says that we tend to think of indie game development as a business endeavor, when economically it actually behaves much more like any other artistic discipline.
In order to live from making music, for example, there are plausible paths like
- working for an orchestra,
- musicalizing parties and birthdays,
- or teaching an instrument.
We could also decide to lose money by starting a band for the sake of art. In all of these cases, the audience is mainly regional.
If from the get-go, our first project were to compose a legendary album, sell a million copies and become an international rock star, we’d be sprinting towards almost assured failure.
In much the same way, devs who make a living from selling copies of their indie games are a minority, and it’s much more common
- to work for bigger studios that pay a salary,
- to make games for commission for different clients,
- to teach game-making,
- or to make your own personal games for free in your spare time.
If we set aside commercial games for a moment, Latin America is chock full of games aimed at a Latin American audience:
- Shitty Games’ work about Argentine news,
- Manzana Misteriosa about a Buenos Aires urban myth,
- David’s parodies of Argentine games,
- the bitsies and twines in Spanish made by Rumpel and so many other creators,
just to mention only a handful of examples within my social circle.
Maybe there is a person out there whose dream game fits perfectly with what is most convenient in today’s market. The rest of us have two options: either we make the game we want to make, sharing it for free and letting fate decide who plays it, or we combine a bit of what we want with some commercial wisdom, conversations with peers, Gamasutra articles, and GDC talks to make decisions that are sometimes going to be safer and more aligned with the market and are some other times going to be riskier and will have more to do with our creative drive, knowing that maybe that’s not ideal for our wallet, and that maybe what’s ideal for our wallet is turning off the computer and signing up for law school.
Any project of this kind involves quite a few risky decisions, and maybe in the future more people will include among their risky decisions the search (not necessarily exclusively) of a Latin American audience.
And maybe through that gesture, the Latin American audience will feel more appreciated and take the second step in a conversation that could end up being beautiful.