Matajuegos is starting a new chapter. In this video, we tell you all about it.
David: How does an almost inactive Latin American blog about videogames and culture transform itself into a professional indie studio that develops 4 games simultaneously during a global pandemic? I have no idea, but we’ve done it.
Matajuegos: Hi, I’m David Marchand / I’m Fede Cardinale / I’m Leno / I’m Mer Grazzini / I’m Pablo Quarta / I’m Rumpel / I’m Santiago Franzani / I’m Yiyo, and this is Matajuegos Ltd.
Rumpel: Matajuegos was born in 2016 as a videogames criticism blog, but from the get-go, its writers were all independent devs, so consolidating ourselves as a studio that made games was always in the cards. We knew it meant a ton of effort and paperwork, but it was a plausible horizon.
Yiyo: In 2020 the pandemic hit us hard and we realized we had to reinvent ourselves. Five years of producing game criticism and analysis for free, with no advertisement or donations from our audience, had made it clear that sooner or later we were going to have to find a way to fund our work. Being an informal collective had always limited us in that respect.
Mer: So we decided to obtain legal personhood for Matajuegos, but we knew that none of our political, philosophical, social, or communitarian values would to allow us to be a conventional company. In our collective there are no bosses, decisions are based on consensus, and as much as we might need money to survive, maximizing profit is never going to be our main objective. We needed some kind of corporate structure that wasn’t so… corporate.
David: And it turns out there’s a name for that. It’s called a worker cooperative.
1) What is a co-op?
Pablo: Co-ops are horizontal and democratic entities committed to sustainability and cooperation over competition. Each of its members is an owner of the organization and has full say in its operation. Not all co-ops are the same, and there are a lot of different kinds, but these are their fundamental principles.
Fede: A workers’ co-op can provide goods and services and have commercial activity, but its goal isn’t to maximize profit as much as it is to provide its members with enough to live with in a dignified manner. Money earned has to be divided fairly between its members. This can mean its distribution is mathematically equitable, proportional to the hours a member worked, or even to the amount of projects they were a part of. There are many options to choose from, but no one may earn disproportionally more than the rest due to their status or authority (or due to that myth about the owner taking on more risk).
Leno: At Matajuegos we believe that most independent studios in Latin America already work as co-ops in practice, and that they even have the same kind of sustainable goals. Taking a small, horizontally structured team and trying to make it fit in the legal structure of a regular hierarchical company seems destructive to us. The local industry would benefit immensely from giving cooperativism a bigger chance, but that’s a subject for a different video.
Santiago: Certain bureaucratic requisites were the perfect excuse to expand our team a little, which today is made up of the blog’s original founders (Pablo, Rumpel, David, and I, Santiago), a couple of collaborators we’ve had over the years (Yiyo and Leno), and an additional dev team (Mer, Fede, and David again), which right around that time went from not having a name to being called Cuatro Assets.
Rumpel: We’re not going to lie, you need to do a lot of paperwork to obtain any kind of legal personhood. There are several forms to submit, documents to write up, papers to sign, and ledgers to buy. We spent a few months researching the formalities and gathering the courage to start the process, another few preparing the documents, and yet some more waiting to be approved by INAES, the National Institute for Associativism and Social Economy.
Pablo: Along the way, we received counsel and encouragement from the IMFC (the Institute for Mobilizing Cooperative Funds), Banco Credicoop, and FACTTIC, the Argentine Federation of Workers’ Cooperatives of Technology, Innovation, and Knowledge. We are immensely thankful for their help.
Fede: We’re probably not the first Argentine videogames co-op, but we have the advantage of being the first one that people hear of. We weren’t planning to look for clients and collaborators just yet, but we got lucky. Just by talking about going through the process of becoming a co-op, we were approached by organizations and projects whose values aligned with our own social and communitarian views on culture.
Yiyo: So before we had all our paperwork straightened out, and in order to put into practice the work processes that were to come, we had already started working and developing games as a collective of freelancers.
4) The games
Mer: Viaja Baraja is a game about four friends just out of highschool who are going on a journey of self-discovery. It touches on the issues of discrimination, toxic masculinity, privacy on social media, gender identity, the incertitude of adolescence, and much more. In the game, you make decisions by choosing cards that represent your character’s emotions or attitudes. We made it under the direction of Fundación SES as part of the Sportic program, an initiative of the International Olympic Committee and the innovation laboratory of the Inter-American Development Bank.
Leno: Union Drive is a visual novel about a supermarket worker trying to strengthen the union at their place of work and fight against unjust working conditions in order to reinstate 20 co-workers who were laid off without cause. In the game, you talk to your co-workers and get to know their stories and their needs while developing organizing skills that are used in the real world. It was developed in collaboration with UNI Américas and Global Labor Justice-International Labor Rights Forum and was written by real-world union organizers.
Fede: Estresamente is a platformer and metroidvania game about a teenager who is going through a rough day and about the tiny critter who lives inside their body and spends his time putting out fires, collecting happy memories, and dissipating intrusive thoughts in order to keep stress levels under control. Just like Viaja Baraja, this game was also made with Fundación SES for Sportic.
Santiago: The fourth game, and the only one that hasn’t been released yet, is Atuel, a surrealist game in which you travel down the Atuel River from El Sosneado to Valle Grande, going through El Nihuil and its canyons as you take on different forms: a fish, a cloud, a fox, a condor, and who knows what else. It was developed in collaboration with the team behind the documentary, Atuel, and with the help of the Coventry City Council in the UK.
Mer: All the games we’ve released so far are free and can be played on web browsers, both on desktop computers and mobile devices, and all revolve around themes that we have always been interested in. You can find the links in this video’s descriptions. Go play them!
Leno: All these games are small and were made in a few months by a fraction of our full team working part-time. We’re very proud of them and eager to make many more. We also want to resume our communication and analysis work and release more articles, translations, videos, and podcasts. We don’t want to lose that part of our identity, and in fact, we already have a couple video series in the works.
David: We don’t know exactly what the future has in store for us, but we have a hard time thinking of a better start for this new chapter.
Pablo: We hope this emphatic return helps to rekindle your interest in our work and we eagerly await to hear from you.
Rumpel: For now, it’s time to say goodbye.
Matajuegos: Until next time!