Today is Finji’s fifth birthday. Sort of. Five years ago is when we started calling the thing we do Finji, at least. Which was still a big deal for us. We’ve been making games independently, one way or another, for twelve years now. Thirteen years? Some years. Did you know we worked on FEZ a little one time? That was cool. And Cave Story. Oh, we made this one game called Canabalt, somebody put that in a museum. That was wild. Made some other mobile games. Sometimes it was hard, and sometimes it was easy, and sometimes we were very lucky, and sometimes we were pretty unlucky. We even got burgled. That’s a story for another time. And even though most of those things are still true we wanted a new name for this new phase anyways.
The thing is… Finji wasn’t just a new name. Or maybe it was, and everything from here down is me projecting. But I think it was a way for us to say to ourselves that we wanted to do things differently. Not different in a revolutionary sense or anything. We were worried about changes in the game industry and changes in our family. Somebody figured out how to monetize folks with seratonin and dopamine regulation problems, and that got mobile games all weirded up, but also we were parents to two complete goblins suddenly, and trying to figure out what to do about that too.
We liked making games on our own, but we also liked being parents. We also had learned a lot from our mistakes, and from other people’s mistakes, whatever mistakes we could get our hands on really, and we wanted to kind of start over. Not to get rid of what we had, not to clean house, not to forget our precious mistakes, but to really take stock of those things, to take all the things we discovered along the way, and try to build something new and purposeful out of it. And we thought we knew what that would be. So we put a name on it, and the marvelous Dick Hogg drew us an absolutely perfect weasel, and we made an announcement.
And the whole thing got derailed pretty much right away.
A few months after we decided to tell folks about this weird idea we had, the floorboards on a lot of things in the game industry got pulled up a bit. It was as if we all knew there were some rotten boards over there in the corner, but pulling up one bad board just revealed another, and another, and another. Like the whole house was garbage, and we’d been living in it and telling people that it was yea a little soggy in that corner but mostly it was ok. Everything was different after that. You couldn’t pretend it was a good house anymore.
This was devastating to me. For lots of good reasons, but also for at least one selfish reason. Making video games is the thing I most wanted to do for pretty much my entire bipedal life. When I got my hands on Super Mario Bros. at age six, that was that. Somehow, despite growing up in a tiny town in the middle of nowhere, I wasn’t just making games, I was making my own games. Professionally. With my best friend. Almost no one gets to do this. It has always felt like the biggest dumbest privilege in the world to get to make things like this with people like this for total strangers to just enjoy. Tantamount to astronauting. What a dumb amazing opportunity.
And that summer, after we announced our new venture, this new thing, this Finji enterprise, that was about us and our family and the rest of our creative lives together, I realized that I was ashamed of the industry that I wanted to be proud of, and that I was disappointed in the industry that I wanted to celebrate, and that I was furious at the industry that I’d spent my whole life trying to infiltrate.
So I posted an angry tweet or two or ten… thousand. The thing is, you can only post so many angry tweets (spoilers: it’s a lot) before you realize, maybe with the help of your best friend, that maybe anger is energy, and maybe it can be transmuted and it can be put into something, maybe it can be used to build something. Anything. Maybe even a game studio.
And we’re pretty tiny, I know that. Even when we’re totally overwhelmed, even when we’re collaborating with dozens of people, across continents and across oceans, when you’re talking about industries we’re still pretty tiny. Finji started in a bedroom, and since then we’ve grown… into a slightly smaller bedroom. Well, if you don’t count the basement storage shelves. It’s complicated. Anyways my point is we’re a little fish surrounded by absolute units and it’s scary a lot. But maybe it’s ok to be a little fish. A little fish with a BAFTA.
Some things don’t change. I’m still overwhelmed with rage at almost everything that goes on in our industry. But now I’m also overwhelmed with gratitude to have something interesting to do with that anger, and I’m overwhelmed with pride in our little corner we carved out and all the people that made it possible.
When I sat down to type this out it was supposed to be a kind of love letter to our projects, to the work. We’ve had all these amazing things that we got to work on and to help out with and to support and to be supported by them in return but that’s what the other 364 days are for. This whole Finji thing is a love letter to games made by people who never got to make a game before. We wrote that letter already, and we’re gonna write another one tomorrow, so today, you get this.
I don’t know what the next five years will be like. If I’ve learned anything from the last five years, it’s that three months after you make all your big plans, somebody runs through and knocks down all your blocks. And sets them on fire. In the rain. Lookit I know that doesn’t make any sense but guess what neither did the first few years of anything so maybe it’s a fitting metaphor after all. What I do know, and what does make sense, is that if even a fraction of the incredible artists and engineers and producers and friends and family and mentors that we have had the privilege to work with during the last five years are involved, it’s going to be fucking rad.