- [Andrew Doull is an IT manager from New Zealand who spent the last 5 and a half years working in the United Kingdom. He's just emigrated to Sydney, Australia, and spends his free time developing Unangband, a rogue-like game, and blogging at Ascii Dreams. He recently covered the Edinburgh Interactive Festival for Gamasutra magazine and has just started an irregular column for GameSetWatch.]

I get frustrated by seeing amateur software developers like myself making despondent posts about whether or not it is worth spending the time trying to develop code, or whether they should continue working on an idea that they had. I'm no stranger to this feeling, and I'm fortunate enough to have been rolled a really good hand in life and have a loving wife who actually understands my need to sit down and write code for six hours at a time.

I'll put this in black and white. If you enjoy playing rogue-likes, or any other games that are put together by people who are not employed full time by the game industry, you, as a fan, have the power to transform their lives.

Here's the first few steps you can take:

  1. Give the author feedback on their blog or on web forums or email or whatever means of communicating with them that you have.
  2. Contribute what you can back in the form of being an active community member. Help out others, write reviews of the game, set up your own blog and link to the game.
  3. Become an advocate for the game. Pester game reviewers that you know or like, link to the game on related forums, submit articles about the game to Slashdot, Digg it, Reddit.
  4. Be a hedgehog about it. Don't just promote the game once, but keep doing it.

My blog was recently Slashdotted, on the basis of a story that I submitted to the Slashdot firehose that as far as I can tell was made red hot by 11 people and paid off with 16,000 unique visitors when the story reached the front page and a three-fold increase in long-term traffic. It's possible to get onto the gaming page of Digg with as little as 40 diggs. If you thought the size of the Angband community is small (at 100 - 500 people depending on how you count it), these numbers are tiny.

So why do this? It's simple really. The more feedback an amateur software developer gets, the better they feel about the game, and the more they'll code. Positive feedback helps, but even constructive criticism is good.

I challenge you to pick a game, any game that you like that you feel is unappreciated, go out and become an advocate for it for a week. Write a review and submit it to a gaming website or host it on your own site. If you can't do that, at least post five times to the forums of five separate games within a week. Be more than a passive reader. Get a Digg account, search for articles about the game and digg every article you find. File some bug reports, using whatever bug reporting tool the game has. I love to get bug reports, even though I reserve the right to ignore fixing them (I'll write more on this another time).

If you do that, I guarantee that you'll get more game written in return for a fraction of your total time invested. Not only that, but you create a small chance that something magical will happen. If enough people start to love the game that you love, there is the distinct possibility that the software developer will be able to make the biggest transition of all, to working on their game full-time. Few will achieve it, but I think most dream of being able to do so. And as Kieron Gillen points out in 'How to Use and Abuse the Gaming Press', an active fan base is a key component in bridging the gap between independent development and commercial success.

Think about it. Through spending a little of your time, you could end up with a professionally written version of the game that you love. But you've got to make it worth the investment. And becoming part of the community, or better yet, an advocate for the community, is the best way to start making this happen.