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~Thanks. A Patreon Post-Mortem.

Started by droqen, June 10, 2022, 12:32:18 AM

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I want to write a little thank-you note to everyone who supported me on Patreon. I ended it without much fanfare and I never quite felt like what I did lived up to the promise of Patreon? The idea of it?

In 2018 or 2019 or so, I was trying to figure out what to do with myself... Could I get '''support'''? What could that even mean? What kind of support was I missing?

On January 28, 2018, I tweeted:
Quote from: @droqenwas i driven to make games out of loneliness? then what will i do when i am no longer lonely?

On November 25, 2018, I started a private Discord server that as of this article's writing has 52 semi-inactive members. I remember I made it because of a conversation with [redacted friend], about an internal system used by [redacted company]... Everyone posted what they'd worked on that day, and everyone else had access to this daily feed. So I made an experimental server and there are a handful of people in there hanging out posting -- not usually every day, but often someone does make a post, and it's quiet but nice.

By May 3, 2019, I had started trying to put a Patreon together.

On June 7, 2019, I had created another Discord server for my patrons, for those people generous enough to see across the internet to me, asking for money in exchange for (what, exactly?) and saying "yes, I want to give droqen some cash every month." But I never felt comfortable with it, not really.

On December 8, 2020, I made another Discord server, Droqen's Paradise, which grew and grew of its own messy volition, until it no longer felt like a place that was "mine" as much as it was a place belonging to its inhabitants...

On October 14, 2021, I officially renamed it Paradise and not so long afterward Paradise Collab was born, which was cool.

All this time I was still wondering, what was I looking for??? What should I do with myself??? Did I want to be validated on Twitter, by patrons, on Discord by friends, on Discord by a larger group of peers? What was the Patreon for, if it was making me something like $100-150 / month?

This whole time I was making and printing droqen was here, about eight copies every month, truly a joy to produce. I (re?-)learned the value of making something for myself.

Right... I have to remember to keep the focus. Why did I even start writing this? I wanted to thank you.

I printed 31 issues of droqen was here, a reflective zine that built up my habit of note-taking and note-reflecting and note-distilling. And I would occasionally get a word back from someone, I'd hand a friend a zine in real life and we'd talk about it briefly, but I think because of the weird social dynamic of it I don't think I ever really talked with anyone who supported me on Patreon about the zines, except for those who I already knew in real life ahead of time. I didn't quite know what I wanted, but I know now that I was desperate to feel relevant (again), to revive that extremely visceral feeling of being noticed by the world like I had been when Starseed Pilgrim came out.

I made the dynamic weird, because I don't really like the idea of taking money for making art, least of all from those most willing to give it. I feel unsettled about taking money from the people generous and good enough to offer it to me, and giving... what, in return? I was making art because I wanted attention, and some people were giving me attention. And then, on top of that, some of them were giving me money.

The Patreon Discord, droqen's daydream, was a quiet place because I felt uncomfortable with myself for doing what I was doing. For creating this channel and profiting off of it, but not enough to be fully invested. It couldn't support me, and I wasn't appreciative enough, and I felt uncomfortable. Surely I should appreciate.


I'm not quite sure when it clicked or how but I realized I wanted off this runaway train. I didn't have the head for business and never had - Starseed Pilgrim's mysterious success had funded me for a while, but not thanks to any acumen of my own. It was the zeitgeist that did it, and I was hoping that the zeitgeist could come back if only I, what, asked for it? To those who supported me for the years I was standing there, wings outstretched, this is all I can do to thank you. I wanted to make a beautiful and brilliant game to thank you, but I suppose, painfully, I never was inspired by having a faraway audience. I think I wanted you to give me something I never could have accepted from you anyway.


I'm not sure when, but I started talking with Jack about this amazing idea he had: HAIKU GAMES. I asked him if he wanted to write a book together of all things, because I wanted to do something together. It wasn't about having an audience, necessarily, but it was about putting the work in to producing something meaningful. We could talk between ourselves but what would it mean, really, if nobody ever benefited from our efforts?

[write a note about Damian's Mutual Aid book, the one I haven't read yet, the one that's still on hold for me at the library]

On May 1, 2021, Jack made the inaugural post on letterclub.games, "HAIKU games". Mer and Zeigfreid joined in the conversation. We all talked and talked both publicly and privately. We're still talking to this day.


Paradise is very much alive. Please view the incredible submissions page for didi07's accidental "I'm hungry" jam. We have a zine coming any day now.


I got a job at messhof. We've been working together for nearly four months now, and I'm having an incredible -- but also weird and occasionally quite stressful! -- time working on design problems, making our game work. It's not my game or someone else's but ours.


So everything that the Patreon was for, overtly, surreptitiously, hopefully, and unconsciously, it was all... it was all unnecessary. Oh, no. It had become irrelevant, and the last thing to do was to stop taking your money.


I put it on pause. Everything I had learned was hollering at me, you do not say no to free money.


But it wasn't free money. It never was and never could be. Money comes from somewhere, from someone. Did I deserve the money? Maybe that was never the question. Did I need it? Did I want it? Did it make me feel good and right?


I discontinued droqen was here at issue #31.

In the first six months of 2022, I released only one game: awake. (I love this game and I'm very proud of it, but it's insufficient thanks for years of monthly financial support.)

In letterclub.games and Paradise and Toronto, I'm having conversations with friends and peers -- new and old and in between.

I'm solving interesting design problems daily at messhof, debating and discussing. We're making a game. It's not the same as chasing down my own internal artistic pursuits, making an unsellable short game where you spend most of your time in complete darkness. We're making a commercial game and I'm getting paid to do it.

I'm getting paid to do it.

There had been a great uncoupling. I'm not afraid of running out of money anymore, lucky me! I don't worry about -- will this game make money? Should I mention my Patreon here to this person? (I almost never did -- gosh I hated talking about the Patreon! The nerve of me, even starting one.) I wanted to make and release my own games not for money anymore, but just... just... just...

... well, for what? I suppose to inspire my friends.

I received several very nice reviews from familiar people on awake.

SirMilkman, perhaps more of an artistic acquaintance than a close friend, was inspired to make starchild.

It spurred conversation between the letterclubbers in public as well as in private, though I think the only value of the publicity is that I can link it to you, as I have here, dear reader.

This was the moment I felt whole without you. I don't know what I thought I was doing, starting a Patreon. I feel a deep appreciation and at the same time I feel as though my appreciation is insufficient, could never be sufficient enough. You probably didn't need to read this self-exploration of my psyche, but it's also kinda my thing, so... you get what you pay for ;)


I never thanked you publicly. I never said "Thanks to my patrons" let alone listed your names.

I'm broadcasting less these days, and besides, I've already shut down the patreon page and I don't know how to dig up all the names in there now. The admin page is all blocked off from me.

Dear patron,

I never knew what I wanted from you; I felt like I was never getting what I truly needed; and finally once I had what I needed from another source I thought, awfully, did you even help me get here? I never understood our relationship but I still knew that you had done something I ought to appreciate, something that meant something to you and which perhaps I expected should have meant something to me.

It was just money, and the insanity of the success of Starseed Pilgrim gave me such a privilege that I did not learn to appreciate money in a way I guess I ought to have. Or maybe I unlearned it. Even now, money is such an abstract concept, just a number. Maybe it's the same for everyone. Maybe it's not because of Starseed Pilgrim at all, and I'm just wired this way, to appreciate momentary experience over the dullest of details. Maybe I chose to be this way.

Dear patron.

I never knew what I wanted from you, and you gave freely anyway. I can give you nothing, and I can accept no more from you. Whether you were with me until the end or not,

thank you for being you, for giving to me when it made no sense.

thank you for continuing to be yourself.

thank you.