The Importance of Talking About Failure in Game Development

Promotional art for Vlambeer’s Nuclear Throne

Game development is hard work, and it’s a hard business to succeed in. But when all you hear is the success stories, it can be especially devastating to contemplate failure. At Reboot Develop, developers Rami Ismail of Vlambeer (Nuclear Throne, Ridiculous Fishing) and Mike Bithell (Thomas Was Alone, Volume) spoke about the damage survivorship bias does in this industry. Fortunately for all of us, was there to report on the talk.

Given that stories of success dominate both conferences and the media it can create a skewed impression of the value of their advice, while other stories – which are more representative of the experiences of the majority of indie developers – can be difficult to find. “Find those stories,” Ismail said. “They are so important, and there’s so much you can learn from the people who go through that.”

Ismail referred to occasions where he’s offered truthful feedback to a developer about their game, the kind of truth that not everybody enjoys hearing. Every now and then that feedback prompts the person to leave the industry altogether, and those people are often “much happier” for having taken that step.

“That’s also a valid outcome of working in the games industry. It doesn’t have to end in ruin – in retirement or death,” he continued. “There are so many stories in this industry, so if you ever feel like you’re only hearing one of them, please search for the others.

“I can tell you, there are so many amazing stories out there that don’t end in success.”

Head to to benefit from more of Ismail and Bithell’s wisdom. They provide a more realistic view of the industry than we often get, and that can be incredibly valuable for those of us trying to navigate our own way through.

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