Life’s greatest experiences happen on your own. A serene walk up a grassy hill. A cool drink at the end of a long day. And of course the vile thing you think decency prevents me from specifying. But speaking of cum blasts, for our latest installment of Zero Punctuation’s casual guide to whoops, we’re not just saying moments in gaming history, we’re turning to the world of single-player developed indie games. It’s a world of contrasts: for every Undertale or Stardew Valley, there’s a Yandere simulator behind them breathing loudly through their mouths. But at least you can be assured of a purity of vision, suspicious and moronic and slightly humiliating to raise in mixed company, though that may be, and they provide unparalleled insight into an author’s mind and perceptions. . Of course, for this to work, there has to be a video game to convey that message, and that was the sticking point for today’s topic: a game from someone named Bob called Bob’s Game. There is this purity of artistic vision that I was talking about.
In August 2008, the President of Mauritania was overthrown in a military coup, eleven mountaineers died in the K2 disaster, and then something truly tragic happened. A guy called Robert Pelloni released a trailer for the 16-bit style pixel art RPG he claimed to have been working on for five years and had just finished. And the response around the world was a resounding “OK”. Literally titled Bob’s Game and looking as good as you’d expect from a game whose lead artist at the start of the project pretty much knew how to draw the curtains, the response was generally positive and the trailer scored 100,000 views. Which these days is worth about half a McDonalds sandwich, but was a minor phenomenon in 2008 Youtube dollars. It had its charms and viewers expressed interest in playing it, even though it wasn’t quite clear what it was even about or why the creator was so big about it being a solo project when the Cave Story created solo which essentially codified the modern concept of indie games on PC had eaten this particular lunch years ago.
But in the mind of its creator, Bob’s Game was more than a pixelated distraction that any half-competent RPG Maker user could have farted in a month – Bob’s Game was a vision. A platform that only one platform could do justice to, and that was a Nintendo handheld. So he avoided smaller publishers who showed interest and asked for an official Nintendo DS development kit. Now Nintendo is a big company with a lot to do between making Mario pencil cases and removing Princess Peach panty shots from Smash Bros so they did with Pelloni’s app what they presumably do with all matching nameless wide-eyed random pussies: pushed it to the end of the priority list between clipping Donkey Kong’s eyelashes and designing a controller that doesn’t suck. And that’s where the story of Bob’s Game takes its turn, we don’t say that anymore. One could charitably say that Robert Pelloni was one of those people who had little time for the world outside of their own minds. I could say with less charity that he had his head so buried in his ass that he made his own gallbladder drink tea. And he didn’t seem to understand that the meaning of the game in his own life didn’t translate to meaning for someone else.
As the wait for Nintendo’s response stretched on for months, Bob decided it was a deliberate plot or snub rather than, say, Nintendo literally had nothing better. to do, and so he declared that until they recognized the game he had sequestered for five years to do, he would publicly protest by sequestering others. Now with a webcam on him and with the doors locked for a hundred days. It was successful in that it made him famous within this sector of the internet that likes to encourage weirdos, especially as he published a series of increasingly deranged blog posts se declaring the greatest game designer who ever lived and blaming Nintendo, a multi-billion dollar corporation and controller. of many of the most notorious IPs in the game, to be jealous of him penniless suburban asshole. Exactly what to read into all of this is debatable because after the thirtieth day of his protest when he appeared to be lying motionless in a ransacked bedroom, he claimed to both the internet and the kind helpful policeman who kicked down his door that he was pretending. The protest and the mindless blog posts had been a viral marketing campaign that we had all fallen in love with like the gullible, normal people that we were.
To which the Internet responded with a resounding “Okay”. Soon after, Nintendo looked up from their money sandwich to say their standard letter saying no, you can’t have a dev kit, obviously, because you’re clearly not a professional studio, you are a madman with a broken desk. But then, just when we were ready to release the sarcastic breath we all did when the protest started, Bob released a playable demo of Bob’s Game. It was only playable on a DS/GBA emulator because Bob was absolutely determined not to give it a fucking rest with that shit, but it was playable. And that was… a little lame. It was a retro RPG about a suburban bitch apparently written by someone dealing with a few things from her childhood, interrupted by overly long Tetris and Pong mini-games. Some saw it as charming. I mean from the way Bob did it we expected something that gave out printable blowjob coupons or at least didn’t look like half the art credit should go to the MS straight line tool Paint. But interest in the full version has been partially renewed. Too bad then that was the last anyone saw or heard of Bob’s Game the RPG until two years later when Bob announced that Bob’s Game would be the launch and as far as anyone knows ONLY the title of a new handheld computer he had invented.
Nothing came of it, apparently making his own line of hardware wasn’t the sane solution he had seemed when he slammed barbiturates the opposite day. So two years later, he discovered Kickstarter, the eternal promised land of the over-hyped vaporware hawking maniac, and successfully campaigned for $10,000 to build a custom van from which he could times complete the game and solve the mystery of the haunted amusement park. The kickstarter page is still live, and you can go there to read Bob describing his game as, in quotes, “a tour de force masterpiece…written by a self-taught genius prophet” and “a new religion for the modern world,” just in case you were worried, the whole van idea seemed uncharacteristically sensible. Either way, the kickstarter was successful, after which Bob shyly announced that he was wrapping it all up and giving the money back before his game accidentally caused the kidnapping or whatever. To which the internet responded with a “Sorry, who’s Bob again?”
THE LESSONS NOBODY HAS LEARNED
There are countless stories of over-promising developers who failed to deliver. What made Bob’s saga so fascinating was that he could have delivered. He had talent and drive and a mostly finished product that clearly resonated with people. But fatally, he also had an ego like an airship crashing in a wedding photo shoot. If you go to his site now, all you’ll find is a weird rambling about believing in Jesus, so you could say the main lesson of that is not to be a Cadbury’s Fruit and Nutcase, but there’s another important moral: never put too much of yourself into one creation. A crappy published game is worth more than an endless number of unfinished career-defining masterpieces. And if you want to be a creative but refuse to work within established systems for fear of jeopardizing your perfect artistic vision, then there’s only one thing to say to you: yes, I’d like fries with that.