The maker’s dilemma

This is a personal post where I try to understand my sadness related to Mojang’s purchase by Microsoft. 

My friends tried long and hard to convince me to have a kid, especially after they had theirs. And the quintessential USP they used on me is: a kid will change your life. And you will have no control over that, you will change radically, deeply, and you will love it. That argument made me understand even better why I don’t want to have a kid, as I deeply dislike the idea of changing without being able to control it, and changing away from a life that gives me lots of meaning and happiness right now.

But today’s confirmation that Mojag is sold to Microsoft for a sum of 2.5 billions made me realize something I deem important: everything you do changes you, and there is no guarantee that you can control those changes. They can fundamentally redefine the person you are, and they can form you into a better person, or a worse one, or one that’s simply just… different. It doesn’t have to be a kid, it can be a game like Minecraft that changed a man like Notch.

While struggling to build my own small company out of love for independent game development*, I try to understand why the news of Mojang being bought by Microsoft upsets me so much. It’s not that I think I have a right to judge the decision of selling Mojang to Microsoft, or that I consider the move illegal or immoral or in any case anything that’s not according to the rules of the world we live in today. My problem is, instead, precisely with this world, where a handful of people can earn in one day more than what an entire country can earn in a year (compared against GNI, maybe I am wrong), and be highly celebrated for this, be the envy of everyone. Because this is the dream that’s sold now most of all, make more money than you can imagine, so you can live a life of luxury and consumption, or at least a life where you don’t have to do anything you don’t feel like doing.  Or actually, make 1000 times the amount that would provide you such a luxurious life. Make so much, that people get bored counting the numbers that compose the sum. That is a concept I do not understand.

And what I dream of, instead, is to live in a world where doing and providing value is more celebrated than the idea of being rich beyond anyone’s wildest imagination. Especially if you have enough/ lagom/ a life that is comfortable and stress free for you/ does not have a financial burden such as I don’t have what to eat, I cannot pay my rent and I cannot afford a holiday (for example). The meaning of such a life lies within the doing itself. And everything Notch said or did during all these years made me perceive him as someone like me, who believes in the value of doing more than in the value of earning and who, despite all the hardships that came with a success like Minecraft, would be willing to stand as an example of this very hippie philosophy, even if this means a personal sacrifice**.

It is not Notch’s fault that I saw him like that; that is just what I’d like the world to aspire to, and it is definitely not something I expect everyone to want. We are all different and we all have different ideals. “You know nothing, John Snow“, I tell myself, and I certainly have very much to learn in order to claim an educated opinion on this one. But…

I am building my own company. I do want to have a company, unlike Notch, and if it will be successful, it will be because I made a conscious, difficult, taxing effort to make it so. But I strive for a lagom success that I can define somewhat well mathematically, and in the hilarious context of actually loosing money right now while building this dream of mine, I contemplate myself in the situation of making more money than I intent to or comprehend. How would I react? Sometimes I think about it, but the truth is, I don’t know, and I hope I won’t find out.

I want to build a sustainable business where people can provide real, quantifiable value in a context where they are stress free when it comes to living related issues (nice holidays included). I want to build a company where any surplus is invested in projects we all believe in and agree on, like Kindles for schools in poor villages (just a thought I sometimes entertain; I can debate it if wanted :D). I want to build an example of lagom, where you get paid comfortably so that you can be creative, and not be creative so that you can get paid and be comfortable and maybe rich.

So my problem with Mojang and Microsoft is that one example that made me a little more confident in building this dream (like Mojang did) has become null. They capitulated to money, even if they spent years bashing the entire notion of endlessly rich people that control game development.  I cannot judge that, I don’t know how I would react if faced with a similar situation, but I am nonetheless sad. Everything you make changes you, and sometimes radically against the principles you once fought for. I hope this will not be my case.

* Game development as a reward itself, not as a mean to get incomprehensible rich. So one that does not strive to get the attention of an exceedingly rich buyer, for example. 

** Even though one could hardly say Mojang isn’t profitable enough even without Microsoft’s billions. That is to say, Notch could have stepped away even without selling to Microsoft, a company he publicly spoke against.