📝 Indiepocalypse Presents: インディー通信 Indie Tsushin

2023 May 03

I originally posted this on cohost.

When Andrew and I first talked about doing the Indiepocalypse Presents: インディー通信 Indie Tsushin issue, he told me that when it broke even, he wanted to hand over the files so that Daikon and I could maintain it as our own thing. And that day has finally come! The issue has broken even! It's incredible, and I am truly humbled by the support and kindness that people have shown. To commemorate the occasion, I've added a mirror of the issue to the Nice Gear Games account and added ten community copies! The original page is still there so that it can continue to be in sales and bundles and such. But yeah, wow!

Indiepocalypse Presents: インディー通信 Indie Tsushin

And now for a long and sentimental look back at making this issue.

Sometime in 2021 November, I tweeted about how I wish someone would make a zine about Japanese indie games. I had just read this article in Rock Paper Shotgun by Oisin Kuhnke about this amazing thing called Indiepocalypse. I'd seen the name before, but had misunderstood what it was. (I thought it was a game jam with a $20 prize.) When I learned what Indiepocalypse was actually all about, I instantly fell in love.

At the time, I didn't really know much about indie games, and even now I hesitate to say that I know anything about "the scene," as it were. Daikon had started making Unity games sometime in 2020 (yes, as a pandemic hobby) but that was more his thing than mine. I only really started getting involved when he'd submit stuff to Unity1Week and then we'd play all the other entries to give ratings and feedback. Playing them tapped into the part of my brain that used to love looking up Flash games on the old web and downloading doujin stuff made in like Hot Soup Processor (which still exists, can you believe it!!).

I started making these long Twitter threads about all the games we played, with short English descriptions and instructions on how to get started. After a few jams, we started streaming them on our YouTube channel. I had some audio equipment from my days of teaching English and having to record stuff for students. Our streams didn't (and still don't) pull in many viewers, but it was just so joyous to play games, see and feel all the love that went into them, and then get to message the creators directly to tell them what we thought about their games. Soon, we started wanting to play and stream stuff even outside of jams, and thus Happy Hour was born.

And so that's where I was in 2021 November: a complete nobody who didn't even make games, just babbled about them in a mix of broken Japanese and deteriorating English to a non-existent audience. So you could imagine my shock when, after tweeting about how I wish someone would make something like Indiepocalypse but for Japanese indies, Andrew messaged me out of the blue to say, "Hey, that someone should be you."

He pitched to me the idea of Indiepocalypse Presents, a new initiative where he would commission Daikon and me to make a special issue of the zine, over which we'd have total creative control. I was excited, but also terrified: none of these developers had any reason to know who I am, let alone agree to be part of this. But I swallowed my fears and agreed to do it. I'm really glad I did.

Over the next couple months, Daikon and I reached out to ten developers we met through doing Unity1Week jams. We also commissioned the gorgeous cover from Michi. They were even kind enough to send us the physical copy, which we of course hung up in our apartment:

Cover of Indiepocalypse Presents: Indie Tsushin in a picture frame and hanging on a wall

All ten developers replied saying they'd love to do it. And here the real work began. See, Indiepocalypse issues usually have the developers send in their game and an A4 poster/page about their game, which goes into the zine. We sent out surveys to all the devs asking if they'd be willing to make their own page, or if they'd rather we handle it for them. Only one dev (yumehiko) sent us back a page; the rest of them said they'd prefer we did it for them. So now Daikon and I, completely lacking in all design sense, had to figure out how to capture the spirit of these nine different games while explaining all the instructions in English for these Japanese-only games. NO SWEAT

This ended up laying the groundwork for the current Indie Tsushin. We wrote up short descriptions of the games, then asked the devs short interview questions to spice up the pages which I then had to translate. (I had to teach myself on the fly how to translate because boy oh boy did I not know how to do it. I still don't, really. I am a total fraud.) We took tons of screenshots of the games, then laid out the pages in PowerPoint because I didn't know what else to use at the time. I don't think of myself as an expert now by any means, but it's still hilarious thinking back to the kind of caveman way we were doing things for the Indiepocalypse issue.

But man. This was SO MUCH FUN. I cannot express to you how wonderful it was to work on this project. (I think I wrote a post here about how 2022 was one of the worst years of my adult life, with the one good thing being the Indiepocalypse issue.) Daikon and I just loved those dev interviews, their honest and surprising and funny answers about their games. It really brought home that games are made by these real human beings who tell jokes and cry at movies and love these little computer programs that they upload to the Internet. It was like peeking behind the curtain of a play or something, like I had seen something so human and real that up to that point I had taken for granted.

We sent in the files to Andrew and slumped over with exhaustion. I didn't think anyone would be interested in it, or if they were, it would be entirely because of the name Indiepocalypse. I did my best to hype it up, but again, I am a total nobody, so I wasn't very optimistic.

The issue released in 2022 February. And weirdly... people seemed to like it?? People were talking about it, saying what a cool idea it was to have an issue about Japanese indies? People were reading that zine that Daikon and I were scrambling to put together in PowerPoint, reading my awful translations, and talking about these funny little games that, up to that point, had been like my own private little secret from the English-speaking Internet????

It was wild. It's been over a year and I still can't get over the response.

In the weeks and months that followed, I tried to keep the momentum going with some other projects. I couldn't afford to make a new bundlezine because I was (and still am) unemployed, and had zero social capital to do something like start a Patreon. So instead I made a blog, also named Indie Tsushin, that had a daily game recommendation in English and Japanese. That incarnation of the blog didn't last long because, uhhh, I am physically incapable of maintaining a schedule of any kind. Nobody remembers when the blog used to look like this, and for that I am very grateful.

The old version of Indie Tsushin with daily posts recommending games.

Over the summer, I was contacted by someone who wanted to build off of the Indiepocalypse Presents: Indie Tsushin issue to make another bundlezine, a true continuation instead of a blog spinoff. I won't go into what happened, and people who have been following me here know why. Let's just say that it didn't work out, and I ended up losing the foundations of the project that Daikon and I had built. Back to square one.

So Daikon and I returned to the blog idea. What if instead of a daily rec, we did something sustainable like... once a week or so. And we could have interviews with the developers, just like we had with the Indiepocalypse issue, but this time they could be as long as we wanted. And we could compile all the articles into a zine at the end of the month so that I can send it to the developers and be like, "Look! I made this thing about your thing." Just some real nerd shit, y'know!

And so the current iteration of Indie Tsushin came into being.

I still feel like a total fraud, by the way. My translation skills are crap, my writing is pedestrian, and I can't design to save my life. All of this started because I wanted someone else to make a zine so that I could passively read it. But I'm really glad with how everything sort of fell into place. It hasn't been easy for me these past few years. Being unemployed during a global pandemic has made me incredibly isolated and disconnected from people. I'm really glad that I found a way to channel my passion into something I enjoy, and using that as a way to connect with others who also love this nerd shit too.

I'm really grateful to Andrew for sparking me into action, to Daikon for being my partner in crime, and to all the devs in that initial Indiepocalypse issue and subsequent Indie Tsushin who took a chance on this here total nobody. And especially, thank every single one of you who has contributed to or supported Indie Tsushin, whether by paying for an issue or sharing articles with your friends or even just clicking the Read More for this gushy post. I will never be able to fully express how grateful I am to have had the opportunity to do all of this.

Thanks for reading to the end!! Now go grab a community copy!!!