In 2015, Andrew Yoon went to a state park to take a swim, and he never left. Ruled an accidental drowning, Yoon's death has spiraled into a longform legal and financial dispute over the rights and legacy to Yoon's card game Divorce! The Game between his mother, Elizabeth Pae, and his friend and codeveloper David Beck. Rollin Bishop has done an immense job in reporting and setting out the stakes of this story in a longform piece for The Outline.
What's clear from Bishop's piece is that this isn't merely about a dispute between a mourning mother and a friend who wants the best for the game project. It is also, in part, about what happens to the legacy of a game. We live in a time when flexibility is valorized and encouraged to the max in the world of games. If the corporate world won't support your vision, no matter how senior and respected you are, then you can take to Kickstarter. Do you have a rag-tag group of individuals who want to make a game in your free time so that you can deliver on the gaming fantasies of the world? Hop to it.
The rise of the hobby indie dev with accessible tools like Twine, Unity, Unreal, Construct, and whole host of others is undeniably a good thing in that it allows more people to express themselves with games. Better yet, it allows them to do it more and more quickly with the wider access of community documents and tutorials that can get them up and running as fast as possible.
The infinite possibility of the flexible game dev who can finally make the game of their dreams and the tools to make that actually happen is liberating. It also comes with informal agreements, collaborations and friendships, and freely-given help that turns into consultation. The boundaries are not often clear, and that is generally better for everyone involved. Who wants to fill out paperwork when it's easier to talk about game design over a few beers every now and again?
Bishop's reporting on the strange occurrences in the wake of Yoon's death functions as a cautionary tale. It's the other side of the coin for the networked and friendly world of contemporary independent game development. It's very good, and very much worth reading.