It’s always admirable seeing the underdog stick it to the man, especially in a generation that’s so homogenized with the same games being remade and remastered every year. The video game industry needs more creativity and the indie scene is really the only consistent source of that creativity. But what happens when the underdog gets so sucked into their own narrative that they can’t distinguish between making a point and making a scene? You get Bob’s Game.
Bob’s Game is Robert Pelloni’s self titled “forerunner and founder” of the indie games movement. Originally brought to light in 2008, Bob’s Game was quickly forgotten after constant delays and a viral campaign that went nowhere.
What started as an empathetic plight about one developer trying to get a software development kit from Nintendo ended up being said developer’s public meltdown due to constant rejection.
It’s not as if Pelloni is trying to create the most compelling video game, either. Bob’s Game is a “hybrid between Zelda, Pokemon, Harvest Moon, and Earthbound, with massively multiplayer elements” according to its Kickstarter, but every single trailer and demo simply focuses on a Dr. Mario style puzzle game with little to no depth.
It’s one thing to be inspired by the greats, it’s another to openly say you’re making a hybrid and then blatantly steal from an incredibly recognizable game without adding anything substantial to it.
Circumstances surrounding Bob’s Game wouldn’t be nearly as frustrating if it weren’t for Pelloni’s attitude, however. Pelloni describes the light puzzle knockoff as “far more than just a game. It is a living work of art, a decade-long art project that spans websites, consoles, videos, music, books, alternate realities, and real-life events. It is a product of the heart. It is a lifelong aspiration and a true tour de force masterpiece. (The work an apprentice makes to become a master.)”
There's definitely a sense of humor here, but the egotism is far too prominent. Taking into account Pelloni’s releasing of several Nintendo of America’s executive’s addresses on New Year's Eve, 2008 and a January 6 statement where he claimed he was “better” than Shigeru Miyamoto and Hideo Kojima, the flavor text suddenly loses what little charm it had.
The most offensive aspect of Bob’s Game, though, is Pelloni’s borderline laundering from his Kickstarter.
On January 20, 2016, Pelloni released a progress update for Bob’s Game where he claimed he had “[hoped] it would make enough for at least a year or two of development. Unfortunately it barely made the minimum amount.” Pelloni followed up by stating he “chose to get an apartment instead of trying to live in a van” and “Once I ran out, I ended up living in my car again for another 6 months until I could find another way to support myself.” Pellonig later stated he enrolled in online classes to take out student loans.
With a Kickstarter that garnered $10,409 and an estimated release of 2015, Pelloni’s transparency stands as a reminder that there really is no guarantee of completion when it comes to crowdfunding.
The ethical thing to do would have been refunding everyone’s money, but it’s clear that Pelloni has no money to refund and that Bob’s Game is no closer to being released in 2016 than 2008. This isn’t to say that Kickstarted projects shouldn’t be trusted, there are so many great indie games that were made possible solely because of Kickstarter, but doing some background research on the developer’s history seems like a necessity thanks to projects like Bob’s Game.