Jónas Antonsson is CEO of Raw Fury, a Swedish games publisher specialising in the curation of indie games. He co-founded the company along with ex-Battlefield producer Gordon Van Dyke.
The interview took place the week prior to the Games Developers Conference 2018. When asked, his experience of the conference was “on the one hand, incredibly exciting to meet all these new developers and creators and it gives you a lot of energy, but after 5 or so days of it it does feel like you’ve aged a couple of years.” He noted particularly that he was due to have 60 meetings across 5 days; however, he relished the opportunity to catch up with old friends.
We spoke to him about his history with gaming, and his early interests in programming. He mentioned being gifted a Sinclair Spectrum when he was around six or seven, claiming that “I just immediately fell in love, even as a kid I was a bit gadget crazy”. He continues to reminisce about how growing up he was able to go to a bookstore and “buy a 300 page book of pure code, and type it all out and run whatever was written up”. He even goes so far as to say “playing games and computers taught me more than in my first 10 or so years of school; problem solving, English, mechanisms all came from dicking around with a computer.”
Playing games and computers taught me more than in my first 10 or so years of school
It was clear that getting into the gaming industry was never going to be a direct path for Jónas as he described the lack of resources in his early years of education, noting that “teachers trying to teach were so vastly outsmarted by the kids”. The generation gap became clear when speaking with him; it was obvious that his early experience with computers was vastly different to the experience of young people now. For him “it was easy to see that the skills he had developed were pretty powerful”; however, he noted that it initially appeared to offer more practical opportunities in networking and data analysis. Applying his skill-set to gaming became obvious, but had to be discovered outside of education. Perhaps one of the luxuries of our generation is that computing is already an integral part of our education, the sector is revered and sought-after, rather than under-developed.
When asked what advice he would give younger people who are figuring out whether the games industry is right for them or not he had this to say: “When I was younger you could get away with knowing only the basics of computing, core programming, and how it works. If you’re going to work in games, nowadays, I’d say you need to study a bit of psychology, a bit of philosophy and politics for sure. Just being a good programmer isn’t gonna cut it in 10 years, 20 years time.”
It is obvious that Jónas is very self aware about the changes and the shifts of the industry. This can be seen via the sheer amount of games under the RawFury umbrella that are multi-platform with the latest releases, such as Dandara being released on the Switch.
Just being a good programmer isn’t gonna cut it in 10 years, 20 years time.
Conversation then moved on to what the future of gaming should be, and the responsibility that game developers carry to be true to their community. Jonas cuts it all down to a pure experience saying: “To me, an experience is something that attacks you intrinsically, it provokes an emotional and psychological response from you alone, that may not be experienced by another person playing the same game”, using the example of books as being “a sort of telepathic relay between author and readership”. He acknowledges that anyone who has that ability to create a story or a thought that can promote a unique and emotional, human response should be cherished in the community. Jónas clearly has a lot of experience in this area, and you can tell that he is well read in philosophy and human psychology to embellish his skills as a games developer. He notes that “the games industry has a duty to remember that at the end of the day we’re making experiences for people, you can’t really commoditise that”. Most would agree that you can tell when you’re just creating something for the cheque – it’s quite easy to see when someone’s heart isn’t in it.
At the end of the day we’re making experiences for people
Towards the end of the interview, the conversation turned to bizarre business practices. We shared a unique confusion over the use of LinkedIn as a social media. Jónas’s bio is certainly a must-read for those with disdain for formalities and a tongue-in-cheek outlook on social media. From our conversation with the main man behind RawFury, we would imagine creating a game under their guidance would be a dream come true. There is hope for all us of out there: start small, start local and make sure your heart is in everything you do.
The next game to be published under RawFury’s umbrella will be The Last Night from Odd Tales Ltd. It’s hitting Xbox Ones and PCs on December 31st, 2018. Another unique and brilliant indie game to add to the roster for the publishing company, I’m sure.