The Self-Made Man: Cactus Söderström
If you’re a PC gamer, you’ve probably played—or at least heard about—Hotline Miami, a top-down, 8-bit game in which you play a lone weirdo who takes on the entire Russian mob with a variety of weapons and crazy animal masks. It’s an incredibly fun, if violent, game with a great soundtrack, and the slick gameplay challenges the player on multiple levels (including moral ones).
The designer behind that game, Jonatan “Cactus” Söderström, probably wouldn’t call himself an entrepreneur under most circumstances, but he is one, in an unassuming way. If nothing else, his dedication to his craft has earned him a spot as TSB’s Self Made Man for this week.
Söderström, along with Dennis Wedin, runs Dennaton Games, and has produced over 40 games himself, most of which were short, freeware things he made quickly, as a hobby. Unlike a lot of people in the industry, Söderström didn’t approach making games with tenacious careerism; rather, he liked the social aspect of communicating with other nerds in online forums and getting their feedback on his work.
Which isn’t to say that he isn’t driven; despite wanting to quit making games more than once, Söderström kept at it, and now Hotline Miami’s success has convinced him to keep going.
Really, we’ve caught Söderström early in his development as an entrepreneur, during that freewheeling part where people trip and fall into something lucrative that a real career can be built upon. Söderström has admitted that he was broke during some of Hotline Miami’s development, but the game has done well enough (despite piracy and his response to it, namely distributing the game on popular torrent sites for free) that he’s out of the hole and working on the sequel, and now he not only has a company, but relationships with distributors as well.
It’s the equivalent of starting a record label in your bedroom to put out your own band’s albums, and then suddenly other bands want to join you.
Since his job is largely a creative one, Söderström obviously has some ideas about how to keep oneself inspired. “I think the most important aspect of being creative is to seek out new experiences,” he told Marie The Bee back in April. “I love the idea of experiencing something I can’t understand, it gives me a sense of magic.”
As for advice to other aspiring game designers, he only has this to say: “Make whatever you want to make, try to be realistic about what you’re doing and your chances of succeeding. Don’t make games to make money, make them for yourself.” Seems to be working out well enough for him thus far.
I’ll leave you with this clip of design3.com interviewing Jonatan Söderström about Hotline Miami last year.
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About Dave Kiefaber Dave Kiefaber is a Baltimore-based writer who regularly contributes to Adfreak and the Gettysburg Times. His personal website is at www.beeohdee.blogspot.com.