How do we define a game as successful, and what does that say about us and the games we create?

The big publishers clearly regard return on investment as being a significant factor, and that's not an unreasonable attitude for companies who are committed to producing AAA games with budgets in the millions - they stand to lose a lot if the game is not commercially successful, so any measure of success must include whether the game allows the studio to continue making games in the future. Like a film studio, too many flops can kill a publisher.

But what of hobbyist games, or independent games that are released either freely or at a bare minimum? Certainly with CivClicker I had no sense of monetary reward as a yardstick of success. I was just happy that people who weren't me or my friends were playing and enjoying the game.

CivClicker's had over a million unique play sessions at this point, averaging over three hours each. By the criterion of "people who aren't just me and my friends playing", it's a successful game. By the standards of most commercial and even many indie game developers, it was a complete waste of time - it's made approximately enough money for me in tips to buy me a couple of pizzas and it has only vaguely approached the viral heights of the most popular in the genre.

Artistically it's of debatable merit, too. It's really just a complex Skinner box built out of hacky code, it doesn't tell much of a story, and the mechanics aren't even particularly well balanced. If it's art at all, it's a statement about how stripping a concept down to its bare bones can often still leave a satisfying experience. Is it artistically successful? Even I couldn't tell you that.

In the end I'm going to stick with my initial measure: did people have fun playing? My email inbox says yes. Good enough for me.