Where do I start?
Let’s see, it’s 4 AM and I can’t sleep for a lot many reasons, however what’s going to keep me up aren’t any of those reasons. The real reason is that I’ve convinced myself, that since I’m awake already, I best make use of this time by starting up my game engine and just hunkering down to code for the next 4 hours, despite that I actually have a fully booked day ahead of me.
Now for those of you who’ve been there, you kinda get where this is going.
The right thing to do, is work when it’s time to work and avoid burning yourself out on an almost daily basis. As much as I like to believe that I’m a fully formed adult and understand why that’s important, my logical mind doesn’t always dictate my actions.(Despite being a programmer and having logic be one of my besties).
So I did start up my game engine, I opened up Visual Studio and I started working on our game’s inventory system (Btw, today was supposed to be a quote unquote Break Day). Instead of enjoying making something come to life (The primary reason I got into game development), I resented the process because I am actually tired, coding is the last thing I want to do right now and I’m probably going to take twice as long on something simple. I know all that, so why do it?
Because until you “make it” (Everyone has a different version of what that is), you tend to think that no matter what you put in, it’s just not enough. Not enough effort and not enough time. Yet the truth is, there’s only 24 hours in a day and when you start thinking “There aren’t enough hours in the day”, the issue my friend, is with you and not with your warped concept of time.
That being said, let me introduce you to my two worst enemies and also my biggest teachers: Doubt and Regret
Going indie for the first time is a super risky business.
Chances are you’re always missing something fundamentally important like:
- A finished product
Doubt can be devastating in that regard, because you have plenty of evidence to support your negative thought process and the doubt ball keeps rolling, getting bigger and bigger and more overwhelming – on some days it hits you like a truck and can be quite paralyzing too.
I am forever thankful that I’m not in this alone, I often talk to Bradley Widner, my partner in crime and our talented Game Designer about whether or not we’re doing the “right thing”. Luckily he’s a more optimistic, grounded type of guy, so my paranoia and insecurities usually get some kind of glorious pep talk and disappear for a short while.
I can never understand where I developed this innate talent to be able to feed my doubt so expertly and somehow simultaneously totally lack the ability to appreciate my achievements at the same time. I’ve heard it be called the “Imposter Syndrome” recently by peer of mine, whom I find very successful. Let’s just say my super-shut eyes were pried open a tad when I learnt that I’m not the only one feeling doubt, inadequacy and anxiety about my successes as a game developer, it’s absolutely natural and better yet – at times, even good for you.
It’s EASY to be overwhelmed by the number of indie success stories, they’re so many out there, companies that were totally unheard of and then suddenly getting their “big break” out of seemingly nowhere. It’s easy to compare yourself, when you’re at the bottom of a million mile long staircase with someone, who to you, is at the top of the staircase, knocking on the door to success and opening the door to their dreams. What’s not so easy is understanding that while you’re climbing and tripping over yourself through your own blood, sweat and tears, “successful” indie developers probably did so too, at some point in their careers.
The bottom line is – No one get’s lucky in this business, so stop comparing yourself to people who’ve made it. Look up to them, learn from them, respect them, YES, because it is hard hard HARD work. It’s a constant struggle and the only thing you can do is pace yourself, constantly learn from your failures because they’re your best teachers and consistently and persistently work towards your number one goal – getting your game released.
Will doubt be there for a piggyback ride the whole way through? Yes.
Will it weigh a tonne on some days and just a few pounds on others? Yes.
Get used to it – because it’s a part of this business just as much as you are.
As Co-owner and Technical Director, building this business and keeping at it has been one of the most rewarding roles in my life. There is literally nothing more satisfying than creating your own success. On most days, my success is in the tiniest of little things but they still have the potential to make quite a big impact on our business.
- Growing our team with like-minded people
- The beginnings of some recognition on social media
- Slowly but surely, becoming more confident in who we are and what we do
However supporting this business, has been difficult. A lot of members on this team work full-time and part-time jobs in addition to their roles in this studio and some are in between work and actively looking. Doing game development all the time should be an easy plus in landing a game development job, right? Nope. As with any game development company, you’re going to run into a massive wall that is called a Non Compete Agreement.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with having a 9 to 5 game development job, in many aspects it’s a good measure of success because you’re working in a field you love, using your creativity, earning good money and gaining hands on experience in a fast changing entertainment industry. That’s swell! The problem is, you can rarely have “both” – a great game development gig and a full-time studio.
So money & experience vs your passion and self-made success.
What’s more important to you, at the end of the day is something only you can answer and something that your ego can often complicate beyond your wildest dreams.
Self-employed people think differently, their brains are wired in this unique way that most 9 to 5’ers can’t understand. They value themselves in a different light, because they’ve had to struggle and hustle. As positive as this can be, it can also be alarmingly and maliciously negative because when things start going wrong (and they will when you’re running your own business) you begin to think you’re sacrificing too much, that you’re somehow holding yourself back from all the money, experience, happiness and stability that everyone else seems to have and then you land into the deep deep ditch called regret.
The only advice I have for people experiencing this is: Breathe, think about what made you start in the first place, think about the feeling you had when you first signed your business license, think about how great it felt when you were designing company shirts and think about how awesome it will be when you complete what you started and understand the only way you’re going to reap your rewards is if you don’t give up.
I remember reading this article by Maxime at GingearStudio and thinking and totally agreeing with that feeling of ownership and motivation. You can work for a big ass game development project but the bigger it gets, the smaller and less important you and your contribution gets and the more you get bogged down in pointless business technicalities, which directly affect your motivation and reason for loving this industry.
Of course this doesn’t answer the obvious “Money Problems” debacle.
The only thing you can do is find alternatives, if that means a part-time job that doesn’t pay you what you think you deserve or even going back into a development career that you moved away from but are still very experienced in, at the end of the day: Money is money and no work experience, regardless of what your ego might tell you, is bad for you.
Yes you will be hunting for work/ working part-time / full time hours for money and then work long hours for your business, and yes you’ll be f**king exhausted most of the time but you’d be doing something countless other “overnight success” achievers have done for years of their lives before they reached their peak.
One thing I hear a lot from people is : “Know when to cut your losses”.
It’s not bad advice, especially in indie game development, because yes, there will be projects you abandon because it just doesn’t make sense to continue with something that isn’t going to be rewarding in anyway, no matter how much of your “baby” it is.
However, when someone says it to me, I often take it as something more negative than positive – Losses are not failures, they’re teachers. Sure, I will cut my losses when I have to and it’s appropriate, but just remember this – success takes TIME AND PATIENCE – don’t abandon your plans at the first sign of things looking “bleak” because chances are, you’re giving up way too early and in game development, that is by far the worst thing you can do.
The one and only, even possibly successful product in game development, is a finished game – so until you make every effort to get there and truly try your best on your project, honing your skills, every damn step of the way – you have absolutely zero reason to abandon ship!
. Amina Khalique | Technical Director .