In my case, the answer was to get a job.
You see, for the past 12 years I’ve been self-employed, and for the last 6 of those years I was making my living with games (and game development tools and tutorials). Which meant I was a full time indie game dev.
But like most full-time indie game devs, I was almost always on the edge of broke. One day recently I decided enough was enough and applied for a real job. Two interviews later and I was hired — in less than two weeks I start my new career as a Systems Analyst for a local municipality.
I’ll be doing some programming, but that’s about the only thing the job will have in common with game dev.
I’m A Loser
When it started looking like I was going to get the job (they don’t start calling your references unless you’re on the short list!) I went through a lot of emotions — chief among them was feeling like a loser for not being able to “make it” as an indie game developer. Giving up my dream and selling my soul to The Man.
…I started thinking about the possibilities this opens up. While I won’t have every waking hour available for game dev, this is a (local) government job which means it’s 40 hours a week and that’s it. It’s a freaking unicorn! I’ve only ever worked for startups where 60-80 hours a week was considered normal.
I’ll have 2-3 hours every evening for game dev plus every weekend (and another couple hours a day if I decide to ride the bus rather than drive). And, I won’t be stressing about selling enough stuff to be able to pay the upcoming rent, credit card bill, etc. I can enjoy game development for what it is, without worrying whether the next game will sell or not. Of course, I still want every game I develop to go through the roof, but now it won’t really matter if it doesn’t.
I’m Joining the Club
While most of the stories we hear about indie game developers are those who are “all in” and working non-stop to get their game shipped, I’m pretty sure the vast majority of game devs are part-timers. They have a “real” job during the day and then just work on their dream when they can.
The more I think about that, the more excited I am to be joining that worldwide club. I’ll give my new boss my all during the day, and then evenings and weekends dive into the fun of game dev — without the added stress of needing to make money off everything I do.
I’ve wanted to make more comprehensive games for quite a while, but I was never able to gamble taking the necessary time — I needed to do something short and sweet and get it out there to try and make another few dollars. But now I’ll have time. Time to actually pick one of the “big” projects I’ve been thinking of and get started on it.
Any More Tutorials?
I love teaching, so I won’t stop making tutorials, but I’ll probably stick to smaller scale subjects rather than trying to make big, comprehensive courses. And they’ll come out whenever I get around to making them instead of (once again) cranking one out to get more income.
The Moral of the Story
I guess I’d say it’s, “Look for the silver lining.” While my first reaction was to only see the negatives of my situation, I’ve started to look at it as one of the biggest positives to have happened to me in more than a decade.
I know there are a lot of part-time indie game developers who dream of one day going full-time, but I’m here to tell you, the grass is NOT any greener over there. If you don’t have a good financial nest egg to count on, stay where you are. Pay the bills, work on your games when you can, and when you hit the “game dev lottery” and one of your games goes stratospheric, that’s the time to think about walking away from the job.
Until then, let’s make some games!
Hey Jay, I also have felt the same way. At first I tried to make a living out of making apps, but then I got frustrated when I didn’t see the money, then I stopped coding and making apps. But a few months ago, I realized I really needed to code for the pure joy of doing it so I have also made the mindset shift and now I code when I can and I started to enjoy it again. I also have a day job, but not having the pressure of making money with the apps was a huge relief to me. Now I only code because I love it.