The unglamourous life of a part-time indie
So Dave, what’s happening with you?
Well, I still work at the same place I’ve been working for the past 12 years but only 4 days a week.
Oh?! What are you doing on Fridays then? Vacations?
Nah actually I’m working on my game projects on Fridays. And in the evening all other days and on the weekends as well.
Nice. How is business going on?
Well … I’m currently working on that really cool game …
Making any money?
Well last year I made just a bit over $1,000 on this game …
Hmm. So you are giving up about $12,000 per year to make $1,000 instead?
Well yeah but that’s not how I expect things to always go …
That’s cool. Hey, did you heard about that stupid thing on the news today?
They don’t know what I am doing
Nobody I know is playing games. Even worst, nobody I know owns his own business. To them I have a $12,000 per year hobby. This is just the thing I talk about each time we meet and that seems to never get anywhere farther.
To them trying to make money with games should be as simple as making a game, selling it and making money. They don’t understand that maybe I just don’t get the right idea at the right time. They don’t understand that maybe I screw many things in the process. They have no idea what it is to try to carve your way in this business.
When are you going to Europe?
In theory I have a very well paid job. That is if you forget about the part where I’m giving up 20% of my salary. People around me are doing things I just can’t afford right now and they don’t get why I’m giving up all that money away. They don’t understand why I’d want to waste time and money working on games. This is not a job to them. That’s a hobby …
And the sad truth is that so far they are kinda right. I have a very expensive hobby that doesn’t seem to become anything else. I still believe it can be more but I must say that by hearing these people day after day I’m starting to think like them a bit. Like nothing I’ll ever do will ever be more than a hobby. Something I do just because I like it … even if I’m working really hard for it to become much more.
Why isn’t it working?
I wish I could exactly pinpoint the reason and tell them. I know part of it but even this part is hard to explain. How do you explain to someone who know nothing about games that “I just wasn’t able to let people know about my game”. This seems stupid but if it’d be easy to create a game and let a mass of people know about it we’d all be doing it.
Sometimes you create something that just isn’t fun. How do you explain that to people? They’ll tell you “well just do something fun next time!” … Right … I didn’t know that. How do you tell people “I just suck at telling people about what I create”. They’ll tell you “well if you are really passionate about what you do it shouldn’t be a problem!” … That’s really helpful …
People don’t get why you fail because most people just do 9 to 5 jobs and receive a paycheck and they succeed. That’s simple like that. Me? I have to be good at like 10 different jobs to get the same satisfaction. It’d be so much easier if I had that great amazing idea … They also don’t get that. Why don’t I have that amazing idea?! Why waste my time on some ordinary idea!!!
Creating stuff is not an exact science
I keep seeing great amazing indie games and I keep telling myself “why didn’t I thought about this before” … Well, again, if this was this simple … Well you get the idea. Sometimes our ideas are not so great. Sometimes when we have great ideas we’re just not able to pitch them correctly.
I know that when you check all the great indie success around that I sound like someone who just doesn’t get it. I can assure you however that for every great indie success there 10 sad stories we never hear about. Thinking otherwise would mean that every single person releasing an indie game is successful … Wanna bet on that?
Maybe you’re not fit for the job
When you have an employer it’s easy. If you can’t get the job done you lose your job and look elsewhere. When you try to create your own job … Well it comes down to “when will you give up?”. Will you give up because you really suck at it or will you give up just before you finally “get it”.
If it was as simple as knowing as “you have to release 10 games before getting your first success” then it’d be easy. Just hold your breath and you’ll get there. But what if it’s 12, 14 games … You start doubting it will ever happen and nobody can help you with this.
Some people meet great success on their first game and it really make you feel like shit on some days. You feel like you’re just a failure that just isn’t fit “for the job”. Maybe you should let the big boys play together instead. On some days you feel like you have everything right and the sky’s the limit. The trick is to balance these 2 feelings and it’s not always easy.
If you like what you are doing you’ll keep doing it
Yeah … That’s so easy to say … I can’t help it but sometimes I think about all the evenings and weekends I spent working on my games. Time I could have done something else I enjoy just as much. Time I could have spent with people instead with just myself. When things don’t go the way you’d like you end up thinking that maybe you were just fooling yourself all that time. Maybe it just wasn’t meant to happen.
Why not just take it easy? That’d be the easy way to handle things. Just do things until something happens without expecting anything … I wish I could do this. Surely others can but that’s not me. I do this thing passionately or I just don’t. It has its price and the tricky thing is that I’m not entirely sure I can handle it. I’m still doing it anyway … I wish I didn’t feel so involved … We all make our own choices and so far that’s the only choice I allow myself to make. For better or worse.
So what then?
I have a game to release. A damn good game. That’s all I can say right now …