I not only tackle my game with the enthusiasm of a 6 year old, I sometimes act with the strategic insight of a 6 year old as well. This, of course, has led to me making all the mistakes on my game dev journey - ALL OF THEM!
Becoming a guru on mistakes has given me the necessary experience to write an article warning other game devs about perhaps THE MOST SERIOUS MISTAKE you can make along your journey. See if you can relate to this story:
Not long after I fully committed to making game dev my career, I started to spend a LOT of time on it for three reasons:
1) To be successful you gotta work hard. There are no shortcuts.
2) I was doing something I completely loved.
3) Many of my hopes and dreams banked on the success of this project.
Because of these three reasons, I can spend close to all my waking hours on game dev without a second thought. From 2014 to 2015, this is exactly what I did.
My daily routine during this time was extremely Spartan (not in the shirtless with abs kind of way, but in the highly disciplined and vigorous way). I would wake up early, cycle to my part-time job, finish at around 3 and cycle home, then work on my game from 4 until whenever I would fall asleep. I was not completely unbalanced - I still made time for exercise, and I would occasionally go for brunches and hang out with friends - but for the most part, game dev was my life, and I was okay with this.
I was okay with this lifestyle because - like with farming - game dev has a harvest season. To expand on the farming comparison, farmers don’t lead fully ‘balanced’ lives in the traditional sense. There are seasons where they live a leisurely life and have plenty of time on their hands. Then comes harvest season, when they are up early, work hard all day, go to bed late, and then repeat until the harvest is completed. They have to live this crazy, unbalanced life for a short time because they know that if they give it their all over harvest time, they can live the rest of their year with ease. In contrast, if they slack off during harvest season, then the rest of their year will be a hard one. Similarly, there are times in game dev when you’ve got to give it your all and you cannot take breaks. Sometimes, there are deadlines to be met, targets to be hit, and you have to work hard to hit them, with no excuses. For ages, I had the ‘this is harvest season’ mentality.
The thing is, what I have learned is that game dev takes 5 times as long as you think it will. Personally, I thought that this game was going to be released over a year ago...that obviously hasn’t happened. There have been a million things to do, each one taking a lot longer than I possibly imagined it could...SO if your game takes a lot longer than you think it will, how long can you maintain the ‘this is harvest season’ mentality before you begin to question it?
I kept up this hyper-focused mentality for over a year. Although I enjoyed working on my passion, and my drive never wavered, there came a point in mid 2015 when I reflected upon the past year. Not only had I not released my game, I had also not lived the kind of life that I wanted to. I had been so focused on a future goal, that I had forgotten that life was happening in the meantime.
When you focus on the future so much that the present only becomes a means to an end - that is when you have to begin to question your priorities. Life is amazing and it happens everyday, so if you focus too heavily on the future, you end up losing this perspective. It was only after realizing how much many experiences I had deliberately missed, how many relationships I hadn’t properly developed, and how much fun I hadn’t had that I realized that game dev couldn’t be my life. Game dev could be (and is) a fantastic PART of my life, but it is not my life. Personally, this revelation has put me in a healthier headspace - working on my game has never been as fun as it is now.
So all in all, I would advise people to work hard, focus intently, BUT also make sure that your project isn’t the only thing giving your life value. Whether your project is a success or not, either way, life will happen in the meantime - it’s best to make sure that you are living a worthwhile one regardless.
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