Becoming a Game Developer

Steve Pavlina recently wrote about becoming a millionaire by thinking like one. One of the things he mentions is the identity shift needed, which ties into the topic of his recent podcast on faster goal achievement.

When I first heard the podcast, I realized that I am not going to finish making games so long as I continue on the poor results I’ve been posting. I need to change how I act. I need to act more like an actual game developer and less like someone who is hoping to make games in the spare time I can squeeze. I need to be a game developer if I am going to do game development.

In the Thousander Club, I have managed to pull together over 250 hours of spare-time game development. If I was actually acting like a game developer in the past year, though, I imagine that I would have put up stronger results. I shouldn’t be satisfied with only 25% of my goal for the year, and practically speaking, I shouldn’t be satisfied with not having an actual, complete, professional-quality game in all that time. And if I am honest with myself, I know that I am not satisfied.

Maybe a year or two ago, 250 hours working on an ambitious-yet-unfinished component-based game engine, a poorly designed-and-unfinished puzzle game, and a mostly-finished Pong clone would have been fine, but I can’t be satisfied with similar results at the end of this year. It’s not like I don’t appreciate the real-life experience that the past year has given me. I just want to be serious about being a game developer, and I realized that I was being half-hearted about my efforts.

Bottom line: if I want to change anything, I have to change how I identify myself.

It’s going to be hard changing my habits. Even though I’ve identified this problem before, I am still treating game development as a lower priority task, and it is usually the first thing I put on the back-burner when my schedule gets disrupted. How can I expect to make games for a living if I can’t even consider them important enough to make in the first place?
When people ask me what I do, I tell them about my day job, and I sometimes mention that I started my own shareware video game business. I mention my blog, I mention that I reviewed games for Game Tunnel, and I might say that I am slowly programming some simple games. How can I expect to make GBGames into a success when I won’t even acknowledge what I want to do? Did DaVinci say, “Oh, by the way, I also sort of paint”? Did Einstein say, “I work at a patent office. Oh, and sometimes I like to think about physics”?

I am a game developer. Once I can think like one, I can act like one.

6 comments to Becoming a Game Developer

  • Action

    Good to hear you are going to think like you are a successful game developer.

    I’ve found that thinking is the first step. It’s also important to *act* like one.

    If you are a successful game developer and need to finish a project by a certain date….and you don’t have time to do it. What would you do?

    Outsource 🙂 I’ve found that to be very helpful to my goals. For example, I want to get that new series out by a certain date…so what do I do…

    I start looking to hire folks to help me get stuff done. Web design…I’m not the best at it…so I got someone to help. Improving the story….sure, I’ve got the basic idea, but need to tweak it and help it along…so I went to writing meetings and am working on finding someone to edit it.

    Same with some of the programming and art too.

    Yes, there are tradeoffs to doing this…but I can tell you that it is imperative to keep things flowing and moving along. I wanted to get the series out in December…but it got delayed cuz I didn’t outsource sooner 🙂

    Or, make a bet … if you don’t finish by a certain date, you’re going to donate a check to someone. That may inspire you to spend to get the thing done before the deadline.

    What if the deadline was the GDC? What if you had to show off a game at GDC? What would you do to get it done before then?

    Take care,
    Action

  • Actually, there are a number of things I plan to outsource, specifically art and sound work. I don’t have the time to become an expert in everything, so I think it is a good trade-off to pay someone to leverage his/her experience rather than invest the time to improve my skills in every areas sufficiently. My website will definitely get at least some consultation, and I may just outsource the entire thing to someone.

    I’m not so sure about outsourcing the programming. As I understand it, if it is simple, tedious stuff, then outsource. If it is complex or difficult, it may be best to do it yourself. Unfortunately, with my skill level in programming, everything is simultaneously simple and difficult, in various degrees. I’m comfortable programming, but I wouldn’t call myself an expert, and I don’t have enough experience to differentiate what is simple yet complex enough to outsource from what is quicker and cheaper to just do myself.

    I did kind of make a bet to get Space Invaders finished before the end of December, and the gameplay came together fairly quickly. The application isn’t polished up at all, and I wouldn’t release it as a finished product, but the game is pretty much there.

  • I had the same reaction after listening to the Podcast. Steve Pavlina has great insights into many areas and I am often surprised when reading his articles about the things that I already do and those things that I don’t. It really helps someone to see someone who is successful doing things that I do, and is even better to learn different things that they do that I don’t and can pick up myself.

    After reading listening to his podcast Kick
    Start Your Own Business
    , I posted an entry about using his Ready, Aim, Fire approach to finishing games here.

    I have also joined the Thousander Club this year again. I am posting all of my game specific items over at Gamedev.net under this blog.

  • dude, GB, Action used to have this saying, the last 10% of the app feels like 90% of the work…

    Boxen feels like that right now, but honestly, making things polished is imo waay more important then making things…correct. I’d say finish something first, get a plan out and do your best to follow it….then you’ll know what to do next time a project starts dragging.

  • “I need to be a game developer if I am going to do game development.”

    Exactly. It’s all in the mind. Decide to win, paint yourself into a corner and set the stakes so high that you can either win or fail miserably so the thought of failure is so dire that you feel you have no choice but to win. Sun Tzu in his famous Art of War called this “death ground.” He recommended deliberately positioning one’s army so that, when they fought an opposing army, their back was to a wall and they had no choice but to win or die. When the stakes are that high, you simply win.

    Most peoples’ minds automatically tend to look for the easiest exit from something difficult and unpleasant. Even if you don’t realize it, if you’re doing something you don’t want to do, you’ll probably search for the first reasonable excuse not to do it, or not to take your task seriously. That’s a mental chink in your armor, so if you can put yourself in enough win-or-die situations, you’ll start succeeding more often.

    I’d imagine that, over time, you don’t need to do that to yourself as often because you just eventually start DOING shit without holding a figurative gun to your own head, but I’m not at that point yet myself so I can’t really comment. 😉

    It sounds like you’ve already identified the problem of not thinking of yourself fully as a game developer yet, and know that you need to solve it. Awareness is key, and so is the willingness to be able to make uncomfortable realizations. I’d say, flush your excess modesty down the toilet and start basking in whatever self-confidence you have that you feel, and work on building and inflating it beyond all reason. A lot of people seem to kick ass because they’re too busy being self-confident to realize they shouldn’t be able to kick ass. heheh.

    I’d really recommend reading Overachievement: The New Model for Exceptional Performance for a really invigorating and inspiring in-depth analysis of the winner’s mindset and how to create and maintain it and WHY. 🙂

  • Thanks for the tips, everyone! Jon, I’ll look into that book. I recently got an audiobook on NLP, and just doing one exercise allowed me to easily make an action either really desirable or really undesirable.