Game Development Personal Development

The Game Development Habit

This past week, I decided to focus specifically on the habit of doing game development, mostly programming, for an hour a day. At some point each day, I sit down with my laptop, and I refuse to allow any distractions to stop me for at least an hour. I could do more, but I should do at least that hour per day. I can easily wake up early, do my hour, and then go about getting ready for the day job. Then I also have the evening free to either work on game development or relax or focus on some other task. Successful authors will write a set number of words per day. Successful direct marketers will write an hour per day. Why not borrow this habit for game development?

Since the important thing was developing the habit of daily game development, it didn’t matter too much whether I accomplished a little or a lot in that hour. That is, if I wrote a bunch of code that I’m unhappy with and end up deleting, it’s still better than not having written it, not having learned from it, and not ever seeing a better way afterwards. I’m not hacking, of course. I’m simply saying that if one day happens to result in worse quality than others, I’m not going to see it as a setback since the important thing is that I produced something rather than nothing, which is what I usually accomplish.

The bad news: I only did 5 hours. Out of seven days, I kept the practice up on five of them. One day I woke up late, and when I thought I could do my hour in the evening, I was reminded about a charity event I planned on attending. On another day, I also woke up late, helped some friends move, and had hardly any free time that day.

The good news: since I usually do 0-2 hours per week, five hours is still an improvement. Also, these were high quality hours. I made more progress this past week than I have in the last few weeks.

So what have I learned? Regular game development means sustained focus. When you work for an hour per week, it’s easy to be distracted or feel confused when you finally do get back to working on game development. If you do it each day, however, it’s easier to remember what you were doing from the previous session. Wednesday’s hour isn’t standalone. It has the power of Monday and Tuesday’s hours behind it to give you momentum as you work. Also, if you don’t finish something in a session, you know you will tackle it tomorrow.

Duh? Yeah. But there is still something about experiencing both cases and seeing the difference to really make it clear.

A surprising benefit: I felt better about doing other things with my time. Once I got my hour in, I was at ease with taking time to read, wash dishes, talk to a friend on the phone, or go out. Normally, I’m in a constant state of unease about doing anything because I always feel like I should be working on game development. At the end of the week, I find time and time again that I’ve only worked on the act of creating a game for an hour or two at most, and the next week I just feel worse when it happens again. This past week, however, was anxiety-free for the most part. Go to a cookout and then to a birthday party later? I already did my hour this morning, so I’m good to go! I felt good about accomplishing that hour each time, too.

It would help if I could do the hour at the same time each day. Ideally, it would be first thing in the morning. I used to wake up at 5:30AM every morning, but I fell out of that habit some time ago. Relatively recently I managed to wake up at 6:30AM consistently. The problem is that the previous evening’s activities can affect my ability to wake up early, which means that if I was out late with friends on Wednesday, Thursday morning I’ll be rushing to get ready for the day job, and then I’m depending on tackling the hour of game development in the evening. Of course, the whole point of waking up early is to get a head start on the day, when no one else is up and capable of distracting you, so waking up late can cause a domino effect on at least part of the week.

I’d like to see my habit provide me with a baseline of game development hours. I should always accomplish 5-7 hours for the Thousander Club each week, and on more than one occasion I should be able to double those hours with my weekends and evenings easily.

I’d say this week was a success, and I’m looking forward to seeing what I can accomplish after a month of daily game development.