How Can Making Fun Be So Stressful?
Austin T. Lee
University of Advancing Technology
How can making something that will bring enjoyment to potential millions be such a stressful task for the individual making it? The intellectual freedom that is given to indie developers is infinite, but trying to create successful game as a team of one or two is a task meant for the strong-and-able-minded. Like large development companies, indie developers need to set a schedule with deadlines, otherwise the amount of money and potential progress to be made will decrease slowly. In larger companies, teams work solely on adding or subtracting story lines to connect major plot points together. Indie developers don’t have the kind of luxury to be able to hire story designers. It becomes the indie developer’s job to work on the story and weave details to their bidding. Sacrifices that indie developers have to make to be able to create their game are extreme to say the least. Game Developers may be able to make fun , but making the fun is a stressful task.
For Indie Developers, planning can be a part towards the future, but for others it can be a realization that they don’t have enough money to work on their project as a full time job. Intro statement,
“Procrastination is your biggest enemy when you are the one man army. Not only will it
prevent you from doing anything productive, but in time, it will make you feel useless, inducing bits of fear into your organism. If it ever happens to you, take my advice. Shake it off, stop thinking about it and start doing the first thing you see on your to-do list. You’ll feel much better after you make even a tiny bit of progress and it will keep you going further” (Grecki, 2012).
Grecki explains procrastination in the sense that it will, essentially, make developers feel useless because they are not doing anything productive. Deadlines help to eliminate procrastination as a whole. If a developer has a deadline that they made themselves, they will feel more obligated to complete their goals for a small part of the big project. Being able to make progress bit by bit seems much more manageable than looking at the project as a whole. Meeting deadlines for Indie Developers is similar to meeting deadlines for anything else. Phil Fish, one of the independent developers for FEZ, had to reschedule the release date for his game after getting a massive amount of publicity. Fish received comments and negative reactions to this and being able to create a schedule and follow it will help negate this problem. This adds onto stress even further and opens you up for personal attacks, says Fish (Indie Game: The Movie, 2012). Being able to set up deadlines will make content creation easier because progress will end up being made. Following deadlines will help to beat the monster that is procrastination.
Although being an indie developer means that the developer(s) are able to have intellectual freedom, the developer(s) also give up time, sleep, and social interactions. Tommy Refenes explained that “The things I’ve sacrificed are social. You kind of have to give up something to have something great” (Indie Game: The Movie, 2012). Sacrificing social interactions with friends is only the beginning of the worries that independent game developers have to deal with. As life progresses, friends come in and out. Going from being a normal person to an independent game designer is a change so drastic, that most beginners might be scared away at just how almost every aspect of life is flipped upside-down. As seen in Indie Game: The Movie, Edmund and Danielle McMillen’s marriage is put to the test as Edmund is working on Super Meat Boy. Danielle explained how the two had “to adapt our relationship to go from spending 24/7 together, eating meals together, leaving the house, to not doing that at all” (Indie Game: The Movie, 2012). Edmund even had to “ask her: ‘Are you happy here?’, ‘Is this worth it?’ Because I worry that this is just horribly boring for you. And that this might be something you regret getting into as well.” (Indie Game: The Movie, 2012). Life as an independent game developer will put a strain on relationships all around, even with those that reside in the same household. It’s obvious that indie developers would have to give up on social interactions with friends, but to give up having most interactions with people in the same house is something that most people wouldn’t jump at the opportunity to do this. In another segment of Indie Game: The Movie, Edmund McMillen and Tommy Refenes are in a Skype call where Refenes essentially falls asleep while discussing plans before heading to bed. Indie developers not only sacrifice social interactions, as well as time to sleep, in order to create a game. Life is made of risks; some we may not know the answer to. Independent Game developers need to be able to “give up something to have something great” (Indie Game: The Movie, 2012). Through the progress of suffering through making the game, there is still more that has to be done after the creation of a game.
After the entire production of the game, indie developers have to learn how to market their product, otherwise they are sure to see failure. Not doing or simply not knowing how to market a game to the public would put everything at risk.
“Besides spending vast amounts of time and energy making the game, that person also has to deal with marketing and selling the game, which is a hard enough thing to do for a team of marketing professionals at a large publisher. Chris Peterson, the founder and sole developer at Beast Games, was getting close to this point before his game… was selected for this year’s PAX 10” (Tanner, 2013).
Peterson had learned the difficult way and almost slipped off the face of the Earth because he didn’t know how to advertise his game. How often would someone take a chance to spend their money on a game that no one has ever heard of or has had no reviews at all? A marketing team or even marketing skills is essential to be able to sell a game to the public; because there is not a market for something that the customer doesn’t know about.. Even worse would be a developer that didn’t realize that an Embargo date had to be set. McMillen was victim to this and realized “Today is Monday. That’s the ‘Embargo’ Date. Do you know what an ‘Embargo’ is? ‘Cause I didn’t. And I got in trouble for not knowing. An Embargo is a set date when the press can review your game” (Indie Game: The Movie, 2012). After panicking for several hours, McMillen was able to let the press review Super Meat Boy. Even after a game has shipped and has become a huge success, the product could still take an extensive toll on the developer’s personal life. Despite working on a game for the past few years, developers are still met with problems after their product has shipped. If developers are able to talk about their product to the press, selling their game will be simple. Despite having a game make over $500 thousand a day, a game is still able to interfere with the developer’s life. Take Flappy Bird for example, Dong Nguyen tweeted out “I can call ’Flappy Bird’ is a success of mine. But it also ruins my simple life. So now I hate it” (Vogel, 2014).
Although making a video game sounds enjoyable, it takes a great deal of time and effort. As covered, indie developers have to meet deadlines, create unique content, and make sacrifices in order to have a finished product. What is a finished product actually worth? Bear in mind that although these people develop games and sit at a desk all day staring at a computer screen, they are still people. Seeing how much stress an indie developer doesn’t expect to get is incredible and terrifying all at the same time. Stress can make or break a person, but rarely does it ever make. Wayne Gretzky once said “Procrastination is one of the most common and deadliest of diseases and its toll on success and happiness is heavy.”
Grecki, K. (2012, November 25). Indie Developer’s Life Is Fun… And Scary • GigaWatch Blog. Retrieved December 4, 2014, from http://www.gigawatch.com/blog/indie-developers-life-is-fun-and-scary/
Indie Game: The Movie [Motion picture]. (2012). Flutter Media.
Tanner, N. (2013, August 30). When Indie Developers Almost Give Up – IGN. Retrieved December 5, 2014, from http://www.ign.com/articles/2013/08/30/when-indie-developers-almost-give-up
Vogel, J. (2014, February 10). Gamasutra: Jeff Vogel’s Blog – Why Indie Developers Go Insane. Retrieved December 5, 2014, from http://www.gamasutra.com/blogs/JeffVogel/20140210/210455/Why_Indie_Developers_Go_Insane.php