As I said in my last post here, a lot of things have changed since our little feline boss came hand in hand with this blog. When someone is out of touch with the videogame world, is so difficult to tell how much work is needed to build any kind of videogame from scratch, but those who tried at least once knows that even the most simple game can be a challenge for a sole developer. Unfortunately we belong to a group of crazy people who prefers to put their souls and their minds in impossible projects without expecting anything in return.
But at the end of the day we need to go out of our wonderful word of art, code and melodies to pay some bills or to attend our duties. In this scenario, it’s hard to keep your hobbies, even more if it’s as time consuming as videogame development, but is it viable to do it as a full time job?
The life of a superhero
Worker by day, gamedev by night. That’s what I call living like a superhero and it’s usually the most common way to keep creating videogames while having a normal job. This is great to create and learn what you want without pressure or risks.
This might sounds simple and easy, but no superhero has an easy life. There are a few things to consider before wearing the mask:
Don’t forget to sleep!
Seems easy but is not at all. Time goes faster when doing something you like, and even faster at night. Sleeping only a few hours one single day might be ok, but after 2 your daily work will be affected. Not having enough rest for more days will become a serious problem.
Don’t grow up your wall of shame
When available time is not enough is so easy to get tired of a project and move to some different stuff before ending it. That unfinished project goes directly to your wall of shame, where every forgotten project waits for the day their creator will come back to end them at last. That won’t happen, everybody knows that, and that’s why is important to end each project on its own time, at least to have a prototype to show.
Dealing with frustration
Remember that mechanic you want to implement for the final boss? Yeah, it is so awesome, but you will be at work for 8 hours and then your house need a clean up or its time to go to the grocery. Yes, it’s hard sometimes but it’s part of the superhero developer life. Try to set up a schedule to know when you are going to have a while for your hobby and try to stay focused on your main work until it’s time for fun.
Buying back time
In my case, I love being a gamedev, but for now I have to work for a living doing completely different things. I’m not sure about earning the same creating games because it’s is so difficult to start any business in my country and also, here there are only have a few small studios who usually can’t afford paying as much as other companies do. Also there are other tasks to be done, like cleaning, go shopping, or cooking. Here is the problem: 8 hours of work, 2 hours to move from home to the office and vice versa, and once I got home I have a lot of things to do. My point is: If the money I got from my actual job is more than enough to get everything paid, why I should buy things that I won’t have time to use instead of buying back my time? That means hiring someone to do what you have to do, find a faster way to get to the office… How much would you pay to get back one hour per day? If you pay less than you earn, it’s quite a good deal.
Full time game developer
Time to become a full time game developer, and being hired by a studio is a good choice. Being paid for doing games sounds good: more or less the same economic stability as any other paid job, while doing what you really love and usually surrounded by a team that shares your passion about games. Also the hardest option is there: follow your own path by building your own studio. Nowadays earning some money with videogames is not only related to sell a lot of copies of a game. There are a lot of alternatives like ingame adds, advergaming, educative games, gamification by demand… Still not easy, but there is now a wider range of possibilities for videogame studios.
Both options looks like the dream of an amateur videogame developer, but also becoming a professional have some cons:
The game you want but not the game you need
Is almost impossible to work in the videogame you want to do while working for a studio, but even working on your own the game you’d love to do could not be the game your studio needs to do some money. It’s hard to tell when is a good idea and when is not, even more with your heart on your first idea, but when everything depends on the next project, better ask yourself twice.
Service or product
The good thing about software is that can be made by demand or just sold as a product. Typically, a videogame studio designs a product trying to make the best piece of funny software as possible in the given time. What happens if no ones like the final product? There’s the risk. In the other hand, if a client ensures the payment for a game of a certain characteristics, that’s working on demand. This way ensure an income in most cases, but needs at least a client and the final software will be made following the client wishes, so if the client does not pay at the end, will be hard to get any money from it .
The client is always right
Is not easy to work on demand. Is so hard to show a client what in your opinion is the best option for them. Finally is so hard to tell a client in a good way that his/her ideas about how your work should look are wrong. Keep in mind that your work is so important to get more clients or improve your portfolio, but also that the client is who pays for it at the end. Is the same as working as a freelance, there is no short way to learn when to drop a client or when to do something the way he wants, but at least we can have a laugh about this problem thanks to The Oathmeal:
Finally what terrorizes me to the point of not considering for now to work as a professional gamedev. Back in the past I spent a huge amount of my free time as a miniature painter, and at some point I became good enough to work as a freelance painter and sculptor. It was good to be paid for something I loved, but after some time I had to paint models that I disliked in a poorer quality just to fit the time worked on them to the client’s budget. I could stop working like that, but at the end of the day I needed the money to get my engineering degree paid. After more than a year I got burnt out, I quit even painting my own models; I was not able to paint at the same level as I did before and I had no fun at all doing it. I love doing games, but I’m not sure if I’ll kill something I love again by doing it fulltime
For now I’ll continue as a superhero, buying back as much time as possible and maybe one day I’m changing my mind. What about you? Just be sure you try to do what you love each single day.