This article is about the life of being a freelancing game maker. Not that many people actually understand what it's like to have this job. You're at a family dinner and some relative asks what you do, you tell them and they just have a blank sorta face. Adult's really don't understand games even slightly. They then try and be interested and ask questions like... "So what type of games do you make" it's pointless because they won't understand my answer anyway.
It's funny really, even my mum is like go get a job! I'm like I have a job mum...she's like... uhh yeah but.. a real job. It's so frustrating and makes me so angry. Just because I don't go into an office and have a set work time, it doesn't make it any easier. In fact it makes it even harder and this is what people really don't realise.
When you make a game or anything at all. It is not like working at your 9-5 job of boredom. (Now when I say 9-5 mindless job, I mean any job that is one you shut your brain off for to endure instead of turning it on. Such as working take away joints, supermarkets, security etc) You can't just shut down your brain and keep looking at the clock. You have to solve problems, you have to be creative of new ideas. Your brain is running non stop and it gets very stressful. Cause if you can't be creative enough, then you can't pay rent. That is a lot more stressful then having a solid weekly pay check where you just clock in and try get through it. I could spend a month working on a game, only to have it not sell very well and now I'm broke. It really is the harsh reality of it.
I argue with a friend who says my work is easy because I can set my own hours and get up whenever I want. Sure this great and theirs many positive things to it. Making games is awesome! I love it all, but it's not a free ride job as people think. When you work, you look at the clock different to someone at a 9-5 job. You don't hope for the day to be over, you keep looking at the clock worrying you haven't got enough done today or this week. Will I get this game finished before I can't afford food anymore?
The problem is pressure dampens creativity, but it also speeds up getting work done. It's a tug and pull.
Basically my day will consist of waking up between 9-12. I'll check up on all the usual stuff. Emails/Facebook/Reviews. Then I'll tell myself I should work, but I'll usually procrastinate till 2 in the afternoon. Usually I'll get a few hours of programming in then. Till I get angry and stressed out from programming bugs. (Programming is really a mental strain sometimes, people that work mindless jobs will never understand this. It can be related to doing your final exams in high school for the amount of stress)
Some days Ill wake up and just work from 9 in the morning till midnight. Every day varies. Depends what I'm doing and how motivated I am or if I'm inspired by a song or movie. Usually I'll be slack at the start of the game, but towards the end I'm working every day for 12 hours. Working from waking up, till I sleep to get it done.
How do you explain to someone your job consists of so many things put together. If I explain it, they don't understand and still think I'm a slacker. The process has so much you need to learn. It's something like this though..
- Coming up with an idea that is unique and fun
- Programming your idea into a workable engine WITHOUT BUGS
- Designing the art style and mood to the game
- Level Design ; making mass new levels which can take a long time when you have 50 or so
- Fixing Bugs and Glitches. (This can break people who give up)
- Designing the game to work out what the player wants
- Sound Editing. Getting sound effects and music for your game.
- Storyline, coming up with an addictive story for your game
It goes on and on really. So many things you needa worry about, because a game is made up of everything. All this goes through your head working every day full of stress and worry the game won't be good enough and you try tell me your job is harder because you work 9-5 and have to dig holes? pfft. I'm not saying it's not hard doing manual labor all day, but you'll never understand the pressure and stress of truly creating something that has to please millions of people.
I'm living out of home now. It's great and all, but I needa make sure I finish a game about once a month to keep up on bills now. In a way it is good though. It motivates me to get more games done which is what I want. I have so many ideas to be put into games that I can't wait to try. The problem is sticking to them and making them work.
In this line of work, every piece of media you do becomes research. Every time I play a game, I mentally pull it apart thinking why it's fun. I'll watch a movie at the cinemas and take a little bit away from it that inspires me. It's sorta hard to shut my brain off to ideas. Though I'll cover ideas and inspiration more in depth in another article since everyone asks how I come up with them.
In this job it's constantly highs and lows. I'll release a successful game and have enough money to last me a few months and I relax. Other times I've been down to less then $100 in my bank working non stop for a week or two to get paid. I'm pretty good with money though. Whenever I get below a certain amount in my bank I start working a lot more, and spend a lot less. I just try manage it as best I can and have faith in my own game making abilities to get paid.
I recommend this job 100%, but only if they have the motivational and love of game making to keep with it. It's not easy, but if you can do it. You have a huge portfolio of stuff you've hand made that feels like you've really accomplished something. It's so rewarding when people say they spent an hour of your game having fun. It's still weird for me to hear that, each time I hear it I just think really? you liked it?! I'm so used to look at statistics on the game it's always different to hear it in person.
My general tips for living a life like this would be -
- Create your game making folder. Organise it into folders of sound, written ideas, engines, anything that inspires you. Throw everything in here.
- Start making every single thing and idea that pops into your head. Build up a folder of engines you can start to use to make into a game any time. If the engine is fun, then the game will be later.
- Build up some savings before quitting your other job. The first few games you make won't do as well, you gotta be prepared for failure and maybe some debt before progressing forward.
- Don't listen to anyone that doesn't make games and doesn't offer any value to their criticisms. 99% of people have no idea about game making and will put you down by saying it's not as good as their job.
- Be prepared for long hours at the computer. Try look after yourself. It's hard though. Specially since a lot of programmers take a lot of caffeine and don't eat right.
- Just go for it. Don't let anything hold you back. Sit down, don't think about making games, just do it. Sit down and start making whatever you want. Have fun!
In summary, I love my job. I wouldn't trade it now for any other besides working in a proper game studio, but even then I'm not so sure since I'd then be taking orders and can't make whatever I want. So I'm gonna keep having fun making games till it can't make me an income. Then I'll port my games onto other things or start a website that makes me income through paying. Not sure yet. I just know with all the advancing technology, theirs always gonna be more possibilities.
Now, time to stop procrastinating my work by writing this article.