Confessions of an indie game developer

It can be easy to work all hours every day with total disregard for your health, especially when you’re working on something you love and more so when you work from home, but this can be detrimental to both you and your product. This is something the core MacGuffin team are finding as we’re grinding on to get the game done.

I’ve got two small children, and I know what’s right for them, eat well, exercise, and go to bed nice and early and you’ll be happier, more stable, and more attentive the next day. But when it comes to me it seems I do almost the opposite, and to what effect? All the opposite traits of those mentioned above. Surprise surprise.

It can be easy to forget about yourself when developing, it’s all about the product, but I’ve realised the two go hand in hand. So I’ve implemented a few changes to turn this around.

No email on weekends
This can be quite hard as because of our timezone I can get emails from the US on Saturday which is their Friday, which won’t be responded to until the following Monday. But without the definite break in activity there’s no time to recharge the creative batteries.

No gaming before bed
It doesn’t help if I lie in bed awake for hours thinking about the game I’ve just played. Though I get scant hours to play games now, sleep is more important for another productive day.

Drink water, eat fruit
I used to do this, but lately my day has been coffee-coffee-coffee, sandwich, coffee-tea-tea dinner. Which is no way to be at my best, it’s just common sense. I couldn’t imagine allowing my kids to do this, even when they’re older.

Get out of the house
While developing I have gone a whole week without stepping out my front door. Yes, really. Going for a short walk at lunchtime can do wonders for the afternoon workload, which is normally filled otherwise by coffee and slouching.

Get dressed
I’m not saying I develop games naked, but there can be very little motivation to change out of what you’ve slept in as you roll out of bed to your desk, but surprising as this may seem, this can turn your mindset from hobby to professional. Put on a shirt, have a shave (if you have to) you’d be surprised what a difference it makes.

Seriously, this stuff is important, and it’s so easy to forget that. I know I did.

About Andrew

I do all the boring stuff that's gotta be done so I get to do fun stuff sometimes.
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5 Responses to Confessions of an indie game developer

  1. Matt Turner says:

    Oh my god! I’m not alone!!!

    Thank you for posting this, Andrew! Working as a solo developer out of your own home certainly requires a level of discipline that is rarely discussed – probably because most people are “working for the man” which is an entirely different environment.

    I don’t have kids, so I’m doubly in danger of falling into bad habits.

  2. Claus Arwilk says:

    Excellent post, thanks. I have a full-time job on the side (so to speak) and no kids, so I have learned a lot of the above the hard way. The biggest challenge I faced was going to bed on time, but it got better when I got into the habit of assigning specific hours of the day to specific tasks. I also took up photography, which I highly recommend – you get some visual skills and some fresh air!

  3. Jake says:

    Yep, me exactly, but replace the “coffee, coffee, coffee” with “beer, beer, beer”-and it’s doubly hard to act right (we all know how hard it is to stop once you’ve had three or four!).

  4. Ben says:

    Hah! A lot of this rang true for me too, despite the fact that I’m not a family man myself. =) I’m still guilty of some of these, but I think the biggest thing I did to change my habit was to start a gym membership. When you’re trying to play games with your nephew and find you’re out of breath after five minutes, well then, you’re not being the best uncle you can be! Forcing myself to step away from the computer for those couple of days in the week to get some exercise has not only made me feel better physically, but mentally too.

    (Stupid jerks who were right about exercise all along. *grumble grumble*)

  5. Sarah says:

    This is actually really good advice for anyone who works at home in any capacity. :D Thank you for sharing.