Being an indie game developer is not for everyone. We’re a a rare kind, yes sir. Most of the time, we end up alone or working in a small group of people the entire weekend with the door shut and the world happening outside the apartment. We know alright. Neither Carlos or I are able to concentrate while there’s people talking or making loud noises. That is why most of our work happens during the night or after long office hours, when the world is a bit more quiet. Now, many of us are used to work at big-ass companies where people are around us all day contributing with new ideas and insightful conversations to our projects. But what if we work from home? We get the Lonely Indie Developer Syndrome, that’s what.
Don’t worry though, I’m going to share some ideas to get you out of the cave and back to human civilization.
Like everything you will read at indielife, the content of this article comes from our own past experiences as indie developers. If we haven’t tried it ourselves, then we don’t post about it. So go ahead, read on and find out how can you make things interesting while making your next game!
Alright, so you are working from your improvised indie bunker. You have your gear ready, snacks, some beers, a cool record loud enough to mute life outside your windows and the family has been instructed under penalty of death not to come close to your door. You’re all set. Two months later and life is boring. All you do is getting up from bed, working on your game, then going back to bed and repeat.
Some of you may be lucky enough to have a job outside home at someone’s else office. But if you work from home too, things get nasty in no time. I have many indie friends who work on IT and webdesign and they don’t step outside the bunker for days.
We aren’t built to look at a screen 16 hours a day. Carlos and I have the luxury of having our own office. You can actually see our office the first couple of seconds in CYPHER’s trailer if you watch careful enough. Makes no difference. You get the Lonely Indie Developer Syndrome all the same.
Here are some quick ways we tried ourselves to overcome the lonely indie developer syndrome:
Fighting the lonely indie developer syndrome the right way: Get a Dog
Cats are cool. We have two. They are really nice and you can’t live without them. You MUST have a cat to keep you company if you work with computers. They are cute, they can track invisible ghosts and they know how to keep you happy. But dogs are better to fight the lonely indie developer syndrome. Dogs force you to actually use your legs in the traditional form of walking. Cats can do their stuff in the litterbox, but dogs need to go out to find a tree, see? That’s the way you can socialize, talk with people, walk around the block (and avoid knee injuries, such as mine) maybe buy something to eat, pick some magazines, etc.
It will get you going. It will make you socialize with other dogs owners too since most people need the urge to talk with the owner of the dog that’s trying to have sex with theirs and pretend they aren’t. Don’t be surprised if you make some new friends along the way! While talking with some random stranger may not be what you’re looking for, it will relieve the pressure of being in constant imprisonment.
Bonus: get a female dog. Everyone will be around you sharing some time.
Do more with your online social networks: Use Facebook to stay in touch!
It can be 4 in the morning and I guarantee you will still find someone to talk to on Facebook. Communicating with others is an important part of human behavior, and although face-to-face experiences are irreplaceable, facebook provides a good way to stay in touch with friends and family on their spare time. No one uses facebook at work. Well, no one is supposed to anyway.
You will find indie gamers groups, artists groups, musicians groups, and a hell of a lot more on facebook. You can chat with the members and share thoughts and ideas to release some of that accumulated stress. While facebook is not the ultimate answer to the lonely indie developer syndrome, its certainly one of the best places to find people who share your own mindset and have great conversations about game dev.
Warning: stay way from IRC. While some are cool, most of the time people come and go and you will need to be constantly trying to reconnect with these contacts to continue a conversation. Better keep everyone at one place (facebook).
Have you tried Google HangOut? We did.
This must be one of the best tools I’ve seen for lonely indie game devs. You push a button, and instantaneity, you get your invitation sent through all your contacts. This is like going out with your friends without actually being there. I’ve used a couple of times to hangout with my friend Gaston and others and the name really does justice to its service. A couple of beers, some snacks (depending on your appetite) and you have an instant hangout tool to share with friends and coworkers alike.
You need to learn How To Play an Instrument
There isn’t nothing more relaxing than trying to play the same chord over and over. I started playing with a guitar when I was 13 but never really got into it until last year. It is one of the most frustrating yet rewarding activities a person can have and a skill everyone should try to learn at least once in life. You relax, and try over and over until your playing becomes muscular reflex and you an really sit there and enjoy your fingers do music all by themselves.
Practice takes a hell of a lot of time but when you manage to play a song all by yourself… there are just not enough words to describe how much stress can take from you because of the constant sense of achievement. See, when we have a project on the computer, we set this amount of unrealistic goals based on other people perceptions about us, our capabilities, and what others did before us in the field we’re trying to make a difference.
But when we play an instrument, even coming up with the basic tuning for your instrument without some strange gadget can be rewarding, so imagine the feeling of playing a song you learned on the right tempo.
Go talk with some friends and have fun!
And I don’t mean virtual friends. You don’t have to gather everyone in one place, just email one of your friends and ask him/her to have a cup of coffee with you at the local Starbucks for breakfast and take it from there. I’m not going to lie here: most of the people I know are entrepreneurs or work at startups, so all we talk about is work and more work, but at least its fun to get around the people you know and respect for a couple of hours outside the computer.