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You Don't Have to Build Alone

When making games, you seldom do it alone. Even if you are the only one actually working on the game, the support from your development commune is priceless. This post recalls how it took me 2 years to figure that out and why you should get involved now.

The story below ends with this advice:

If you want motivation for making games, get involved online now: join a developer community, preferably a public one. For freeware games, I recommend GameJolt. It is a fantastic site and development community. Post your creations often, and talk to developers. Because when you make games, your community will help you greatly, often in ways they won’t know and you may not realize. When you make games, you seldom do it alone. Even if you are the only one actually working on the game, the support from your development commune is priceless. It took me a good two years to figure this out.

The story:

When I was an undergrad at Miami of Ohio, I wasn’t the only one trying to create videogames. Many of my fellow students also wanted to craft interactive media. Back in 2010, we rarely put out any videogames. We had an on-campus videogame design club (VGDC) that met once a week. I seldom went, but the few gathering I did attend were swell: the atmosphere was welcoming, the attendees and club government were enthusiastic, the gatherings felt purposeful. Yet, outside of class projects and Global Game Jam, we never really made games.

A (then) recent Global Game Jam game I made, as part of a Miami of Ohio based team, was accepted to PlayExpo, a small conference in Wisconsin. Our game MEchine was far from perfect, but we ended up winning the Games For Fun category. This energized me: we had made an appreciated game; not just a class project or an unfinished hobby project that didn’t go anywhere, but games that people like.

From here, I realized that my university’s VGDC wasn’t particularly set up in such a way to create, but I still wanted a group to make games with. Since Global Game Jam worked out well, I thought it should be a game jam group. I asked two friends if the idea was appealing to them, and they brought two more palls into the mix. The five of us decided it should be a once a month jam, and should be for 24 hours, starting around 6:00pm. Because we wanted to keep it mysterious, we called ourselves Nothing. So when asked, “what were you doing on Saturday?” we’d reply “Nothing.”

Our jam sessions were nice. We created small projects; some half-baked, others more-or-less complete. Yet we never posted our games anywhere. They remained on our computers and in email attachments. As time passed and our class schedules shifted, we stopped jamming as much. The group had inspired me to keep going though. I loved the atmosphere of our Nothing events, so I taught myself how to use GameMaker, in the hopes of making games on my own. At first, I hosted my few games on my website SeeminglyPointless.com, but no one ever visited there. And realistically, why would they?

I shifted gears. I wanted to put my games up on already known sites such as NewGrounds or Kongregate. Yet, some of these sites required API that I couldn’t handle. Nor did I own the HTML5 expansion module for GameMaker to allow my games to work online. A friend in Nothing had told me about a website named GameJolt. It was a game hosting website, like Kongregate or New Grounds, but developer-centric rather than player-centric. It also allowed download links for non-online games. I uploaded there.

New things began to happen. People played my games. Some even commented on them. Next thing I knew, GameJolt’s instant messenger was blinking. A developer had sent me a message. I was talking to other game creators. They had feedback; it was valuable and drawn from their own game creation experiences. I was making freeware friends. I altered my games based on our discussions. I began to create more, and faster. Then articles about my projects popped up on various game sites. Sometimes bad, sometimes great. Either way, it felt amazing that anyone would write about my interactive media. New messages popped up on GameJolt's instant messenger. My development friends were congratulating me. It struck me deeply, that these people I admired, and had never met in person, thought to send kind words my way. And that’s when I knew I had found the right place. I doubt the GameJolt community knew how inspiring and helpful it was, how inspiring and helpful it still is.

Q: But what if I still want to self-host?

A: I mean, you can. Just don’t be surprised if no one plays your work. The benefit of already recognized sites is that players know to go there; games journalists too. And you can begin to meet other developers and gain a sense of community.

Q: Fine, but I’m still going to make games alone.

A: The trick is that you’ll never make games alone. Assuming you want anyone to see your games, your media will always involve others: players will play, critics will scrutinize, developers will analyze. All of these are components of game communities. And for me at least, the more support I get from fellow creators, the more oomph I have for creating.

If you want motivation for making games, get involved online now: join a developer community, preferably a public one. For freeware games, I recommend GameJolt. It is a fantastic site and development community. Post your creations often, and talk to developers. Because when you make games, your community will help you greatly, often in ways they won’t know and you may not realize. When you make games, you seldom do it alone. Even if you are the only one actually working on the game, the support from your development commune is priceless. It took me a good two years to figure this out.

@Just404it

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