“Not many people understand the extent to which being an indie game developer, or really any kind of independent artist, can not only consume your life but really, truly become it.”
- Jon Shafer examines his personal journey through the development of At the Gates.
Game developer and Civilization 5 lead designer Jon Shafer has shared a deeply personal post on his blog about his life during the development of his game At the Gates, offering an honest retelling of the toll indie development can take on a person and the complicated responsibilities and rationalizations of solo development.
It’s a story that will no doubt resonate with other game developers, both indie and triple-A, and Shafer also shares his experiences as a sort of cautionary tale to other game developers, with the goal of giving fellow devs advice and encouragement to avoid or weather the same complications and pressure he saw during At the Gates’ 7-year development.
But, in addition to a harrowing retelling of those darkest and most difficult moments, Shafer shares how he worked to turn his life around, first through small changes and focusing on overcoming seemingly small hurdles, one at a time.
“And while we often hear about stories of burnout, rarely are those made truly real for us. It’s always something at a distance, something impersonal,” shares Shafer. “In this article I hope to pull back the curtain and show how bitterly dark it can be behind the public veneer. There were many moments where I’d given up on everything, and saw no future for myself, none whatsoever. I’m thankful now that I didn’t give up, because I came very close.”