Being an indie game developer is not for everyone. We’re a a rare kind, yes sir. We live the life of a writer; working all by ourselves or with a small group of people for what seems to be an eternity in our little apartment/home office with the door shut and the world happening outside. I'm speaking for experience. Neither Carlos or I are able to concentrate while there’s people talking or making loud noises around us, 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 the time contributing with new ideas and insightful conversations, but most indies are still in their bedrooms or their garages and some can't afford the luxury of an office. Then its only fair to ask, what happens to those of us who 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 (our blog), 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, working on your game, then going back to bed and repeat. The perfect loop you say? Not quite.
Some of you may be lucky enough to have a job outside home at someone’s else office where you get to socialize, but if you work from home too (freelancer), things get nasty in no time. I have many indie friends who work on IT, webdesign, 3D art, etc and they don’t step outside the bunker for days. Pale skin and all.
We aren’t built to look at a screen 16 hours a day, that's for damn sure. Carlos and I have the luxury of having our own office downtown at the most exclusive part of Buenos Aires (not really).
You can actually see our office the first couple of seconds in CYPHER’s trailer if you watch careful enough.
Makes no difference though, 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 too. We have two cats. They are really nice and you can’t live without them because they are so cute it hurts not to look at them all day. You MUST have a cat to keep you company if you work with computers, its a rule. But dogs are better to fight the lonely indie developer syndrome handsdown. They force you to actually use your legs in the traditional form of walking (a concept now long lost). Cats can do their stuff in the litterbox so you end up staying at home all day working on your projects, but dogs need to actually go outside to find a tree, see? That’s a good opportunity to socialize! Talk with people, walk around the block , maybe 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. Don’t be surprised if you make some new friends along the way either, that's what happens when you take the dog for a walk!
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 even chat with all members at the same time and share thoughts or ideas to release some of that accumulated stress before its too late. 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, and who knows, maybe you end up getting together with them for a gamejam session or just a hangout.
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 someone you've meet there to continue a conversation. Better keep everyone in 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. Boom. It is like going out with your friends without actually being there! I’ve used it a couple of times to hangout with my friend Gaston and others and the name really does justice to its service. Six beers, some snacks (depending on your appetite) and you have an instant hangout tool to share with friends and coworkers alike. Not the real deal but, close enough.
You need to learn How To Play an Instrument
There isn’t anything more relaxing than trying to play the same chord over and over for six hours in a row. I started playing with a guitar when I was 13 but never really got into it until last year when I decided to be a rockstar (still working on it). 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 can really sit there and enjoy your fingers do the music all by themselves. Fantastic way to fight the lonely indie developer syndrome.
Practice takes a hell of a lot of time but when you manage to play a song all by yourself… there aren't enough words to describe how much stress can take from you because of the constant sense of achievement. See, when we are working on a project we set a very unrealistic amount of 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 on.
But when we play an instrument... even coming up with the basic tuning for your instrument without some strange gadget can be rewarding. Small goals == small rewards == constant feeling of achievement.
Now imagine how playing a song you learned all by yourself on the right tempo feels. Fantastic.
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. It can be the difference between enjoying the indie lifestyle and going back to sending CVs.
So tell me, how do YOU fight the Lonely Indie Syndrome?
You can find the original articles and many others at http://www.cabrerabrothers.com/indielife/