I haven’t written a blog post in about two months, which is the longest I’ve gone since I started this site. The reason is simple: I have a full-time job now.
What bothers me the most about this is how much I’ve given up to make a living. I barely spend more than a few hours each week on making games anymore. Not long ago I had the opinion that no game, no matter how big or small or size of the development team, should take more than a couple of years to make. My experience now gives me a whole new appreciation to full-time workers who make games in their spare time.
I don’t want to go into too much detail about my current software job, which isn’t what this website is for. I’ll say that it has nothing to do with any of my passions, and doesn’t even make use of any education or experience I’ve had over the last three years. Despite having regular working hours, it’s unusual for me to dedicate less than fourteen hours a day towards my company. The learning curve was steep, but at this point that has nothing to do with the time I’m spending. I wake up, eat, drive, work, drive, eat, and try to get six hours of sleep so I can work the next day. And I think I breathe a few times in there. But that’s my schedule, no room for anything else, with managers asking why I’m not working harder. I hate it.
So five days a week are gone for me (sometimes six when I work weekends). I usually spend a day to visit family or friends, cook, clean, finish some business, relax for a couple of hours. That leaves me with one full day to get some real work done on indie gaming, or other side projects I help on for friends. The pace of progress is glacial compared to when I was a student. I’ve been working on animating a template character for my next game for the last four months, and I’m still not done.
I was a student with a great track-record too. When I tell friends still in school of my experiences, they stare in horror when I explain what I’m paid, what I’m doing, how much I’m working, and that this was the best I could do. But when I tell older adults, they shrug and say its normal, and in many ways I’m much better off than others.
That’s what bothers me the most. I hate my current lifestyle to the point where I’d consider a fast-food minimum wage job an improvement, and this is NORMAL. It’s normal for people to spend 20-40 years doing something they would never want to do, in the hopes that they can spend the last few decades of their life fulfilling their passions. Until then, they wait, hoping they don’t kill themselves through overworking before retiring. I never truly realized that until now, and I question the sanity of the human race.
There are three things a person needs to be happy at their job: 1) good pay, 2) good working hours, and 3) projects they can be passionate about. If I thought my job satisfied one of these three, I’d be ok with it. At the very least, if I had a job that made any use of graphics, art, animation, film, story-telling, game design, or artificial intelligence, working 70-hour weeks wouldn’t seem so bad.
I think I spoke too much about my job situation. Anyway…
Over the last couple of years, I’ve met a lot of indie developers and artists struggling to make their passions into their real career. Most of them do have full time jobs outside of that to allow them the luxury of working on that. I have a new-found respect for those people. Many of them cannot afford friends, sleep, or a life outside of business or hobby. But they keep working at it anyway. And the next time I hear someone say they’ve been working for over three years on a game that looks like it could have been made in a month, instead of quietly laughing to myself, I’ll sympathize knowing it may take longer still.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: if you’re in high-school or college or university, don’t just sit there. Make stuff and do stuff. However busy you may already feel, you will be a lot busier later. And the tools available today make it easier than ever to make things that rival the best the world can offer.
As for me, I’m still working on my games, and I hope to be able to show some of it here… soon… soon-ish. I was hoping to release a game in 2016, but it’s almost certain not to be available until 2017 at the earliest. I won’t have time to rent booths at any conventions this year, but I’ll try to take a day off on weekends to visit a few. I’m looking forward to TAAFI (Toronto Animated Arts Festival International) this week. I look forward to seeing Windsor and Detroit indie developers at a local meetup next week. I need to force myself to make time for these things. At this point, fired or not I can leave my office with a smile on my face, knowing every paycheck adds me another month of rent to live off of the day I quit, and that time will be well spent towards my real ambitions.