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Report article RSS Feed How Hard Do Indie Developers Really Work?

Posted by AphelioLtd on Jan 7th, 2013

It's 7:37am and after an hour or so of daily routine admin I've decided to write a new blog entry. Why am I up so early I imagine you ask?

Well, it's not part of my normal routine I can assure you (my eyes hurt!). Basically, my girlfriend is off to Germany for a textiles convention (she works as a textiles designer for a fabric company) and her flight is at some time just after 8am. So I started work early as soon as I arrived home around 6:30am and it got me thinking, do indie games companies really work as hard as we can to release games? I mean I know we're a casual industry compared to almost all other professions, but we like to think with that comes a degree of productivity and effort, right?

While I was driving back home from the airport I saw other cars on the street and thought to myself that I was almost certainly the only games designer on those roads at that moment. The time was 6:15am, so I was probably one of the few (maybe only!) games designers awake in my time zone, except maybe someone during a massive crunch. This led to further thoughts of;

"What jobs are these other people doing?"

I live on the outskirts of London, so a lot of my fellow travellers were making their commutes to work. Many of them probably work early shifts, for delivery companies for example. But many of them were bound to have ‘normal' 9-5 jobs and were just making the short in distance yet long in time journey into the UK's biggest metropolis. This brought on another thought;

"Am I working as hard as these people?"

I normally start work at Aphelio around 8-30am or 9am and work through until around 5pm with a short lunch break, often working late when it is required, like most people. I know many games developers do this, but some of them must not, which spawned further thoughts;

"Do my indie developer cohorts work longer hours than me? Do they work weekends? Do the majority of them just sit and play games?"

Basically, I pondered: how disciplined is the average indie games developer and are they working hard enough to achieve success? Especially when compared to the middle-class average Joe working in the city at the lower levels of an investment bank, trying to get a promotion. Are we hungry enough?

 

I have no way of telling, all I know is that in my personal experience, from games conferences (indie and corporate), developer meet ups, my own experience working at Jagex and my girlfriend and friends' experiences at work, there is certainly a divide amongst most working people and this includes indie developers. There's basically the plodders, who go through life and just do what's required and then there's the grafters, who work as hard as they can or close to it every day, with varying degrees of people in between at various ranges in the spectrum.

In the indie games industry (yes, it's an industry) how does this rule of thumb this manifest itself? Are there designers who make games only for the fun and the thrill, working a few hours here and there but mostly goofing off all day? Are these people complemented by more professional indie developers who design for the fun and the thrill, but also work harder and are more structured?

If I had to hazard a guess, I would say that many of us in the indie games scene are guilty of not working as hard as we can to make our games successful, just like many people don't work as hard as they can in their other professions too. There's always more we can do as indie developers, be it working later hours, going on more client meetings, doing as much market research as possible or exploring as many creative avenues in your game's design as you can.

How about this, do indie developers work as hard as developers who work for bigger corporate studios? Do we work harder? Or less hard?

How many of us do a respectable number of hours when compared to other people within our first world culture who get up at the crack of dawn to grind the metaphorical axe? Most indie developers, as well as most first world people, certainly don't work as hard as those in the third world who are grinding a real axe in order to hunt because they will starve otherwise. This gives rise to even more questions;

"Is it because we are own bosses and as an industry we have a casual culture that we are perceived to work less hard than everyone else? Do we actually work less hard than everyone else? Why are we making games, they don't save lives, or do they?"

Then I stopped thinking because my brain hurt from being up so early.

To conclude, I think as a whole indie developers need to adopt some of the more useful practices from our corporate developer brethren (as well as other professions in some aspects) if we're going to be taken seriously as an industry and make better games.

After all, almost everyone I meet outside the games industry thinks I just sit around and play games all day, or at least jokes about it.

 

We need to borrow some of these practices because in my opinion, the best indie games are made when a developer embraces the fun and creative side of being and indie, but maximises the potential of that game by working in sophisticated, dedicated and efficient manner in order to execute development properly and get the most out of a game idea.

Don't get me wrong though, I don't want us to get tied up in all the corporate catastrophes that many formerly great developers have had to endure, especially in recent times. After all, our unorthodox processes are often our biggest competitive advantage when fighting against these big corporate games for market share.

So IndieDB community, what are your working habits? Do you work unconventional hours but still get more work done that anyone else? Do you think you work as hard as the nurses, truck drivers, salesmen and retail managers out there?

I hope you enjoyed this article, it was fun writing it, try not to take it too seriously.

So please, join the discussion!

Mike

Aphelio

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