Sad truth: being stressed out is a normal part of being a game developer. Between the deadlines, unexpected problem solving, learning on the job (for those starting out, or using software they’ve never had to use before), etc. There’s many reasons to be flustered.
Luckily, there are also methods of managing the stress. Everyone in the industry has to learn these methods, or else risk producing poor quality work and holding the team back. After all, that is the overall essence of game development: teamwork.
It certainly comes in handy when managing stress.
Remember You’re Not Alone
In any studio, large or small, remote or on-site, everyone works on their own share of the project. Everyone on the team has something assigned to them, and you’re no different. Therefore, you’re not alone in all of this. That’s something that should be obvious, but it’s not once you’ve been staring at the same level for a solid month straight.
Rather than focus on the stress and the frustration that everything brings you, remember everyone else is also feeling a little drained. It’s not about you in the end. It’s about the game you’re working on with your team.
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask For Help
It’s easy to try and do it all yourself, especially because you want to be the person that your team can count on. However, even Batman needs Alfred. The reason that game development tends to be a group operation, rather than a solo endeavor, is because everyone has the right to ask for help when they need it, including you.
If you find yourself saying yes to everything your creative director asks you to do, then you’ll find yourself overwhelmed. No one can take on absolutely everything offered to them. If it seems possible, take it on, but if it will cut into your time heavily and make the whole experience overwhelming, just say so. Someone will help. Someone always helps.
Practice Time Management
People who say, “time management doesn’t work,” clearly aren’t doing it right. Time management is a developer’s best friend. Assigning daily tasks allows you to divide up that long to-do list into manageable parts. Ultimately, you’ll realize that it’s all easier once you do. It eventually becomes second nature.
Some weeks may be a little heavier than others, but overall, it’s much easier when you stop using that one, long, comprehensive list of things to do. It looks overwhelming on paper, and creates stress just by looking at it.
Accept That Crunch Time is Unavoidable
When you say “crunch time,” every developer and their loved ones groan in unison. The reason being because it’s completely, utterly, unavoidable. Crunch time is the last few months, typically the last 2-3 months, before a game’s release. It’s also when you have to play catch up on everything you put off for too long.
More than that, it’s when you focus on the issues you never knew existed, or that you did know about, but didn’t have the time to fix. Guess what? Now you have to make the time, regardless of having it. Hence, why your loved ones also groan: they know you’re missing for a few months, lost in a sea of levels, wall content, and rendering.
The best advice for handling crunch time, or stress from development in general, is to just accept that there is no way to avoid crunch time, not matter what you do. Making a game is difficult, and tedious, and can’t possibly be rushed enough. There’s always something you need to do. Even when the game is “done,” it never really is.
Keep Yourself, & Your Team, Motivated
Remember how you’re not alone? Well, they’re in the stressful situation with you too. Furthermore, they genuinely need to keep motivated, just like you. Nothing beats the “we’ve been at this for too long,” blues like motivation. Something as simple as inspiration through other games, team outings, developing friendships, etc. comes in handy.
And the dirty secret all developers hide away? The best motivation comes from a good recharge. Spending a day not doing anything at all, going out for lunch at a new place, or just binge watching movies, is more than enough to hit pause on the gaming. That little break can do wonders for not only your creativity as a team, but for the stress management.
Game development is a tough industry, filled with long to-do lists and stress. However, the reward of seeing your game released and played, is priceless. Plus, there’s always ways to manage stress. Something as simple as admitting that there are things you can’t change and allowing others to help you when you need it can get you from point A to point B a whole lot easier.
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