Wondering How to Stay on Track?
The life of a game developer is filled with video games, communication with fellow developers, and a series of days when you feel like you’ve given everything there is to give. Getting burned out is not a possibility: it’s a matter of time. But fret not, there are a few tips that can help you stay sharp. Turns out as long as you remember to live a little, work remains enjoyable!
Don’t Forget to Play Video Games
No, not the games your team is making. Remember, before game developers join studios large and small, they’re players. And to be a great developer, that can’t change. It improves your skills in the game and helps you pinpoint what you do and don’t enjoy. Maybe you have an undying love for MMO’s and want to finally work on one. Or perhaps you’ve discovered you hate the use of RNG and want to create a game that finds a new system.
There will always be work to do. Time will always seem rather limited, especially during crunch time. Even during the times when there are no projects on the table, there’s always networking to do. But you can’t stop playing video games. Even if it’s just one game every month or two, staying on top of what else is out there will keep you from getting tunnel vision. Being exposed to the creativity of others helps spark more ideas of your own.
Size Up The Competition
Here’s something most players don’t understand: once you become a developer, you don’t view games the way you did before. Being a player, and solely a player, makes games enjoyable because you’re free to criticize people. Once you’re a developer, you sympathize with other developers’ choices more, and you seek to understand what it is they did and why.
Unfortunately, this is what creates a disconnect in the industry. Many developers lack the ability to view a game the way they did when they were just players.
While you’re playing video games, try to use both methods of viewing the situation. Look at the choices other studios make, and determine what works and what doesn’t. What resonates with players, and what makes them want to rant about it on forums?
Don’t be afraid to look up specific developers and studios to see what they’re working on either. All of this helps you see how you measure up by comparison. Are you where you should be, or is there a clear step you have yet to take in the industry? Does your game stand out, or are you creating something that’s already been done?
Most of all, ask yourself, “What would players think?”
Make New Friends Constantly
If you’re going to stay sharp, you can’t spend all your time making games in a studio or playing them in your bedroom or living room. You’re going to need some fresh air.
Now, it might seem like time wasted—going out and meeting people—but it’s actually still work when you think about it. Talking to people in the industry and exposing yourself to different ideas and levels of creativity is what separates productive developers from hobbyists.
Getting involved in the gaming community and making friends with other developers not only makes for a more fruitful life, but a more rewarding work experience. Imagine collaborating with a newfound friend or finding out about a job opportunity from someone you met just a few months back.
If you don’t live in a city where there’s plenty of developer hot spots (San Francisco, anyone?), then there’s still hope. There’s GDC every single year, and there are developer forums online. Social media is another good place to rub shoulders with other people in the community, from developers to journalists. If you want more of a face-to-face interaction, try looking up any developer conventions or game jams.
Learn When to Take a Break
Notice how all the steps provided so far help you progress your career while seemingly doing something a little different than those regular 13-hour workdays. It’s time for a tip that doesn’t involve gaming, or career building in any way!
Game development is one of the most challenging career paths to break into, and spending time away from all of that seems like wasted time, but burning yourself out is counterproductive. You can’t just work on games, or play games. Taking up other hobbies is what keeps you sane, and interesting. It’s what helps you live a full life, rather than have it be sucked away by career building.
Do yourself a favor and clear up every Friday and Saturday night from this week forward. This is something you should have already been doing, but you’d be surprised how common it is for developers to not have weekend nights off. Many developers work part time, choosing to work a day job to make ends meet while building a portfolio, meaning they use weekends, and weekend nights, to finish their games.
Unfortunately, not giving yourself a break can lead to a tired mind and body. Instead, take up cooking, have movie nights with friends, treat yourself to a spa day, or pick up a book. Have dinner with your parents who probably don’t see you very often.
Remember, fresh minds are far more productive!
Staying on Track Can Be Fun
Players often forget just how much work goes into a single video game. For small indie teams, it’s a ton of work, let alone solo developers. Even AAA studios have been known to crack down on developers. It’s all this work that makes some developers lose sight of the big picture: there’s more to life than work.
In order to stay sharp, you have to play some games that aren’t just your own: even the sharpest blade needs to take a break and have its edge re-honed. Sure, it’s important to stay up to date on what everyone in the industry is doing, but it’s also pertinent for you go out there and meet people. Above all, you have to do things that don’t revolve around gaming. Staying sharp means looking up from hours in Unity and still being able to smile. Don’t lose sight of the world around you!
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