Game development can be a difficult road filled with demotivation and self-doubt, so on the BSM blog, we try to stick to positivity, good messaging, and overall hope. How to be a better designer, how to overcome obstacles, how to better manage your time and handle criticism.
But that’s just one side of the coin.
In order to truly be helpful, it’s crucial to talk about the tough issues too, and that includes discussing something that society considers taboo: giving up.
Giving up has tends to have a negative connotation, and for good reason. It’s often taken to mean failure, like someone failing to believe in themselves, falling short of their dreams and aspirations, or not trying hard enough.
However, giving up can also just mean knowing when to walk away. It’s the ability to recognize when your life has changed, when you’ve changed, and therefore, when your priorities have shifted. Life is all about these changes, and with them, some doors close for the better.
So just how do you know when it’s time to hang up those nerdy video game T-shirts, and wear something else?
1) When Game Development No Longer Brings You Joy
Yes, this happens. It may not happen to everyone, but it’s not exactly uncommon to find forums filled with developers ranting about the state of the industry—or the job itself. After all, it’s long hours and tedious work. There are no guarantees that your game will actually sell well, if at all. And that’s not even mentioning all the scathing reviews and negative feedback that is ultimately inevitable at some point in your career.
The truth is, the job isn’t for everyone. And for some, it’s the perfect career path – until it isn’t anymore. The minute there’s no enjoyment at all, that’s the minute that all great, creative ideas are lost. That’s the moment in time when your game is doomed, and your career is finished.
2) When You’ve Fought for Years & Seen Little Reward
From a young age, we’re taught that hard work leads to success. The thing is, no one tells you that the success you find may be in something else entirely. Someone can go to college, work their tail off, and find themselves unable to land a stable role in an established company regardless. And that goes for any career path, not just gaming.
Does that mean we’re all destined to fail? Not at all! It just means that there’s something else out there that you also excel at. Maybe it’s where you will find that success.
3) When You Wake up & Realize You’ve Changed Dramatically
This happens every so often. Using myself as an example, I recently awoke to the usual sun rays bouncing off my sliding glass door. Looking out, the tree leaves had begun to turn that familiar, warm autumn color palate, and it cause a distinct orange glow in the room.
In that brief moment while I was still trying to wake up, it dawned on me: it’s been about three and a half years since college graduation for me. And in that time, I’ve cut my hair, dyed it, changed my clothing style, retouched a tattoo, moved, and gotten a new cat. And that’s not even half of the changes. Internally, I’ve gone from a wide-eyed, hopeful girl to a more realistic state of being. Experience makes you wiser, smarter, and also a lot less quick to believe things that are too good to be true.
Unsurprisingly, these changes have allowed me to make changes to my career path along the way. Like shedding skin, I’ve worn different hats, all of which have been right for me at those given times. So when you wake up to find that you’ve “molted” yet again, it’s time to honestly ask “is what I’m doing still important to me after all this time?”
4) When Other Priorities Have Taken Center Stage
As people age, they settle down. In your college days, you may have enjoyed a good party, picked up some fast food, and gone home to work on a game. But fast forward ten years later, and you’ll find those same people falling asleep around 10 PM, getting heartburn when they eat poorly, and barely having time to even play as many games as they used to. It’s just life.
If you’ve been holding onto your game development job, but find yourself more preoccupied with family, work, errands, and social events, it might be time to sit down and think things through. Is game development really still important to you? Is it a priority still? Or have you been holding onto the last thing that makes you feel that sense of youthful freedom?
5) When Your Day Job Becomes More Fulfilling
Most indie game developers find themselves working day jobs to keep the power on, while working on their games after hours. It’s a bit like working two full-time jobs. For some, this is ideal living, but for others, they’re waiting for their development career to really kick off before quitting that day job.
The likelihood of that occurring is impossible to calculate. Truly, there are so many factors to consider, all of which have to align to reach that amount of success in the indie sector.
But what about when your day job kicks off? Maybe you work in corporate and they just gave you an office. Maybe it’s dingy in there, but it’s no longer a cubicle for you! You can decorate your office, you report to a different team lead, and you’ve finally experienced what it’s like to have an intern ask you what you want from the local Starbucks.
If this is you, and you find yourself actually contemplating on staying at the company and working your way up, there is something else to consider first: can you live knowing that game development is now officially your hobby, rather than your career? If you can, great! No expectations, just fun. You could even publish free-to-play games. But if suddenly, all passion for development is gone, then you’ll know it wasn’t for you in the long run. Nothing wrong with that.
6) When You Stop Caring About the Players
For a developer, their players are everything. They are the ones that determine the success of a game, funding, and even whether a studio will be able to put out another game. The need to keep them happy and meet their demands is crucial, much like with any business.
But if you find yourself resenting them, or ranting about them, it might be time to walk away. Your game isn’t just for your enjoyment, it’s for theirs. And if you’re uninterested in making them happy, then what’s the point of putting out more games?
7) When Your Values Are Threatened
You can’t have a career in games without dabbling in the industry. You need to network, apply to countless jobs, and deal with a lot of obstacles. Scammy, and even some unpaid roles. Low-paying gigs. Maybe bad business dealings and partners. All of this is so common, most developers have some story to share that illustrates the state of the industry.
And that’s not even touching on game content, like misogyny, or poorly thought out messaging.
At the end of the day, there’s a limit. You might be trying to put out enjoyable games everyone can get behind, but there’s going to be people in your way that view things entirely differently. If you find yourself dealing with this long enough, there will be many instances when you find your values challenged. Suddenly you’re tasked with drawing something you don’t feel comfortable with, working with people you would never associate yourself with, etc.
If you can work past that somehow, and realize that you’re just a small part of a big picture, great. But if these things directly affect you and make you wonder if you’re sacrificing yourself for the money and glory, then it might be time to pack up and wave goodbye.
Don’t Lose Hope
By now, it should be clear to see how simple answers can be. Either you love development and stay, or you don’t love it enough. But giving up shouldn’t have to feel like failure, and it shouldn’t have to be taken as such either.
Giving up can be the first step to getting back to basics, finding yourself again, or giving rise to the things that matter most to you now, in this moment.
No one ever said we had to choose one career to make us happy the rest of our lives. Sometimes, people just change, and their needs along with them.