I’m a little late with posting this, but I owe some reflection on why I missed week 29 – so here it is. This post is a bit long, so click here to see how you can help.
Week 29 was the first week in which I didn’t complete a game for the Game a Week challenge since GDC. I wasn’t particularly busy, but a combination of emotional and financial hits rendered me essentially useless for the better part of the week.
As I’m currently spending time in Europe and my financial buffer has begun to dwindle down below what I’m comfortable with, I wasn’t actually planning on attending E3 this year. After being invited to a few particularly exciting events occurring during E3, finding a ‘cheap’ round trip ticket, and realizing that this trip meant that I could file some long overdue legal paperwork, I made a semi-rash, semi-well-thought-out, and fairly last-minute decision to make the trek from The Netherlands over to Los Angeles. What this meant though, was that in the week leading up to E3, I spent a lot of emotional energy finally completing some less-than-pleasant paperwork. The paperwork itself was relatively easy, but it apparently drained me more than I was aware. I spent most of the beginning of the week working through it and then playing WATCH_DOGS to take my mind off of it. Every time I tried to brainstorm and/or just start working on something tangible for Game a Week, I would almost immediately fall asleep or enter a state of panic.
Looking back at Week 28, you can already see that I was at the beginning stages of reaching max levels of burn out. I tend to look at Game a Week as an ‘easy little exercise’. I’m just creating small and simple games – that shouldn’t be too hard, right? Well, they may be small and they may be simple, but that definitely doesn’t lessen the fact that I’m still constantly creating something new week after week. I have no time to get into a ‘groove’ and work on auto-pilot. Every week is a new idea and a new mental state to get myself into. It’s definitely more exhausting than I realized it ever could or would be.
So yeah, coming off of a week of already feeling burnt out and delving into a strange emotional space that I had been putting off for almost a year now created a little bit of a perfect storm. Which basically means that when I found out that the fee for filing this paperwork was literally one quarter of what I had left in my savings account – I lost it a little bit. I didn’t really ever think that crying into an ice cream cone was something that I’d be able to check off of the list of things I’ve done in my life, but I guess I can now.
I had budgeted this trip to L.A. under the assumption that the plane ticket was relatively cheap for what it was, I had a free place to stay, and could maintain my life fairly inexpensively for the time what I was to spend out there. To suddenly realize that this trip would now remove one quarter of everything I had left in my savings was something I was definitely not prepared for budget-wise. The most demoralizing part was that there was no way around any of this now. I had the plane ticket, the paperwork had to be filed, and I had to go. I just had to suddenly accept the fact that my financial ‘freedom’ was coming to an end a few months sooner than anticipated.
I’m extremely fortunate in a lot of areas of my life. I worked a number of years in a well-paying and secure job right out of college, I didn’t have student loans, and I lived extremely frugally for many many years. I don’t enjoy a lot of material possessions and I have very few expensive hobbies. All of this meant that I’ve always been able to put money away into a savings for the future. I ultimately decided to use this savings in order to fund myself as an independent developer, and did so in the cheapest and most amazing way possible. I stopped living anywhere (no/minimal rent), I began speaking at events (will generally pay for travel), and am fortunate enough to have a large network of friends who all let me sleep on their couches and/or in their spare beds every now and again. Most of all, I know that in the Netherlands, I have a nice little bed that is always available to me whenever I need it and someone there to help me when I need it.
What all of that means is that the savings that I thought would last me 6 months, at best, has lasted me the better part of a year of not having to worry about pursuing outside contract work. Over that year I have traveled to many amazing places, met countless wonderful people, and have had some of the most fun I’ve ever had in my life. I’ve been able to completely dedicate myself to the exact things that interest me including planning Train Jam, intensely honing my design skills, and improving my game development process more than I ever thought would be possible in such a short time. I’ve developed skills I never though I’d have and am incredibly grateful to have even been able to have this year of complete freedom and growth.
I, more than anything, want to be able to keep doing what I’m doing. I want to continue making little games, organizing jam events, and speaking wherever my voice is needed. I even have the thought of a larger project that I would love to start on given the time and resources. So, here is where I need a bit of your help to make this possible:
1) If anyone needs a remote short-term contract Unity programmer, hit me up at adriel[at]msminotaur[dot]com. I have been developing in Unity (mostly C#) for almost 5 years now and have worked on both large and small-scale projects. Before delving into Unity, I’ve worked on projects in C and C++ both in and out of games. I also dabble around in other languages (python, php, html) when needed. I mostly enjoy rapid prototyping, but am flexible and a quick adaptor when brought on to new projects. I’ve worked on augmented reality apps, facebook games, mobile games, and many many tiny little personal projects mostly all in Unity (also, I used to make weather satellites) (you know. . .in space). I’m looking mostly for short term contracts as I very much still want to have the time to dedicate to my own projects. This doesn’t mean that I will attend to my contract work less, it just means that I still want time in the week for my own projects. If you have any more specific questions – please don’t hesitate to email me. Also, almost everything I’ve ever worked on can be found at www.msminotaur.com.
2) If you’ve ever thought to yourself “Hey, how do I throw money at this awesome person’s games?” you can do so via the donate button at www.msminotaur.com. It’s currently located at the top and the bottom of the page right now (usually it’s only at the very bottom) and can also be found on the page of every single one of my Game a Week games. Please only donate if you feel as though any of the things I’ve ever done have added to your life in a way that justifies your contribution.
3) If you (or anyone you know) ever wants to invite me to speak at an event (conference, convention, jam, etc) and can fly me there – I’m pretty much always up for going anywhere. I love travel and I love speaking (and sometimes I even say smart things).
So yeah, this was a weird post to write, but that’s where I am right now. Again, sorry that this is late, but after all of the emotional turmoil and pre-E3 and then E3 itself, this is the first real chance I’ve had to write all of this up.
One last thing I want to address before closing this out, is that when I first starting saying that I wouldn’t be able to complete Week 29 (and even when I first started writing this post), I kept referring to it as ‘failing’. “I failed at Game a Week this week” I kept saying over and over to people who would ask me how Game a Week was going. I failed and it felt like a failure. However, looking back at just how much of a weight was lifted off of me the moment I first said “No, I’m not making a game this week” was incredible. Though Game a Week has been an overwhelmingly positive experience, it is still a lot to take on every single week. By making the declaration that I wouldn’t do it in order to focus on my emotional well-being and allow myself some room to breathe is 100% not a failure. I might not have made a game, but I sure didn’t fail at Game a Week.