Ok lets talk about something indie game developers don’t talk about much, but it affects quite a lot of us.
Many indies these days are in teams of 3 or 4 or more people, so the problem in that case is not acute. However, the genius of al gore’s internet means that often those teams are geographically distant and scattered anyway. I have contractors and partners working with/for me in all different countries, but in the majority of cases I’ve never met those people, or even phoned or skyped them. Some people think that’s weird, but I like the idea that I’m employing people based on the portfolio, reputation and skills and that their country of origin, accent etc never occur to me.
Of course the downside of this is that you sit in a room on your own with a keyboard, and there is nobody to just go ‘hey wassup?’ to. This makes me very very productive, when I need to be, but it can also be a very lonely job.
For a lot of people, especially the more insular sheldon-cooper style geeks, this is not a problem. Some people at Elixir and Lionhead would sit there with headphones on and never talk to anyone at all. I found that weird, but it was quite common. Other people, like me, actually enjoy the whole ‘water-cooler chit chat about nothing’ that you get in a normal workplace. Intellectually I know this is just some primitive portion of my brain that wants to metaphorically pick fleas off fellow humans, but there’s no doubting it does make me happier to hang out with a group of buddies and chat about stuff.
MSN, Skype et al, are great, and I do chat quite a bit to other indies over them, but of course it’s not quite the same. Private forums are also very good, because they become like a bar filled with friends, rather than the vast mass of trolls and flamebaters you get in most public anonymous forums. Meeting up for a beer is ideal, but generally for me that involves at least a 100 mile car journey, because if there’s a bright center to the universe, I’m in the county it’s farthest from.
What’s the solution? Well I think it’s yet another justification for going along to indie meetups and shaking some hands. Indies can probably recognize that slightly shy, rabbit-in-headlights stare that other developers have when they spend too long debugging and not enough time actually socializing. I’m lucky in that I’m not in the home alone like I was when I made Kudos and Democracy, and I don’t suffer from paranoid shyness like some indies do. I’ve also been around quite a while now, so someone normally recognizes me at all these indie things, which is great. One indie told me that I’m ‘much less scary in real life’ which I assume is a compliment. I’m at the eurogamer expo on thursday, BTW.
So I guess what I’m saying is, if you feel lonely,and isolated and it gets you down, don’t think it’s just you. This can be a lonely job, especially if the only people you chat to in your working day are family members who have no idea what you do, and are desperately hoping you will give up and get a proper job. They say the first step is recognizing you have a problem. The second step is normally to get a cat, or probably better a dog (because you need to walk it, and thus it gets you out in the fresh air that way). I’d definitely have a dog if we didn’t already have a sufficiency of cats.
Any other lone wolf indies out there howling at the moon?