A year ago I decided to venture into the unknown. Instead of going the safe route of finding an occupation in a field related to the subject I studied (Anthropology); I set out to build something on my own. Sure, there aren’t many options of Anthropologists anyway, but I was still considering the option of pursuing an Academic career, even though I wasn’t really interested in the field anymore.
It was the first year where I gave myself the permission to explore new things and, more importantly, fail at them.
And I failed a lot.
Despite my efforts to find something that could sustain me, be it a job or some kind of freelance work, I’m still unemployed and depend on welfare to pay my rent and food. I had days in August where I felt like a complete failure, because nothing I was doing had any positive effect on my situation. Instead it got worse. I’m usually quite confident when it comes to my own abilities, but I had days where I questioned everything I’ve achieved so far in my life. That I wasted 10 years of my life without getting anything in return and that it might be too late for me. The existential dread was accompanied by a torrent of anger towards the people who pressured me into this situation.
At the end of August, I randomly got wind that the next Ludum Dare was about to happen. The Ludum Dare is a pretty big (if not the big) Game Jam, where people from all over the world try to create games for a specific theme within a weekend.
I was always fascinated by the collective excitement that seems to come out of this event, but I never joined myself. I can’t program, I can’t draw, I can’t make music, I never learned anything about Game design apart from what I gathered from my own observations. This time however I decided to give it go. I knew that it would take me a long time to get even the most basic things done, so tried to be smart.
I ended up misreading the Theme voting page and came up with a game for a theme, that didn’t end up being the official theme for the Jam.
This idea became what I now call „Mop’s Tower“. It’s a game about running, jumping, gliding and gradually losing all your friends. I’ve actually finished working on it back in November, but I’m still waiting for some music to be done before I can finally release it.
After I finished working on Mop’s Tower I felt the need to immediately start working on something new. I finally managed to wedge my foot into the door that had blocked me so long from making my own games. I didn’t want it to close again. So I used the Procjam to make a game called Noisekiller. The initial version was a bit rough, so I spend the following three weeks improving the original prototype and I managed to make something that I really, really like.
I wasn’t doing much else while I was working on Noisekiller. I didn’t apply for any jobs, I didn’t write anything, and I barely made any videos. I got up at ten, started working at twelve and had to pry myself away from the computer at seven, so that I could get something to eat before the stores closed.
The work was oftentimes frustrating. The game crashed constantly. The Framerate was atrocious and at one point it used up more than 1GB of RAM, because I created a giant memory leak. I had days where I spend most of the time screaming at my monitor, because I didn’t understand what the game wanted me to fix.
But never did I say“I hate working on this thing, let’s go and do something else.“
Never did I had to force myself to work on it. Never did I had to cut my Wi-Fi connection so that I don’t waste hours staring at my twitter feed. I just got up, ate breakfast, booted up Gamemaker and started working.
After I finished Noisekiller I was confronted with a question. Should I slow down my work on games and look for more jobs/writing gigs, or should I just take whatever courage I have left and run with it?
If I would go for the latter, then just making small freeware games wouldn’t be enough to sustain myself. I would need to take bigger steps.
So I made some calculations, looked up some information about how much tax I would have to pay as a self-employed human being in Germany and how much money I need per month to sustain myself. I then calculated how much money I would make by selling a copy of a hypothetical game and how much copies I would need to sell in order to earn enough money to stay afloat for another year.
The number I came up with was 2500.
It’s still a lot.
But it’s not unrealistic.
Right now I’m working on a prototype for a game, that I’m going to release in the first half of January. After that I will then develop that Prototype into a full, commercial game, which I will release at some time next year, probably before June.
It this ambitious? Probably.
Am I overestimating my abilities? Of course I am.
But I don’t have time to learn slowly. I can’t spend the next three years slowly plugging away at a single game. Whatever I need to learn for this to work, I need to learn it fast. Whatever I need to do in order for this to succeed, I need to do it. Whatever stupid challenge I’m going to face, I’m going to figure it out.
I’m not scared of this. I’m excited. Doing this feels right, working on the game feels right. So when it feels right, why should I hesitate? What do I gain by waiting?
I’ve already waited long enough, I’m tired of it.
At the beginning of the year, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, so I experimented. I failed a lot, but I also learned a lot and I think I’m now at point, where it’s time to move on.
I am going to make a videogame next year.