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An Emotional Business
by Andrew Smith on 09/11/13 05:36:00 am   Expert Blogs   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.


Before I go on this ramble, I’d like to say that I nearly didn’t post this. Not sure why - just seems a bit… wet? Anyway, on with the show!

Lord knows Spilt Milk’s had a lot of ups and downs over the years. In fact, from my very first client job onwards, through the rise and fall of Hard Lines, and up until the present day where I try to balance more client work than I’ve ever had with more original projects than I’ve ever undertaken, my emotional state and the state of my business have always been inextricably linked.

Rather than talking about individual, specific aspects of this, I wanted to just see where writing down some feelings would take me.

Right now I’m writing this on my phone on the Northern Line. I do the commute from Clapham to Farringdon and back three days a week. I pity the people who have to do it every day, as the sweaty grumps that pack themselves into the carriages are almost too much to bear. It gives me plenty of time to think - perhaps too much. I know I over-think almost every aspect of my personal life, and since it’s incredibly hard for any devoted indie to properly separate the two, I must therefore over-think my business life.

See, that was me over-thinking!

Anyway, the biggest most dominant and recurring thoughts are worries. Most of these are about money. Where it’s coming from but almost as importantly where to spend it. I did occupy a shed (and enjoyed just as much social life as that would seem to suggest) for two years and more in an effort to save money, to make the most of the advantages I was afforded (work space, supportive parents, an un-contended business internet connection) and to build a company.

As a result of this self-imposed exile in the Essex countryside,  I made a bit of a name for Spilt Milk. How? By filling the void in my social life with twitter, essentially. I also dedicated all of my time - in the absence of almost literally anything else to do -to building games as best I could. Then instead of holidays, I had business trips to industry events.

All of which sounds like a bit of a whinge, but isn’t meant to.

All that work led to my current client work. The current client work, combined with a residual income from previous games, means I can afford to live in London. This in turn means I can attend more events, follow up on more business opportunities with more ease, be better located & more accessible for collaboration, and build a social life for myself. Three of those things will help my business, one doesn’t. Yet the guilt over the one outweighs any confidence built by the others.

Which is stupid.

But it’s there behind every decision I make and every hour I spend on… well whatever it is I’m doing. And so I’m haunted by all the things I’m not doing, or haven’t done, or - the terror - haven’t even thought about beginning to do!

So am I just lost, adrift on a sea of guilt, to-do lists and bad scheduling?

No. I refuse to be. You’re only ever truly lost when you close your eyes, and I’m not even going to let myself blink. Not once. I’ll only fail if I let myself - so I simply won’t give up. It sounds a bit simple, a bit faux-philosophy, but it’s the thought that I keep returning to and which I always bounce off of. Maybe it only works for me but if anyone else goes through the same kind of thing, maybe some solace can be gained  in knowing the experience is shared.

So I’m going to keep on keeping on. Lazarus on iOS (more news soon - currently it’s not doing so great but we have plans), Lazarus on PC, Tango Fiesta on PC, Hugatron and Smash the Block on mobile. All of these projects will be finished, released and most importantly will be FUN (if they aren’t already).

That’s my promise, and that’s the positive I take from any dive my mind takes into the depths of my designer’s despair (ooh, that’s a dramatic word for it eh?).

As I finish up this post I realise I hadn’t pointed out something key. While my business life seeps into my personal, the exchange is two way. So while my weekend may be slightly marred by some software-related doldrums, my rainy Mondays are brightened by so many positive aspects of the mix. I work with and compete against (in a friendly way) some of my favourite people in the world.

And that right there is reason enough never to stop.

(I originally posted this - and so too all of my blogs - on my tumblr a day earlier. You can also follow me on twitter)

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David Klingler
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Sounds like you have good motivation, as any indie needs to have, but make sure you don't trap yourself by getting burned out. My game development seeps into the other parts of my life too, but I know it's much better for my health to have specific things that separate the two.

...also, I like the term designer's despair. Very dramatic haha

Andrew Smith
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Thanks for your kind words - and absolutely, we've gotta keep a healthy balance!

Rob Lockhart
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I get into those same self-doubt spirals about time-management. Stay strong, Andrew. I can't get enough of Hard Lines, and I can't wait to play whatever comes out next.

Andrew Smith
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Oh a genuine fan! Thanks :D Always great to hear people still play games we launched (what seems like) so long ago!

Fabio Pedro
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Nice Reading! :)

Just be strong and things will turn out to be great in the end! like it was stated before, avoid that devil called "burnout".

All the Best

Nelson Ribeiro
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When you've been working a 9-to-5 (or in my case most often 9-to-9) job for quite a few years, all that juggling with aspects of your business and personal life sounds like one word.


Eric Robertson
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Managing a small business is tough. One thing that helps me is cardio. I prefer running but others might like biking. Its a great time to think about these work issues and exploit the natural anxiety and stress relieving benefits of exercise.

Andrew Smith
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Agreed - I was doing a nightly bike ride a few months back, I really need to get back into the habit (moving flat doesn't help!)

Thomas Happ
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It seems like I feel guilty no matter what I do. If I spend an hour working on Axiom Verge, I feel guilty for not having spent that time with those I love. If I spend an hour with those I love, I feel guilty that it wasn't spent working. I feel guilty when I'm at my day job because I'm doing neither. I feel guilty when I read about cool new indie games because I'm usually doing one of the other three and have no time to play them. Right now I'm typing this comment. Why? It's making me feel guilty! Back to work, then.

Andrew Smith
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It's like a guilt Inception! :D Hope you manage to work through it!

Adam Hunt
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I know this feeling all too well, but I personally I feel it most acutely when *playing* games for some reason. Since I've started developing I just can't play anything for longer than an hour or so without feeling bad and getting back to work. I can't even justify it as 'research'!

Rey Samonte
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Adam, I know the feeling! It's the sole reason why I only play an hour at most. Being productive is all I think about. If there is client work that isn't done, the dominating thought is "the longer it takes, the less I get paid." Or simply, I just need to work on my own game when I'm not working on client projects.

Andrew Smith
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I can relate to that, big time! Balancing all of the demands on your time is so tough... but I honestly feel like over the last few years I've come to appreciate games a bit more. Especially since I stopped buying new ones and started trying to complete my pile of shame - it's a great way to save money too!