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Indie dad survival tips
by Daniel Marcoux on 05/29/12 08:22:00 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.

 

My face...not too shabby

When I started working at Tiebreaker Studio full time I thought I would have more time to blog and let you know what’s going on with me and Shape Invaders development. Unfortunately life being life, time is not something I have plenty these days. Going indie is hard. It’s hard when you’re a kid living in your parents’ basement, but when you’re married with children it adds another layer of complexity. In the last few months, I have learned a thing or two about being an Indie Dad and I thought that, for my first blog, it would be a goodidea for me to share what I have learned with you guys in case other Indie Dads would like to do the jump to the sweet life of Indie game development. :D

1. Spend time with your family

When you are your own boss working out of your basement, the line between work time and family time get blurred a lot. Over are the good old days of 8 to 5, 5 days a week. Now it’s possible to always be on the job. When you believe in your project and are working to feed your family let me tell you it’s natural to always want to be in front of the computer working. But as a famous admiral said a long time ago: “It’s a trap!”  Sure, things will move faster…for while, but your wife and kids need you too, and last thing you want is to have them feel like your business is more important than them. Remember that you’re doing that for them as much as for you. And if they end-up resenting you and your work because of how you acted, it’s no worth it.

2. Have a to-do list

Admit it, you have a bad memory,  we all do,  That’s why “To-do lists” exist. Sometimes people don’t want to use to-do lists because of the time it takes to maintain them. Trust me it’s time well invested. Don’t use your to-do list only for business related tasks only, use it for everything, kids appointment, chores to do in the house, etc. That way you won’t forget anything important in your professional and personal life. There are a bunch of free to-do lists software on the net. Pick one and use it.

3. Have a schedule

If you want to be able to make smooth transitions between, work time and family time, you must have a schedule. When you work in an office it’s a lot easier to make that transition…when you are out at 5pm it’s family time until you get up the next morning. However when you work at home, this line gets blurred a lot. So you and your family need to agree on a schedule. It does not matter what the schedule is, but you need to stick to it as much as you can. This way it will be easier for you kids to know when daddy is available to play, but it will also be easier for you to know when to stop working and spend some time with your family. However this one is hard to do, so try your best

4. Finish what you start

Starting things is easy…finishing them is hard. There’s few thing more motivating than being able to say “it’s done” and be able to move to something else. Unfinished things only nag you as you keep thinking about them and how great it would be if this was finish. So instead of starting a million things at one stay focused, start something and finish it.

5. Go outside and see other people

Being indie often means you don’t have the money to rent an office; it’s our case with Tiebreaker Studio. I work out of my basement 6 days a week all by myself. Its’ cool since you’re more focused and have less distractions, but after a couple of week of that regime you feel quite lonely, it can get depressing and play on your moral and energy. Try to go out of the house a couple of time a week, even during the day. Take a walk, go to the grocery store, go see friends…interact with real people. It will make you feel better and help wash off that loneliness funk.

6. Exercise regularlyGood old exercise machine

You’ll need energy to complete your project. However spending 10 hours + a day in front of a computer will bring your energy level down and you’ll fell sluggish and tired. Try to exercise at least 15 minutes each day,  do whatever you like but move and get of that chair for a while anyway it’s killing you :P http://dailyinfographic.com/sitting-down-is-killing-you-infographic

7. Show your game to your kids or kid’s friends

This one depends on what your game is but if it fits you kids age, have them play it. Not only will it help you play test your game, it will also show your kids that you are working on something real and that you are making progress, they’ll like it even if they don’t love your game. As a bonus, have your kid friends play too; you’ll score some points on the “Cool Dad” meter which can only benefit your kid.

8. Talk about your plans to your wife

Your wife is your first investor, she has a stake in what you do more than anyone else and if you fail she fails too. So it’s only natural to let her know how things are going, what you are working on, when you thing thinks will come through, etc. This information will help her feel less stressed out about the situation (if she is) and will allow her to give you better advices.

9. Get enough sleep

As Juan Rico once said “Happiness consists in getting enough sleep. Just that, nothing more”.  If you want to be productive and be on top of your game every day, then get enough sleep! Otherwise, you’ll have more difficulty to focus on things, thus leading you to take more time to complete your tasks, then leaving you with less time to sleep. Hence the infernal circle. Besides things always look worse than they are when you’re tired; in the world we live in you don’t needed that added stress. It’s ok to get to bed very late sometimes but follow it with a good night sleep the day after.

10. Play Games

Time is scare and playing game sound like the last thing you should be doing. But au contraire playing games will help you stay motivated; it will inspire you and even help you solve problems you may encounter in your game. If you play other good indie games, you’ll get to realized that making good games with almost no money is possible, and if you are competitive like me you see these games as a challenge. If they can do it, you can do it too.

Hope these tips will help some of you out there. I know they are not ground-breaking tips but sometime it’s good to go back to the basics.

Thanks for reading this post :D

-Dan


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Comments


Christer Kaitila
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Thanks for the great advice! As a fellow indie dad who works from home, I wholeheartedly agree with all your points. The most important one is to spend time away from the computer with your family - by going to the park, playing with toys, or simply sharing calm moments together, enjoying the simple things in life like having lunch together or watching birds in the sky. It is easy to get obsessed with your gamedev, but on your deathbed you won't wish you spent that extra hour of coding, you'll wish you spent more time playing with lego with your toddler. The game can wait.

Daniel Marcoux
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Hehe Right on Christer.
The hardest part for me is probably being home alone most of the time. Being used to work in offices for the last 12 years, I miss goofing-off with co-workers. Good thing my wife comes home for lunch each day kinda breaks the day in 2.
Thanks for the comment and keep on rocking. :)

Ryan Alcock
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Great advice! This all rings true for me. Especially the bits about sleep + family time! I've been struggling with all of this myself recently but have started to achieve a nice balance I think. You've given me some greate ideas to incorporate :D

I've also recently brought in a few friends of the younger persuasion to test games for me and man they can bring some awesome enthusiasm!

Cheers!

Dave Wishnowski
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Fantastic article! Thanks for sharing! I've been in the same boat for almost ten years now. I do miss the energy of the studio and it can get challenging to be productive with so many distractions at home. If I could suggest one additional bit of advice it would be to wake up as early as possible. For me, productivity is highest first thing in the morning when everyone else is still asleep and my mind is fresh.

Cheers!

Jamie Fristrom
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I've been wrestling with this too! I even blogged about it myself just a couple weeks ago: http://www.gamedevblog.com/gamedevdad/

Great to know I'm not alone. We should start an 'indie gamedev parent' support group or something.

Daniel Marcoux
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Hi Jamie,
Just read your blog, yep we're both in the same boat :)
Although I'm lucky that both my kids are in school. and my wife is working full time so I'm home alone all day. We'll see how long we can keep it up until I have to go back to work for the man.
Hope things will work out for you :)
Thanks for the comment
Cheers :)

Kale Menges
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Great article;)

Gregory Booth
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Thanks for the article Daniel.
All good points.

My favorites:
4. Finish what you start
5. Go outside and see other people
6. Exercise regularly
10. Play Games

Ted Brown
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Every time I see an indie darling -- for example, Jon Blow or Team Meat -- I always wonder if they have to support a family in addition to their work.

The answer is usually 'no.' =)

I'm happy to see more proud indie parents come out of the shadows. It's a hard road to travel, and it's good to have company!

Robert Boyd
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Indie developers/parents represent! 4 kids here - 1.5 yr, 3 yr, 4yr, and 11yr; All girls.

Daniel Marcoux
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Wow that's a big family, congrats :)
Me I have only 2 boys, Nathan 9yr and Zackary 5yr.
Bonus point for the 1st to find the video game reference in that :P

E Zachary Knight
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If we are going to make a contest of this:

8yr boy, 6yr girl, 4 yr girl, 2.5yr girl, girl on the way.

Dave Wishnowski
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One awesome little girl, 10. How many of us have pictures of us holding a baby in one arm while typing at a computer with the other?

Tiago Costa
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Too many photos of me holding my two baby girls and either typing at the computer or playing games...

@Daniel : Crimson Skies?

Daniel Marcoux
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Exactly Tiago :) Nathan Zachary, Crimson Skies hero. Man that game was great, I hope they'll do another one someday.

E Zachary Knight
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As an Indie Developer Dad, I have to say it is really really hard when you are also holding down a full time job. 40+ hours a week at the job, with only nights and weekends to split between family/social life/indie development makes for a frustrating indie development transition.

I would really like to go full time indie but am not in a financial situation to make it happen right now. As it stands I get anywhere between 5 and 10 hours a week working on my indie game and I really don't think that is enough.

Vincent Dumont
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We are in the same situation but I only have two girls (7 month, 3 yr) ;) I would love to be full time!

Tiago Costa
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That makes us three... two baby girls, a wife and a 40+ work schedule.

Daniel Marcoux
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As Ryan suggested, I created an open Facebook group named "Indie game dev dads" join in if you want. This way we can support each other, exchange tips on game dev, swap stories andor recipes :P

Phillip Abram
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Good article. Not a parent yet, but the discussion of kids comes up regularly. Where would you place house work or running errands (ie. cut grass, paint, install air conditioner, get groceries, make dinner, etc.)? Sometimes, I count it as exercise (ex. cut grass).

My schedule varies day-to-day since stuff comes up so I built myself a database to track how I spend my time (reading, research, programming, playing games, social, etc.) so I can see if I am spending too much time playing games and not exercising (for example). Tracking my time helps me, but may not be for everyone.

Vincent Dumont
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I place house work in exercise also sometimes.

Muir Freeland
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A lot of this is really great advice. Since going indie, I've been exercising more than I did before, even- I'm a wholehearted believer that a sound body equals a sound mind, so if I want to do my best work, I need to keep myself in good shape. I do a quick 15-minute workout first thing in the morning to get started, a heavier half-hour workout halfway through the day, and I try to get up and move around for five or ten minutes every hour. That very small time investment has more than justified itself: when I'm in that routine, my mind feels incredibly quick and efficient, and I constantly feel at my most creative.


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