I went indie 16 months ago. And if there is one lesson I have learned, it's that I am dependent on community. If you are out there, spending hours upon hours of your day alone, toiling successfully or not, know that other people are struggling through the same mental trials, you are not alone in your fight.
I had a sobering talk with my girlfriend two weeks ago. While discussing her co-workers, I realized that in the previous ten days I hadn't had more than three or so hours of serious social interaction beyond her. I love my girlfriend, but holy moly, that was depressing. I called up a friend that evening and set out to go climbing the next day. Crikey, I needed to get out!
There is a time for development, and there's a time for hanging out. It's easy to get locked away in your apartment or dorm room, working or playing or perusing the internet, and never leave. Even going to coffee-shops you don't have to do any socializing except say "I'd like a medium chai, please". Then you sit down and glue your eyes once again to your computer.
Some people seem fine working alone. It's easy to develop a sense of inadequacy when it seems like so many solo developers put hour on endless hour into their work. I'm here to tell you that you should not let those unfounded fears control you. Most people have similar trials. Many struggle with time management issues, with a lack of social interaction, with being tucked away, seemingly just a computer monitor for comfort. Games are a great escape. And making games can be a great escape. But man (or woman), you are not alone, you need to get out.
I try the internet forum thing every so often, but it has never really worked for me. I have been briefly involved in various forums such as interlopers.net (Source mapping) and TIGSource (an indie community), but internet communication is not enough for me. Over the last year, I have slowly discovered a community of game developers in the area that I can reach out to and socialize with face-to-face.
There are a lot of developers in my area, but I still had to search them out, to find where and when they gathered. It's taken me a year to get here, to this mindset, to start to reach the comfort and community that I so desperately needed.
The ubiquity of game developers and aspiring game developers is present and growing everywhere, and you really really really should seek it out. Because you are never alone. Others are looking for pals to hang out and play games and talk design and art and code. Or maybe they want to go climbing, or share their love of beer.
There's an interesting conundrum in the debate over whether or not we are beautiful snowflakes. If you are a beautiful unique snowflake, then no one else feels what you are feeling, and you are alone. But if you are not unique, then do you even matter? But come at it from a game design standpoint: remember that even though every snowflake is unique, it has strong similarities to every other snowflake, it follows design patterns.
You and I are unique, but you and I are alike as well. We all bring something new to the table, even though we fight similar fights. I have met and talked and heard enough stories to know that plenty of the respected game developers we idolize have the same struggles, the same fears, as we do. Success comes from knowing when to fight, and when to ask for help.
Randy recently released his first commercial game which you should totally buy: Dead End for iPhone/iPod touch.