Michael Smith's Blog
As far as game development goes, I haven’t been doing this too long. Not as long as some of the other writers on this site, to be sure. I’ve been lurking for quite some time, and have learned a lot from reading through your articles.
It’s with that notion that I originally thought I wouldn’t have much to contribute to the site, and I was apprehensive at first. But then I thought, “You know what? Maybe I can help! Maybe there’s some other person out there who’s exactly where I was about a year ago, and could use a little guidance.”
To begin, I got into this business quite by accident. I’m not, by profession, a game developer or content writer. I’m a freelancer (and part-time procrastinator with a full-blown internet addiction) and I’ve made a decent living writing pretty much everything but content for games.
But one of the perks of being a freelancer is that you get a huge variety of job offers, and if you’re broke enough you don’t necessarily get to be too picky about which ones you accept. A friend of mine from college was, about a year ago, starting work on a little indie game and asked me if I could help him. Of course, I knew nothing about coding or the intricacies of game development.
But I could write a story, damn it. So I did. Alan and I were alive back in the stone age when Gran Turismo and Final Fantasy VII were released for the PS1. We’d been playing together for a lifetime, so we knew well what would work and what would not as we worked together. I wasn’t paid for the job, but Alan and I made a deal – he’d pay me in either beer or royalties, whichever was greater.
Long story short, the game took off and I made a killing on it. I chose royalties (although some beer changed hands as well) and was ultimately happy with that decision. The content totaled 10,000 words at most but the payout was bigger than any article I’d ever written as a freelancer. I am, by nature, a very greedy person, so I decided that I wanted to continue.
I’ve been developing a variety of games for about a year now, and I’m nowhere near the point where I’m willing to consider myself an expert. But I started this post by telling you that I wanted to help new developers get into the business. Let me begin to do that by telling you what I’ve learned so far.
1. You don’t know everything. After my project with Alan ended, I researched the hell out of development. I know that some of you have gone to school to study this, and I applaud you for that. Because there is a ridiculous amount of information to absorb and it takes a special kind of brain to do that.
I began learning about coding and game development through some very basic courses. And by basic, I mean $10 courses on Udemy. Don’t laugh, we’ve all got to start somewhere (this is actually how I learned to trade and buy stocks, and to play the guitar).
Since then, I’ve learned quite a bit more than those courses offered me, but I know I’ve still got a long way to go. It seems to me that the best way to be successful at this is through continuous learning.
2. You’re going to need help. It would appear that the easiest way to fail at this is to try to do it all yourself. Development takes patience, time and money, and unless you’ve got super powers, you’re not going to be able to do it all alone.
I still consider myself to be in the beginning stages of my career, which is why I pat myself on the back for taking on help as soon as I did. Once I realized just how little I knew, I began looking for a like mind to share thoughts with.
I was actually quite lucky in this regard. A friend I’ve worked with for a while on a freelancing website had a bit of experience writing game content and was, happily enough, willing to give me some guidance. What began as a mentorship became a collaboration, and I’d highly recommend that any new developer foster a similar relationship with someone in the field.
3. Track your progress. I got lucky in my partnership with Alan. But, being a freelancer at heart, I’ve chosen since then to go my own way and work solo.
However, I also realize that I may not be business minded enough to fly solo forever, so I’ve chosen to keep track of what I learn as a resume of sorts. Should I choose to seek employment from a “real” company at a later date, I’ll have a portfolio of my work that I can easily share. Being self-taught doesn’t carry as much credibility as a binder full of certifications, and I figure I’d best be prepared to show employers that I know what I’m talking about.
So, all this is to say that while I’ve not been in the field long, I know that there are others out there who are just beginning, too. I do aim to help in any way I can through my posts, and to learn from yours as well.