Gaming might be a multi-billion dollar industry, but that doesn't mean that everyone can eke out a living by making games -- or even that everyone who makes games wants to.
With the rise in popularity and accessibility of smaller, downloadable games, a number of developers are able to make the games they want on the side, in addition to other work. Some do so with the intention of eventually turning development into a career; others simply do it for the love.
Somehow, however, they all manage to make the time to create games on top of other responsibilities, from hobbyist developers like Benjamin Rivers to those trying to turn what they love into a career like Jim McGinley and Andy Moore.
Developing Games As A Hobby
Toronto native Benjamin Rivers is a busy man. In addition to running his own web design company, he also does freelance illustration work, creates and sells independent comic books, and sometimes teaches at the Ontario College of Art & Design.
But despite his clearly busy schedule, Rivers was able to get into the world of game development thanks in large part to Toronto's active indie development community. Events like the Artsy Games Incubator and Toronto Game Jam (better known as TOJam), as well as social organizations like the Hand Eye Society, serve as both a learning opportunity and a source of inspiration.
"I would say (the sense of community) is extremely important and likely more so than if, say, I was working at an actual developer, because I would have support there," says Rivers, who recently created a game called Drunken Rampage as an experimental title.
"The Hand Eye Society socials are obviously great because you have the opportunity to show off a game, which is fantastic, being able to share that with other people. But also just to meet other people and find people who are smarter than you, which is what I found, and being able to ask questions and get technical help, and also just inspiration help, and just figure out what's going on, and what people are doing."
Of course, the obvious question is how exactly he is able to find the time to create games in addition to all of the other work he does. In Rivers' case, the fact that game development isn't his primary career has actually been beneficial -- it allows him to create at his own pace.
"I guess my main thing is I try never to force it, I don't try to stress myself out doing it," he says. "If I feel like I have something to say or a game that I really want to make, I'll take the steps to do it, but I'm not 20 anymore so I don't really feel like spending 24 hours of my weekend jamming on a game so much. I do have a wife, so she wouldn't be too happy with that.
"I try to give myself a whole bunch of limitations: say I can make a game that only uses one button, maybe it's a one-screen game, something that I can realistically do in one weekend and isn't going to require weeks of art production. And then I sort of work within my own time capabilities and produce something that way, rather than trying to shoehorn a year-long project into a couple of weekends."
And unlike a lot of developers who hope to one day be able to quit their fulltime jobs in order to dive straight into the world of game development, Rivers is happy where he is, creating games not for financial gain, but simply because its something he enjoys doing. When it comes to his games, Rivers has no business plan or any real expectations of earning any money.
"I sort of have reluctantly come to grips with the fact that I guess, to be fair, I should call myself a 'hobby developer', because I'm not like a lot of people who actually pour in 60 hours a week to this kind of thing," he says. "So that's probably where I'll stay."