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Video: How to function as a depressed, solo game developer

[Note: To access chapter selection, click the fullscreen button or check out the video on the GDC Vault website]
February 4, 2013 | By GDC Vault Staff

February 4, 2013 | By GDC Vault Staff
More: Console/PC, Smartphone/Tablet, Indie, Programming, Design, Production, Video

Courtesy of the GDC Vault is a free lecture given at the Game Developers Conference 2011 on minimizing depression's adverse effects and maximizing productivity and creativity.

Developer Michael Todd suggests those who work solo or remotely and are prone to depression need to be proactive about the work they select. Finding projects that are highly rewarding, suit your needs, and match your abilities will help keep you inspired and productive.

Some tips he offers are to get other people to play your game and to discuss online or in person its potential flaws, instead of trying to work through development alone. He also says to play demos to realign your reality with what games are currently offering. Additionally, he suggests for self-evaluation and motivation that carefully track how much time you spend on work is better than merely estimating.

Session Name: Turning Depression into Inspiration

Speaker(s): Michael Todd

Company Name(s): then, now Michael Todd Games

Track / Format: Independent Games Summit

About the GDC Vault

In addition to this presentation, the GDC Vault offers numerous other free videos, audio recordings, and slides from many of the recent GDC events, and the service offers even more members-only content for GDC Vault subscribers. Those who purchased All Access passes to events like GDC, GDC Europe, and GDC China already have full access to GDC Vault, and interested parties can apply for the individual subscriptions via a GDC Vault inquiry form.

Group subscriptions are also available: game-related schools and development studios who sign up for GDC Vault Studio Subscriptions can receive access for their entire office or company. More information on this option is available via an online demonstration, and interested parties can find out more here. In addition, current subscribers with access issues can contact GDC Vault admins.

Be sure to keep an eye on GDC Vault for even more new content, as GDC organizers will also archive videos, audio, and slides from other events like GDC China and GDC 2013. To stay abreast of all the latest updates to GDC Vault, be sure to check out the news feed on the official GDC website, or subscribe to updates via Twitter, Facebook, or RSS.

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Bradley Johnson
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Depression is awful. The more we educate people about it the better off we'll all be. If someone close to you shows signs and they're not seeking treatment please talk to them about it. There are many ways to get help, but unfortunately when someone's depressed they won't have the motivation to seek that help themselves. Just Google "depression" for info on symptoms and treatment options.

Beatrice Margarita Lapa
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Unfortunately, a lot of people think that depression is a "first world problem". The reason why depressed people don't ask for help is that they don't get support from the people closest to them.

Dean Boytor
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Great article,
I don't want to say this applies to me right away but I feel I game design to stave off any depression. Even down to the nitty gritty, from pixel to conditional statement, as along as I'm creeping towards that finish line it makes me happy.

Its when I'm not able to work on my game I become depressed, working a full time day job and spending the weekend on my projects is my current schedule. As long as I accomplish something that following Monday, I feel vindicated, If I don't, (Busy schedule, or general procrastination) I start to feel those blues.

What I've learned from this, is that I do project those emotions into my game, I thought before maybe it was because I have a more Gothic style. I'm more aware now where misplaced frustration may end up.


Terry Matthes
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Listening to this made me feel a lot better about developing a game on my own.

Russ Menapace
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When I get a feeling down, I show my inner 10 year old my life making games, and his approval brightens things a bit.

Jack Matthewson
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I really enjoyed that talk. I think there's a lot there that can be used to motivate an individual whether they are depressed or not.

Henrique Ribas
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Thank You.

Simon Love
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Choosing the indie game dev lifestyle sounds like a dream to most outsiders. Trying to explain the darker side of this lifestyle is often met with disbelief : To most it sounds like childish whining.

To 'us', however, it rings true as it reflects our daily reality as we can all easily be overwhelmed by procrastination and depression. Add to that the incessant questioning. "Am I doing the right thing? Am I insane for trying this?"

Indie Game : The Movie touched on this subject a bit and showed that depression is kind of inevitable when you're running your own show.

Michael Todd hits the nail on the head and reflects my personal experience really precisely. I'm really really really happy to see this issue being discussed openly. It also helps to know that 'we' are not alone in this.

Procrastination coupled with depression leads a really painful non-existence which is really hard to escape. Overthinking everything is part of the job so it's hard not to fall into the trap when one questions and deconstructs everything.

Right-sizing your projects with your abilities and trying to work on rewarding projects is indeed the key. Exercise also plays a great part, at least going out to take a walk.

Thank you, Michael.

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Brian Bartram
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I think the focus on depression is important, but also I can't think of a single developer (or professional artist in general) who wouldn't benefit from watching this. Thank you.

ken adams
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from a person deep in the dark world of depression, i really loved this quick talk about it