In the Monday Musings I try to talk about the stuff that’s happening in the world of Game Development, from interesting game releases, to interesting technology, and game business happenings.
It’s somewhat possible that I’m writing this Monday’s Musing with a bit of a mid-life crisis sneaking around the door.. not knocking on my door YET, just sneaking around the block I guess? It’s near by, I can hear it, it’s whisperings can be heard in the hallway.
Anyway! Let’s not give in to mid-life crisis just yet, because just due to life and things, this question seemed to slowly put it self into my brain recently: what is the expiration date for being a game-developer? Or will I keep doing this for ever like an old Sir Questionnaire roaming the dungeons at 90!?
It’s not a sport
When you become a sports-person, and get a career in sports, you usually know that there’s a known expiration date. You will (most likely) not be playing Football (Soccer) after your 40s and even 40 will be a age where most football players don’t see them selves running for 90 minutes.
If you work in construction, there are also very hard lines that will make you quit your career. Your body will simply start telling you to not get on that ladder, to not carry those power tools around, to not fold yourself into tiny crawl spaces or you might not unfold your body ever again!
But for game-development, and then especially as a solo (independent) game-developer, is there such a limit?
Do what you do best
When I started Orangepixel I was in my late 20s, and I never decided to start a company, I just wanted to make some money with games. It eventually grew into a business where I did work-for-hire projects for other companies, making games for TV-shows, brands, publishers and even platform-owners. Using that work-for-hire money to work on my own games and build my own distribution network – something that was important before the smartphones and Google Play / App store were made.
That was almost twenty years ago! Now in recent years, there has been a certain thought that keeps creeping up every now and then, mostly when times are uncertain and revenue-streams are drying up: do I have other paths to take from here?
Being a solo game developer, accustomed to my own tools, my own decision-making, my own environment, is there still something else I could do if things go wrong? I’m now 46 (47 in October), and I think I might be one out of maybe five? people in this age bracket still doing the “indie game dev” thing as a main job.
In the Netherlands, finding a “normal” job at 46 can be a tough thing (I imagine, cause I haven’t searched for a job in decades and have no clue how the job market currently is except for what I read in the news). My skills are a lot of different ones, but none of them really perfected, because as indie game dev you pretty much do a little bit of everything and enough of all of that to make it work!
I also can’t advance into more of a management job, because there’s nobody above or below me! So unless I start hiring others to do the “grunt” work for me, I pretty much have to keep doing what I do best.
My last game
At some point, I’ll probably be working on my last game.. and depending on my age at that point, it might not even be a completed and released game, or I might forget to add 50% or forget what I was originally trying to create due to my brain slowly degrading!
In the Netherlands, and for people around my age, the retirement age is very close to 70 (yeah.. I know!) so with that in mind, I’d still have to work for at LEAST 20 years.. as in.. ANOTHER 20 years from now, which means I’m only at the half-way point !
And what will happen to “games” in the next 20 years? This question could go for a lot of other jobs I guess, but with games we’ve seen a lot of change and evolution in the last decades. Will it all turn into VR games? Will it all become AI generated content?
Most of those questions are less important to me, for me there’s really just one main question: Will people still like and play the games I create? There’s always a niche-market, there’s always people that want things to stay as they are or enjoy the things how they were in the past.. so I think I’m safe? Maybe?
Luckily I still enjoy doing the work, I love creating games and seeing it all come together and then release them. So I’m still enjoying most of the solo game development life (I could do without the struggle to sell enough copies or find funding!).
But that doesn’t mean that every now and then, I do think about my escape options. What could I be doing to possibly secure my future? There are many ideas and things that you could find pro’s and con’s to, but without going into all of that, here’s a list of quick things from the top of my head:
- Consulting business, sharing my knowledge with starting developers
- Teaching job, either game development or just computers/code/things in general
- Part-time brain-dead jobs, just enough to get extra money and still work on games
- Go full in on Youtube, making more hit-driven youtube videos
- Have my wife’s business make all the money! ( no Aline, it’s not a bad idea )
- Create video teaching-courses and sell them online
- Find a job at a publisher/game-dev ? as dev relations? something?
There are probably a lot more I can come up with at any random moment, but this lists covers some of the actually decent ones and they could all work.
So it’s an interesting question that I never asked myself when I started this venture, and I know for a fact that most game developers don’t look that far into the future. But if you start doing this as a solo game developer, or a small team, have you made long-term plans? Have you figured out what the expiration date on all of this is going to be? And can you actually manage to keep it up until retirement or … OKAY, let’s not make this article turn into a dark thing ;)
If you got stuff to add to the article, make sure to drop it on the Discord, and also if you got cool ideas for Monday Musing articles or want to see other topics covered, then let me know on Discord!