If You Don’t Make It, No One Will
I want to talk about something that is very close to my heart because I think this is something that many indie game developers miss. That is the concept of: If you don’t make it, no one will. For a a long time I thought of game design as this collective, collaborative process of a bunch of people just getting together making this thing. And that game was going to get made whether they made it or not, right?
I remember thinking with Destiny (although, it’s not an indie game, I’ll just use it as an example), when Destiny came out, for a long time I was enamored by the fact that I can make an FPS MMO. I know that it’s kind of cliché to want to make the biggest game possible early on in your game development, but that was always an idea that I loved. When Destiny came out it was like validation for me. THAT game was going to be created no matter what. It was coming.
And I think what a lot of developers don’t realize is, especially solo developers, is the uniqueness of their brain, for a lack of a better way to explain it. You are the only one on the planet that can put things together in your exact way. It blew my mind when I thought about it. I remember someone once, an old mentor of mine, told me that, “you’re unique, 100% absolutely unique, just like everyone else.” I’m sure that’s a quote from someone else, but the idea struck me in a profound way. Yes, you are like everyone else, but you’re unique just like everyone else.
So the idea that what’s going on in your brain is completely different than anyone on the planet, and if you don’t make your game, no one will make it, is interesting. No one will make it exactly like you, no one will put the exact numbers into the jumps and all the variables, no one will make the art quite like you, that’ll have the same lines, the same curves. No one EVER will do it if you don’t do it.
That really got me motivated to make a lot of really unique games. I had worked on a lot of mobile games, and those type of games are in a weird place with game developers because a lot of the popular mobile games are these singular, mechanical, super simple games, and those are the games that can be easily cloned. If you take Flappy Bird, for example, that’s something that I can make in an hour or 2 and so when it became popular, that’s what a lot of developers did.
In fact, many people who were not even in the game industry decided to hire developers to make them a clone just to get it on the app store and hopefully capitalize on its success. I think that that stopped me for a long time. I was afraid of two things: One, I was afraid of my game getting cloned, and two, I didn’t want to be a part of that whole culture, because I just thought that that’s the wrong way to approach games.
However, when I started thinking about this whole concept of if I don’t make it no one will, it kind of motivated me to get my stuff out there because I was like, “Hey! This is my contribution to the world.” At my funeral, people will say, “Hey, this guy made that game” or maybe they won’t, maybe they’ll forget it and just never mention it again. But I think that being driven by the things that I’m driven by, I’d love the idea that I can put out something that would not exist without my touch on it. No one could make it exactly like I can make it. And that kind of gave me the self-confidence to push through and make things happen and really develop them, when I otherwise wouldn’t have.
There are lots of games, that I can talk about specifically, but one example is a game called Ascension. This is a game that I probably have about 3 weeks of development into but it’s taking 3 years to get to this point because it’s been non-stop crazy. I start it then I stop it and I start it then I stop it, then I’d join in, I’d revamp everything. It’s one of those projects that just goes on forever and ever and ever and this particular game, I wasn’t going to release it because at one point I just kind of quit. I was like, no, it doesn’t feel right, it’s not good enough.
Then I realized, “Hey, I’m the only one that could’ve created this the way that I made it. I’m the only one. And if people find this fun, then my brain has literally created something out of nothing that other human beings find joy in. And I’m the only one capable of doing it in this exact way.” Just think about it. That’s awesome! That’s one of the great things about being a game developer or any kind of artist. You are THE ONLY ONE that can create this thing in this way.
That is why I’m excited every day that I’m a game developer because I can’t say that about anything else in my life. I know that I’m unique in that way and that’s why I love putting out games, even when I don’t feel like they’re good enough—I know that they’re a piece of me. And so, I put stuff out there because I know I’m the only one that can put it out that way, and if I don’t, that game will never get made, it’ll not exist in the fabric of time, and so I want to make sure that I put it out there and I get people to play it.
If you have any similar thoughts, if you have ever arrived at a similar realization or anything like that, leave a comment below because I want to hear from you. Until next time!