Oh boy am I about to get some angry responses.
Disclaimer: My objective is not to compare the challenges of success to anyone else’s problems. There are obviously millions of situations worse than achieving your dreams. I’ve been in some of them, but, given my privilege, there are a multitude I cannot even imagine. This is intended as a post to encourage understanding of a very specific issue, which I’m semi qualified to talk about. I sincerely hope it’s taken as such.
Being successful, suddenly, is something that happens to a small number of devs a year. There are different kinds of success, financial, cultural, even personally successful to your own objectives. I’m going to specifically talk about success that equals attention, which is more focused (unfortunately) on the financial side of things. And a vast majority of indies want financial success. They don’t necessarily want to be millionaires (I know I really don’t) but they’d love to be able to pay their rent, eat food, look after their loved ones, all by doing the thing they love. It is a big deal.
And only a few people a year get there.
When they get successful, they tend to take some time to thank everyone, visit a few events, start another game. But at all times they ensure they smile down the camera, stay humble, and do as much as they can to help others, and above all, stay happy and not complain.
In private, most of the indies I’ve met who’ve achieved ‘the dream’ they set out to achieve share a number of problems. I think being aware of these issues ahead of time may help the indies who are going to hit it big in 2014 and beyond. Maybe this’ll ease someone’s time. List!
Your body will be wrecked
All those late nights you’ve been mythologising? The energy drinks you’ve been relying on? The shitty chair you’ve been sat in? Not leaving the house because fuck it, microwave meals are fine and take less time away from code? Yeah. That’ll hit you, because you’ll let it. I spent some time in hospital last year, many, many other indies have too. I wish I could slap that idiot pulling all nighters on TWA in the face and tell him to go for a jog. I can’t. I can tell you to.
You will have lost a lot of friends
This is a time thing. I know my work killed my social life. This might be specific to certain personality types, but yeah, I drifted from some folks. Don’t. Or do, but be aware that it’s happening. I know a few devs who lost their partners during dev. I am grateful for Kerry.
The internet will hate you
Because you’re fat. Because you’re ugly. Because you’re hot. Because you are a woman, or god help you, a person of colour. They will believe you don’t deserve it. They will chase you down, find out personal info, the works. Journalists and bloggers might weigh in too, if they think it’s worth the clicks.
This is the one where folk who’ve not been there always jump in with ‘haters gonna hate’. Those people have not received 100 emails of bile in an hour. I got lucky in this regard, the internet decided I was ‘nice’. I am aware of how arbitrary that decision was.
You will feel guilty
You know you don’t deserve it. You’re racked by impostor syndrome. You know of like 10 other games that came out last month that deserve it more than you. Why do you get to be the one who’s dreams come true? If you’re from humble beginnings, the money side of it makes it worse.
You will be shocked
This is a hard one to articulate, but humans suck at immediate change. Going to sleep with the universe and your life one way, and waking up with everything turned around will mess with your head, regardless of how positive the change is. It does weird things to folks, in various ways.
You won’t know what to do next
It’s easier when no one cares. Now people have expectations. That’s going to feed into the stress too. All those bullshit ideas you had for when the game was done don’t seem to match the impossible expectations all these ‘fans’ seem to have.
People will turn nasty
Someone in your personal life will turn out to be a dick. Money, visibility, something will change your relationship, and that’s going to be weird.
So just some notes. Go be awesome, but do anything you can to prepare for any of the nastiness above.
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