Making games is a demanding job, to say the least.
No matter how good you are at what you do, you are always at risk of being creatively drained and burnt out.
Or just plain bored.
Over the years, I’ve applied some good advice that kept me afloat, I’ve also crashed and burned several times.
So I believe I have some valuable tips that I’m going to share with you in this post.
1# Get More Knowledge
Open any game design book, and you will read, in some form or another, that fun factor is directly linked to how much knowledge you have about the subject.
A lot of game designers understand the importance of teaching the player the rules of the game.
What about you, the game designer, the environment artist, the music composer, the programmer. You also need to know the rules of “the game”, you need knowledge.
Up until recently, I had no respect for the idea that you should follow courses to get skilled at something.
I believed that a hundred percent of your efforts should go into doing the thing, not listening to some guy or gal teach you how to do it.
I don’t know where I got that belief. Maybe I listened to too many life coaches praising action instead of inaction.
For me, sitting down to take a course was the embodiment of inaction, “I don’t want to waste my life going from course to course without doing anything useful in the real world” I used to say.
Learning by doing, and only by doing, was a painful way to go about things.
So please, don’t follow in my footsteps, allocate at least an hour a day to learn more about your craft, invest your money in books and courses, and spend time on them.
There are many ways to acquire knowledge, you can …
2# Take a Video Course
There’s something comforting about laying back and letting someone else take the lead for a while.
There are plenty of tutorials on Youtube. Some content creators are even generous enough to make series spanning many hours for free.
If you’ve got some cash to spare, there are also tons of high-quality video courses online that you can buy.
We live in amazing times.
If video is not your thing, you can always …
3# Read a Game Development Book
Reading a book can be more time-efficient than watching a series of videos.
You can use numerous speed reading techniques to get straight to the point. Which you cannot do with a video.
I personally love game development books, they’re usually better structured than many scattered tutorials you find online.
4# Remember How You Started
No matter where you are in your life, I’ll bet my lunch that you were once highly motivated to make games.
Maybe it started with a small tic-tac-toe program, a small arcade game you made in Game Maker, a Sprite that you spent a whole afternoon drawing, or a little song that you composed in Garage Band.
It was something that you were deeply curious about. You wanted to know more.
There are always opportunities to start from scratch in game development, maybe you need a new perspective on your game project.
Change the way you do things, plan a little better, use better software, tackle new challenges.
Or maybe all you need is a fresh start.
5# Remember Your Why
I have fond memories of my 15 years old self, coming back from the beach on a hot summer day, powering up my computer and playing games for hours on end.
When I imagine thousands of people, controller in hand, playing my game and enjoying themselves, it gives me so much drive.
What are your reasons for making games? Write them down, and go back to them every once in a while.
6# Reconnect With Your End Goal
Game developers all around the world have different end goals.
Some want to make people happy, others want financial independence and prosperity.
Some want to make the game of their dreams: their magnum opus.
Others simply want to express themselves.
Do you know what your end goal is?
Define it clearly, preferably in written form.
Having an end goal will make you jump out of bed in the morning, eager to start your day.
7# Create Just For the Sake of Creating
Forget your end goal, the pressure of pleasing your fans, the challenge of getting good reviews, the uncertainty of monetary gains.
Just create things.
Create for the sake of creating.
You are a creative person, your brain needs to create stuff, ideally on a daily basis.
So just let it.
Open your game engine, your IDE, your painting app, your music composing software, and just make something today.
8# Make Prototypes
There are a lot of unknown factors that emerge at different times when making a game.
These unknowns can completely destroy your project, or your company, or you.
In order to mitigate these risks, I found that the best course of action is to be proactive by making prototypes before, during and even at the end of the development lifecycle.
What I like about prototyping is that it creates a safe space to explore and experiment.
You can always throw away a prototype if it doesn’t reach its goal, or consumes too much of your time. It’s always cheaper than committing to a larger project, then finding out halfway through that for some reason you can’t or don’t want to finish it.
9# Use Ready-Made Game Assets
Making prototypes with cubes and spheres is fine when you’re really motivated.
However, when you’re put off by how unappealing your game looks, maybe you should consider using ready-made assets.
I personally use the free asset packs by Kenney whenever I want to make a quick little prototype. I’ve also purchased a lot of asset packs on the Unity Asset Store that I use constantly.
Believe me, working on something that looks good from the get-go makes a lot of difference.
10# Stay Healthy
It’s easy to forget that while making your game, your body is sitting in front of a computer, that’s not very healthy, especially when you overdo it.
Take a moment, every once in awhile, to stand up and move a little. While you’re at it, why not get some sunlight, and some fresh air.
Maybe drink some water too. Staying hydrated should be paramount to any creative person, especially you.
There is a strong connection between your body and your mind, it’s easy to assume that your mind is in charge all the time, sometimes it’s just your body asking for a little break.
Next is hygiene. Make sure to take regular showers, wear clean clothes, brush your teeth at least twice a day.
Even if you work alone, at home, you will love yourself more when you look and smell good.
11# Play Great Games
My Steam library goes through multiple changes every day, but there are games that I will never uninstall. They are my inspiration, and sometimes, my only reminder that video games are a damn beautiful form of expression.
I’m sure you have a list of games that you cherish above all else. These games are usually highly replayable, and no matter what amount of time you spend on them, they never seem to get old and are still full of surprises.
For me, these games are Arma, Kenshi, Kerbal Space Program, Factorio, XCom, Rimworld, Crusader Kings 2, Europa Universalis 4, Men of War, Dark Souls, FTL, … and many more.
If you don’t have a list of favorite games, start building one right now. One day, one of these games will help bring you back on the saddle, trust me.
12# Watch Great Movies
While not technically replayable as video games are, some movies are worth watching over and over again.
There are masterpieces of cinema that provoke existential questions, explore the intricacies of alternative universes, and imagine all sorts of what-ifs in history.
Watching movies can be a great way to generate ideas for games. It is also a chance to relax and be passive.
Go ahead, watch Quentin Tarantino movies, watch Star Trek, Blade Runner, 2001: A Space Odyssey, watch Star Wars, watch all movies by Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg, watch them all!
Now you know what to do when you don’t feel like making games. Stay tuned for more tips in future articles. Thanks for reading, talk to you soon!