Game Design Lessons #3: Taking Control of Your Life

28 Jul Game Design Lessons #3: Taking Control of Your Life

I have become a hermit. Until my Kickstarter launches, it seems I am to have no social life, or virtually anything that resembles anything other than RPGs and crowdfunding. It’s for the best.

I know plenty of talented people who have told me that they’re going to write a book, or a game, or a film script…if only they could find the time! Years pass, and the story stays the same, but just fades little by little, until they scarcely mention it any more.

I am determined not to be afflicted by the same time-eating scourge. However, anyone in this modern, rushing world, will no doubt be familiar with it. There never seems to be quite enough time in the day to get these things done!

In the end it comes down to priorities – how determined are you to succeed at your endeavours? Are you prepared to miss out on a social life? Fun activities? Family time? Gym? Relaxation? What is more important to you in your life?

When I find life going crazy, and a week suddenly looming up before me which has zero opportunities for working on my project, then I know something needs to change. And there’s nothing like the schedule for a Kickstarter steadily ticking down like some Doomsday Clock to motivate me!

You see, the most difficult of all such time-drains are the ones that we know we should be doing, or that we really enjoy. For me, it’s not so much the lure of the couch and TV (though who doesn’t feel like just sitting down and chilling after a long day at work?), but rather the countless little actions that I know I should do, or that I feel obligated to do.

Some of these can’t be avoided (like the wedding of one of my best mates a couple of weeks before the Kickstarter…err…yeah I’m not going to miss that). Others make you feel bad (family dinners, volunteering at worthy causes, helping out friends, hanging out with good mates, etc., etc.), but actually can be set aside at least temporarily while you pursue your all-consuming passion.

I have been grappling with these issues, and have gone into almost full hermit mode. Anything that can be dropped, no matter how awesome, is being dropped…ouch. I was even growing a beard.

So if you find these time issues are slowly asphyxiating your project into the slow-crawl to nowhere, here’s a few important points:


1 – How Important Is Your Project To You?

This is the most important question. Are you prepared to do whatever it takes to get your passion project completed? Are you prepared to suffer the consequences, and ultimately reap the rewards? If so, make sure you are also planning ahead properly, so your project will be a success.

If you are prepared to do whatever it takes, the next point is simple.

2 – When Do You Want To Get It Done By?

Without a target date in mind, or at least an idea of how long your project will take, you’re just whistling in the wind. You could do on indefinitely. I’ve found that projects that don’t have a real (and brutal) deadline, just languish in the rubbish bin of delays.

Look at when you want to get your project done by, and then what you will have to do to achieve it. Don’t be wishy-washy. That will only take you to mediocrity. It’s unlikely you want that, unless it’s just a hobby, in which case, I hope your expectations are matched.

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If you know when you want to complete it by, you should also then know how much time per week you need, and be able to work out a needed schedule. Be sure to include time for more than just writing your book! Indie Developers and Authors have to do their own marketing as well…and that’s a massive time drain.

3 – Make Hard Choices

Now comes the tough part. You have two categories – Essentials and Non-Essentials. You’re going to have to decide what those are. Family time is usually an essential – but how much? Exercise is, to some degree, an essential…but is spending an hour a day at the gym? Hanging out with friends? That’s one of my favourite things…but is it really an Essential (you can get smart here and playtest your project as part of your hang out time, it makes it fun and productive)?

Remember, you’ve got a schedule to adhere to, and a final product to get out there. Every time you’re having a hard time (or suffer some backlash from others who may think you’re giving them an insult, without truly understanding how brutal it is for you to pare back their time), just look over point number 1 again – How Important Is It To You?

If you are prepared to go through hell and fire and war to get there, then you will see these painful moments as regrettable, handle them as best you can, and move on. If you don’t, maybe because you’re afraid of upsetting people who mean a lot to you, and you feel like too much of a bad guy…well then, all I can say is that you probably don’t want your project bad enough.

If you explain it clearly to your friends and family, they will likely understand your situation exactly and let you have the time-space to do it in. And then, when your project blossoms under your hard work, they’ll pat you on the back and know that their understanding actually helped you do it.

Oh…and if your time drain is the TV, Youtube, computer games, or anything else that simply requires self-discipline? I can only point you to No. 1 above, and then tell you what I tell myself whenever I feel like relaxing for a night, HARDEN UP! HOW BAD DO YOU WANT IT?

I hope this helps you like it helps me. Carry on with your projects guys! Remember, dreamers are only dreamers until they make it real…then they’re visionaries!

~Oliver R. Shead


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