I’ve been in the midst of game development for the last few months. I’m working on the third game and all three are iPhone/iPad games. I suppose there’s nothing keeping me from porting them to OS X. Alternative ports though, to Windows or Android for example, are unlikely at this point.
I’ve recently been handed a copy of the book ‘Outliers’. Among the many lessons in that book, the 10,000 hour concept stuck in my head. The idea being that to be considered among the best in an area of expertise, you need 10,000 hours of experience in that area. While things like IQ or perhaps innate talent get you started and are a differentiator of sorts, the biggest game changer is time and effort. There are other aspects and I’m grossly oversimplifying things and really you oughtn’t to judge things by what I’m saying but time is very important.
So, game development… I’ve been driven, putting a lot of time in. I’ve been handling as many aspects as possible. Not just programming but audio, graphics, networking, marketing, everything. All the little details. I already had a great deal of programming experience and so I’m not surprised with how things are going there. It’s everything else which has me discovering my limitations.
Now, I don’t want to give the impression that I thought I could be an artist equal to my software development skills. Nor an audio designer. Not to be too blunt but I believe it would be the height of arrogance for me to presume I could do as well as those who have devoted their time to those aspects.
I suppose it’s frustrating to essentially be so dependent on the efforts and abilities of others in order to complete something I consider so personal to me. Yes, I’m writing these games with a healthy profit motive in mind but each one (so far anyway) has been a product of my mind, my creativity, insofar as game concepts and such are concerned. I have a vision in my mind of how I want the game to look and act and I need someone else to make that aspect of my vision become reality.
I had hoped that I might be able to be one of those longshot game developers who come up with a killer idea, put it together, sell it and *BAM* end up with the next Angry Birds. Yeah, it’s a little like winning the lottery. And me without my ticket and all that. But those success stories hold something in common. A small group of folks manage to pool their abilities and happen to do the right things at the right time. There’s of course more to it… someone had to have the right idea, too. But there were opportunities that they availed themselves of. That’s not a bad thing. It doesn’t lessen their efforts or the results.
Which brings us back to ‘Outliers’. Which is to say ‘statistical’ outliers. I expect the author had a different intent but I think some folks might come away from reading it with the belief that things are still up to chance as to whether they can be successful or not, just different chance. Want to be a hockey player? Be born in January. Yeah. Seriously. But while some things were surprising, I think the idea is that when we know what the system is really telling us, we can then try to work with it. It becomes a numbers game.
So the first lesson I’m learning in all of this is that you can’t guarantee success but you can increase your odds. Find the right people, people who can help you make your dream a reality. Invest in that team. Put the time in to make it work. And don’t stop. There will be moments when you fail and believe you should quit. And maybe you’ve put time into a project only to realize that project is or will be a failure. Maybe you’re right. But don’t take that to mean you should stop altogether. Find a new project. Or upgrade or update an old one. Don’t stop. Because every time you keep trying, you have another shot to make it all happen. The moment you stop is the moment you let the odds beat you.