David Shaw, 5:57 am 12th May 2009
Posted under: Blog Babble

To kick start this blog off, I’m going to use this space as a sounding board for settling my thoughts in the right direction. I’m at the start of a bold new venture, and I need to think a few decisions through. For the next week or so, my blog posts will be a sort of discussion with myself, but open to observation and comments from the outside world. Which I guess is the purpose of nearly every other blog, really.

To begin, I’ll start by answering the basic question “who am I?”. This seems easiest to do in an interview style. It’s time for a little chat… with myself.

Tell us a little about your backstory.


You mean what I’ve done to get to this point? Most of life up to this point has been revolving around deciding what I want to do for the rest of my life, bouncing between programming, game development, teaching or academia.

I had a passion when young for programming (I taught myself BASIC on the Tandy Color Computer 2), maths and making games. This lead me to taking a combined. This lead to me taking a combined Software Engineering and Science degree at the University of Melbourne. In 2000 when I completed my courses I joined a local game company on the tail end of their latest project. I had the time of my life programming there for a month or two, but we then hit two months of monster crunch period. The intense stress burnt me out completely, possibly because I was so green at the time. I left at the end of the project to get further education.

Now in the 21st century! I tried a few different career angles. I got my masters on the theoretical side of game studies, did a lot of tutorial work and ended up spending a year training up to be a high school teacher to test if it was a suitable career for me (short answer: it wasn’t). Then I moved to Canberra to earn my PhD at ANU in robotic vision. It was at this time that my passion for being a game developer slowly ebbed back, and I got back into little hobby projects. I realised that I’ll probably never stop wanting to be a game developer, especially if I didn’t give it another proper go.

What are your career goals?


Ooh, tough one. If I strip it back to the most general, I think I’ve got three main career goals:

  1. To earn a living in a profession that I love.
  2. To be well respected in this profession.
  3. To make a lasting contribution, or something about which I would be proud to say “I did that.”

The first goal is fairly straight forward. I’ll won’t be happy nor will I excel in a job that I merely tolerate. If I enjoy my work I’m much more likely to want to give it my all and become as good as I can.

The second, respect, is more of a mark of skill and being a decent person than pure fame. I don’t particularly want to be famous per se, but I’d like to be known as good at what I do.

The third goal is more about making some kind of legacy. It doesn’t have to be world breaking; it could just be one very good creative work or improvement. But I’d like to make at least one lasting improvement to something while I’m here in the world.

Looking back at my past history, I think I’ve frequently lost track of these goals. It’s easy to get lost in everyday life and forget where you want to go. Although part of that confusion is that my goals aren’t domain specific. None of the state “in the area of blah”, so I’ve always had the suspicion (or perhaps more accurately the excuse) that I’m just not in the right field. Now I’m focused on indie game development, I can start to narrow down that focus to a specific target.

So why game development? Why not something else?


Well, I have tried a few other things, some of which I’m still considering. Teaching is always a fulfilling experience, and I really should do some more of that, even if it’s just through online tutorials. But I’m digressing from the question.

I’m not entirely sure what it is about games that interests me so much. It’s been a fascination of mine for so long. It might be the combination of simple logical rules to make a compelling simulation or abstraction of some aspect of life. Or it might be the fusion of mathematics and logic with creative elements. And there’s the fun, of course. I can’t discount the fun!

It’s not just computer games though. Board games, card games, game shows, the theory behind the rules of sports, there’s something about them that I find so compelling.

Then why indie game development? Why not join a publisher funded studio?


There’s a few specific reasons, however they can all be summed up with the general explanation that indie game development is a better fit towards the kind of game developer I want to be.

A lot of the games ideas I like are quite niche. Not enough return to support a large company, but perfect indie fodder. There’s also a few game design ideas I’d love to see implemented one day, and I’d like to steer myself towards them. As an indie I’ll have the freedom to do that.

I also like to be a generalist. A jack of all trades, in other words. I love trying my hand at everything so I can get feel of what each component is like. I’ll also have to deal with business and marketing. It’s a lot more work, of course, but it means I get to deal with the full picture.

Plus I love the whole closeness of the indie business model to the players. I’ve never been a big business kind of person, as with too many layers there’s a level of shielding between the big boss and the average worker or customer. With small businesses, there’s a level of personal attention that feels more, well, human.

So what’s the next step?


That’s what this week of blog posts is to find out. I have ideas, but I’ll leave the details for my next few posts. The immediate plan is to get all cylinders firing, but first I need to point the metaphorical car in the right direction.

Next blog post: an analysis of strengths and weakness, and how to play to the former and improve or avoid the latter.

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