Working alone is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, you have complete creative freedom and report to nobody but yourself. On the other, you must handle all creative and technical work, marketing, outreach, and manage the business itself. While just the sheer volume of work can be overwhelming, the sense of responsibility and feeling overextended can be emotionally and physically exhausting for many creators.
This is especially true during slow development periods. Reviving your commitment to your brand is particularly important, as a lack of genuine enthusiasm comes through in social interactions and even the game itself. How can you get others excited about your game when you can’t even get excited?
Maintain a Social Presence
One solution comes from an unexpected place: community management.Sure, managing forums and listening in on conversations doesn’t exactly sound like a party, but it invites a unique set of interactions not found in other aspects of game development. Stepping back from technical work can give you a fresh perspective on your game, and directly interacting with your audience can give you fresh insights . When working solo becomes overwhelming, having a leadership presence in your community can provide an emotional boost and motivation to inspire you to work.
You need to be bit thick skinned, but being honest and understanding are your greatest assets. The best part of social engagement is that despite being a critical element for the success of your game, it can often feel more like socializing with friends than marketing and brand development.
As a general rule of thumb, you never want to say anything that you wouldn’t say to your boss (however, you shouldn’t be afraid to be yourself when interacting online).
Ask and you Shall Receive (Valuable Insights)
You can only find out what your audience is thinking by asking. This doesn’t always mean an explicit Q&A or survey, however. Often you can infer general sentiment from reading between the lines in online discussions and forum posts. Of course, asking directly can get you the responses you’re looking for, but often times you’ll get a more exaggerated response because they know who they’re talking to. Mild displeasure can turn to hatred, and contentedness can become adoration.
Depending on your community, it may be best to maintain a more personal demeanor in order to reinforce a casual atmosphere and avoid strong personal bias. It may not always be the most effective tactic to ask direct questions, but giving your audience an opportunity to indirectly voice their opinions will provide you with useful information and help determine which elements of your game are most (and least) successful.
Working by yourself can suck, plain and simple.
With nobody to collaborate with and only being able to rely on yourself, it comes as no surprise that solo devs often face frustration, burnout, and even depression. Maintaining a social presence is an effective way of combating feelings of isolation.
Discussing your game in a positive and constructive environment offers the additional benefit of motivating you to continue to work . One unfortunate reality of online communities, however, is to expect the worst in terms of reception and behavior.
Socialize and Work
Finally, and my personal favorite benefit of community outreach, social outreach and community discussions rarely feel like actual work. When you’re dying to break the monotony of 12 hour devdays, spending an afternoon connecting with your fans and peers feels like a breath of fresh air.
Not only do you feel like you’re most in control of your life, but there is the additional benefit of being able to kick back socialize with like-minded individuals while promoting your game, brand - and most importantly - yourself.
When you maintain a positive, knowledgeable, and constructive environment, you discover:
- Unique benefits from social interaction
- A sense of worth and authority
- That work feels less like a chore