Working alone is a double-edged sword. On 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 the sheer volume of work alone 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 will others get excited about your game, when you aren’t even excited yourself?
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 provides an emotional boost and motivation to inspire your work. You need to be a bit thick-skinned, but being honest and understanding are your greatest assets.
Not only is social engagement a critical element for the success of your game, but (if done right), it can often feel more like socializing with friends than marketing and brand development. Don’t be afraid to be yourself when interacting online, but remember, you never want to say anything that you wouldn’t say to your boss.
Ask and you Shall Receive (Valuable Insights)
There’s only one way to find out what your audience is thinking, and that’s by asking. This doesn’t always mean an explicit Q&A or survey, however. 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 oftentimes 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.
Listen, 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 to combat feelings of isolation. But be strong: while discussing your game in a positive and constructive environment can offer a fount of inspiration, you must also be prepared for the worst in terms of reception and behavior.
Socialize and Work
My favorite benefit of social outreach and community discussions is that they 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 will you feel like you’re suddenly in control of your life, but you’ll have the additional benefit of being able to kick back and socialize with like-minded individuals while promoting your game, brand - and most importantly - yourself.
When you maintain a positive, knowledgeable and constructive environment, you’ll discover:
- Unique benefits from social interaction
- A sense of worth and authority
- That work feels less like a chore