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10 Feb 2014

Handling Instant Fame

As most of you have probably heard, Dong Nguyen, the creator of the wildly popular Flappy Bird, removed the game from the App Store/Google Play yesterday. Earning roughly $50,000 in ad revenue daily, Flappy Bird was downloaded over 50-million times, reviewed hundreds of thousands of times on the App Store alone – all within the span of a few weeks. The one-man team achieved what every indie developer aims for: millions of people playing his/her game while earning a sizable payday every single day.

Yet, it doesn’t seem as if this was Nguyen’s dream. The sudden attention was too much for him, which is why he opted to trade his hefty daily payday and 15-minutes in the public’s eye for privacy. Yet, this is a risk that every indie developer – nay, every person in a creative field – must be prepared to tackle head-on. In fact, it shouldn’t be considered a risk in the first place. Indie developers should be hopeful that millions of people one day play their game(s). It’s something that shouldn’t be thought of as risky or negative – it should be something that incites excitement.

Nguyen has his reasons for taking his game down; and I’m not here to state whether I think he’s right or wrong. After all, it’s his game right? If he wants to sell the source code or burn every last remnant of evidence that points to him ever making the game, that’s his prerogative. However, it is quite apparent that Nguyen couldn’t handle his newfound fame, and believe me, there are plenty of lessons to be learned. The following tips detail how to handle the fame that stems from a hit mobile game, and the first one is the biggest one.

People are going to hate you

Nguyen was reportedly receiving death threats regarding Flappy Bird. It sounds absurd that anyone would be so angry about a game starring a bird tasked with dodging pipes that they would feel inclined to send a death threat to its creator, but there are plenty of crazy people in the world too. But believe me: people are going to find a reason to hate you for a variety of reasons – heck, the fact that you’re famous and they’re not is enough for some people to send hate mail your way.

A lot of people are going to flatout hate your game and they’re going to tell you about it. I wrote a post on how to use trolls to improve your game a while back, but you’re going to get the type of people that have no interest in improving your game in any way. Rather, they just want to tell you that it sucks.

Learn to deal with people hating you. If there is some truth in them being critical of your game, use their advice to try and improve your game as a whole. But if you’re receiving stupid emails, death threats, etc. from strangers just because you’re suddenly famous? Ignore those jerks. They’re jealous and they want to bring you down to their level. Learn to differentiate between constructive criticism and criticism without any basis, and most importantly? Embrace the people that are giving you ‘thattaboys’ and telling you how awesome your game is instead of letting a few mindless trolls ruin the praise you are getting.

Because believe me: if you give up and say, “I’m done making games,” there’s going to be a ton of trolls that say, “we got this guy/gale to quit.” You’re above them: don’t play into their game.

Embrace your fans

Your fans made your game a success, and to improve your game and make your next games better than ever, it is crucial that you turn to them and use their ideas to keep making games that are better than before. Most indie developers are awesome at doing this, so I’m probably preaching to the choir to most of you. Never forget your fans, and turn to them for ideas whenever possible. Ensure that you are including them in the development experience going forward, and you’ll be setting yourself up for not only managing your new instant fame, but will also set yourself up for prolonged fame, a strong following, and an audience that wants to support you because you provide them with quality entertainment.

Quality fame isn’t a bad thing guys: it means you’re doing something right.

Keep your private life ‘private’

Despite Bill Gates’ fame, he has done a great job keeping his private life exactly that: private. He has rarely offered an inside look at his personal life, ensuring that he keeps his public life (career) and his private life (family) completely separated. One of the downsides of obtaining newfound fame as an indie developer is so many people are going to want to learn more about you. This is flattering, yet you need to make a habit of second guessing what type of private details you provide to the public.

Ask yourself the following: “would I want to see this in every tabloid tomorrow?”

Obviously this probably isn’t going to happen, but it’s a great way to discern what info you want to go public and which information you want to keep private. Watch what you post on Facebook, Twitter, etc. from now on, and there is no reason why your private life cannot remain ‘private.’

Be humble

Look, you probably started with a dream to make an awesome indie game, and look what happened: you have a huge hit on your hands. If you released the next Flappy Bird, you’re living the dream! Yet, be humble. Always be humble. Realize that although you have this newfound success, it may not last forever if you make poor decisions. Be humble by making a habit to do the following:

  • Stop being defensive today.
    • You take pride in your work, yet if someone believes your game needs a lot of work, don’t get defensive about it. If they are not trolling you, they want to help you.
    • Welcome criticism from those you respect.
  • Realize you are not perfect.
    • And realize your worst critic is you. You’re going to want to make a perfect indie game, but no game is perfect. Improve your game and your future games thanks to the help of your peers and fans, and make the best game you can make.
  • Know that failure is a part of the job.
    • You’re going to fail at something. Embrace it instead of getting mad at yourself, and use it to learn from your mistakes.

Does fame/wealth make life a little more complicated? Absolutely. Yet, by adhering to the following tips you can be prepared for it if it comes your way (and I sincerely hope it does). You want to make games for a living without rarely having to worry about money ever again; by learning to handle fame before it happens, you will be setting yourself up to flourish in an industry surrounded by hype, criticism, and passion.

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