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30 Apr 2015

Beginner Indie Dev Tips: How Do You Stay Creative, Anyway?

Here at Game Academy, we realize that a lot of you have been doing this indie thing for quite some time. You have a bit of experience under your belt and that is great – but we also know that there are other people out there that are just starting out in the indie development game. We try to cater to both demographics, which is why we are presenting one of our many beginner indie dev tips (it will still be a good refresher for the more experienced as well).

If you are just starting you out as an indie developer, then you have already figured out for yourself that there are some days where you are killing it creatively. You are coming up with great ideas that on paper sound amazing, and you cannot wait to start hammering them out. These days help you to remember why you chose to get into this industry in the first place.

Then there are the other days that make you question why you chose this career in the first place. It seems that no matter what you do, you cannot come up with any good ideas – and you start to despise yourself for it. For me personally, I have slammed my fist down plenty of times in frustration simply because I cannot come up with anything good to write about, and sometimes it seems that whatever idea I come up with, it flat out sucks.

But here’s the difference between ‘indie developers’ and indie developers (you can make the case for anyone that does creative work as well): those that are serious about developing indie games as a career will always find a way through these rough patches. We have all heard of the term ‘writer’s block,’ but I prefer the term ‘creative block’ because that is exactly what it is: a block of creativity that, no matter how hard you seem to try cannot be overcome.

But you can overcome it! Below are a few beginner indie dev tips that have helped me to overcome that creative slump we all get in, and I know they will help you as well. Give them a shot before you become angry with yourself, and get on the road to developing your next great game!

Take a step back

Sometimes, we tend to try and force creativity into whatever project we are working on. You know the feeling already: you want nothing more than to create something that is awesome, but the more you focus and strain to make it happen, the more you realize that it isn’t going to happen. Sitting there and focusing in hopes that a great idea will hit you isn’t the way to make creativity occur. So what can you do?

Just take a step back, breathe, and take a small break.

We have mentioned before that it is easy to get ‘developer goggles:’ the more you focus on your project, the harder it is to see its fault and problems. Coming up with great ideas is the same way. Sitting for too long and trying to force a great idea gives you these sort of goggles, so get up, walk outside for a few moments, and just stop thinking about it!

Return to your workstation when you are ready, and you’re going to increase the odds that you will come up with a great idea.

Play around with ideas

If I want to write a new short story but cannot come up with anything of any substance, one of the things I enjoy doing is opening up a blank Word doc and typing whatever comes to my mind. I like to call this  ‘brute force creativity,’ and it does not matter if it makes sense or is any good – what matters is that I am forcing myself to become creative. Eventually, the writing begins to make sense as I get new ideas cropping up in my head, and pretty soon I have a basic plot that I can run with.

As a beginning indie developer, you can do the same exact thing. Just start writing, sketching, jotting notes, and whatever else you do when generating ideas for your indie games without any sort of goal or direction. Fragments of your best ideas will start to stick in your brain, and before you know it you will have an idea that you want to prototype further.

Second opinions

Or maybe you have a rough idea for a new indie game yet you simply cannot bring it all together. Something seems to be missing, and for the life of you, you do not know what it could be. In these instances, you need to reach out to anyone and talk to them about your idea. This could be a trusted fellow indie developer or even your grandmother. Explain the idea to them and take to heart what they tell you. Who knows? Your idea’s missing link may lie in one of these conversations! Creative epiphanies can strike when you least expect them, so keep your ears and mind open.

1 Response

  1. Sometimes I just take the day off. I know I may be less productive that way but if I have a block I “step back” like you said and view my progress so far. I garden, walk, spend time with family and try to think of what progress I have done so far. Generally by the end of the day I have been enjoying the time off and after thinking so much about it I get almost as much done in a few hours at night as I would have all day! Interesting how you said “stepping back” can help.

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