Risking it all.

Over the years, I’ve gone away from games, come back to games, tried to get away from games, (under my own steam, in terms of doing something where I only have to rely on myself) and come back to games.

Why the wishy washy-ness? Well, the fact is that in the Video Game Industry, like every other industry, we are awash with people who haven’t a clue. Or worse still, think they do have a clue.

A few days ago, for example, I had a client who was extolling the virtues of Video Advertising inside of mobile games. Seriously – he thought it was just GREAT. I kept trying to point out to him that, as a gamer, I seriously hate web pages that push video ads at you – I click away instantly (I can _just about_ deal with the way Hulu does it – those news pages that insist you watch a 30 second ad before they give you whatever content is there? Instant click away.) – can you imagine what I’d do if a GAME did that? INSTANT UN-INSTALL.

I actually did a quick informal poll of friends – both game developer and not – about this and they all said the same thing, which was Absolutely No Way. A game that did that, they would un-install instantly.

But my client wouldn’t have it. He thought they were greatbecause of the rate of return you get on forcing eyeballs onto it. By definition, anything that earns him money is great, and everyone will love it. Quite apart from the fact that video ads EAT bandwidth (which on most mobile plans is limited) and therefore the player is quite literally paying for you to waste his/her time – he just couldn’t grasp that players would hate it. “But it has huge stick and click through” he told me, as though that made it ok.


So yeah, getting back to the point, you can see how the industry is full of those people who don’t have a clue. I don’t think anyone can blame me for wanting to go do something where I have a bit more control.

But here’s the problem. I’m 44. I have a mortgage, I have kids, christ alone knows how I am going to pay for college for the kids. My savings got eaten by paying the mortgage on a house in CA that took months to sell… it’s not a great situation.

But still – I’ve written my own game, I’ve written books – I should be able to move into a new area and make a living, right?

Yeah, unfortunately, it’s not as simple as that. Give my age, I have a certain level of incoming requirement to meet the commitments I already have. It’s not super huge, but it’s not entry level either.

And therein lies the rub. In order to really make it in a new industry, you have to essentially start at the bottom. And, at my age, who can afford that?

A good friend of mine who lives in LA was talking about getting a gig in TV / The Movies. His point was that in order to get to the point where you are able to work for a living, you have to act as though you already are, and are in complete control over your time. You have to be available to take an audition, do a lunch meeting, meet someone for afternoon drinks or whatever at the drop of a hat  – because if you don’t, someone else will. Effectively you have to have the resources available to you to actually already live that life in order to get a foot in to start living that life. It’s a catch 22 situation.

The real point about the above story though is that if you intend to switch careers and go do something else, you have to do it 100% – be 100% committed to that new career and totally immerse yourself in it. You cannot do it piecemeal from an existing career. You might write a book in the evenings, but unless you are prepared to do book signings, go places and do readings and spend One Hell Of A Lot Of Time on self promotion, your books is going to sink, more likely than not. That’s just the reality.

There are hundreds of people trying to break into that market who _don’t_ have the overheads you do – college grads, stay at home moms, etc. They ARE on this 100% – why would publishers take a risk on someone who is evidently not 100% committed to this industry?

Then there’s the side aspects of a new career. Writing a book is a great example. Most people think that you write the book, and then you put it on Kindle, and you are done, right? Nope – before you even put it on the kindle, there’s a TON of stuff to work out first.  You need to get your book proof read (and good editors cost $2-3k a WEEK. Your friends might say they’ll do it, but they won’t. Proof reading a whole book is a HUGE job. Friends want to help, but they just won’t once they realise the amount of work involved.), then you need to format it for Kindle (it’s not like there is an Export To Kindle button in Word), then a cover needs to be made – and that’s MASSIVE in terms of getting attention. Then, once you are out,  there’s promotion, there’s watching what is happening in sales, changing the prices, putting the book on Nook and iBooks, keeping up with lots of websites about books and writing – you NEED to be public and available on those websites, etc etc.

Literally, writing the damn thing is only HALF the job – the fun bit. The rest comes as a shock to the system when you’ve just spent over a year doing the hard work of writing – now you aren’t done? You can’t just sit back and start thinking about the next book?

The fact is that every hobby is just that – a hobby. If it were your full time job, you’d realise how much work it is – and most of us have No Clue about how much extraneous work there is to making our hobby a full time job – much less be good enough at it to earn enough to earn a living. Unless you have a celebrity friend who’ll advertise you on twitter, or know someone in a position of authority who is willing to take the risk on you, good luck with it.

And it sucks. Because I desperately want to be in a situation where I only have to depend on myself rather than anyone else – but at this stage, I just don’t see how I can do it, not without risking my children’s future.

And yet – with all that, I’m not going to give up. I am still going to write books in my spare time and release them on Kindle. I’m never going to stop chasing the dream of being truly independent – because if you do, what else is there? Acceptance of a substandard now just makes for a crappy future. And I’m not up for that.

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