Stop Telling New Game Designers (and Devs) to “Climb The Ladder”

Any social site where people talk about game design or game development will always have this one question frequently asked:

“I have a lot of ideas for games but I don’t know how to program and I’m not good at art. How do I get into game design? My favorite game designers are X, Y, and Z.”

And the answer to this question is, without fail, always:

“Learn to program or get good at art, start working for a company, work your way up. That’s how your favorite game designers did it.”

I absolutely can not stand this answer.

Here’s A Better Answer

There’s a pretty solid possibility that your favorite game designers did, in fact, do it that way. When the video games industry was just getting started, and growing to the mainstream level we see now, this was pretty much the way to do it, because the resources needed to make video games were held tightly by companies with with money.

If you didn’t have money, you either needed to go get some, or go work for a company until you were able to get the position you wanted.

We don’t have that problem anymore. Game design and development are able to be done in affordable ways. It’s often free, to a point. Unity doesn’t require you to pay until you’ve made $100,000 in a year on games. For 3D modeling and animation, Blender is completely free.

Start your Own Studio. Design Your Own Games.

  1. Learn what goes into designing video games
  2. Learn how to design great video games.
  3. Design great video games.
  4. Learn to code in pre-made engines like Unity (3D/2D) or GameMaker (2D). Alternatively, hire or partner with someone who does.
  5. Learn to do basic art required in free software like Blender (3D) or Inkscape (2D). Alternatively, hire or partner with someone who does.
  6. Be a game designer.

You Can Still Go The Triple A Route

You might be thinking, “What if they/I don’t want to be an indie developer? What if they/I want to work on AAA titles like Halo or World of Warcraft?”

No problem. I still don’t recommend working your way up from the bottom.

Design your own games. Ship them. Make a name for yourself. Get the job you want at whatever studio.

There are three ways to get to the top of the AAA gaming industry:

  1. Start from the bottom and work your way up the corporate ladder of a company that was never yours and most likely wouldn’t ever be yours. Even if you stuck with them for 50 years, they’re probably already owned by another company who most likely won’t give it up, ever.
  2. Start as independent, build up your own indie studio, then get a job as a game designer at a big AAA company.
  3. Start as independent, build up your own indie studio, become AAA yourself.

#3 is the option I prefer.

I’m Going To Help You Do This

I’m building out a site and collection of courses on how to

  • Design games well and
  • Start a game design business once they’ve got that down so they can go on to make games with their ideas

No one should have to spend 3 years “getting experience” as a QA tester and then spend 10 or more years slowly working their way up the corporate ladder.

Take a break, you earned it. 2017-03-06 Newsletter

New from the Blog…

Actually, there’s nothing new on the blog this week. Over the past 5 days, I’ve been traveling and working a conference for my day job.

I’ve been working on a couple really cool blog posts that will be tutorials with pictures and stuff. I’m really excited to get those out to you this month, but they’re not quite ready yet.

Since I’ve been super busy and trying to get those out, I figured this week we would take a break from the blog and instead focus on creating those really valuable tutorial posts that will help game designers and developers take their marketing to the next level.

My advice for this week is to make sure you take breaks when you get overwhelmed. Sometimes things hit us all at once and we need to remember to step back and breathe before we start making irrational decisions (something I’m very likely to do when I start to panic).


What’s Garrett playing right now?

Hearthstone

I’ve mostly just been playing Hearthstone lately. Trying to decide if I want to preorder the Ungoro expansion packs or not. I mean, you do get 10 extra booster packs. I don’t care about the card back but getting 10 extra booster packs might be worth it.

I’ve also been trying to knock out quests regularly so I can keep buying boosters from MSoG. There are some cards I still want for a druid deck and even though I probably have enough dust to craft all of them, I’m saving it until I see how the meta changes when Ungoro comes out and cards like Reno go away (can’t wait!).


What’s Garrett working on right now?

On my drive home from the conference I worked, I planned out an entire game in my head. I haven’t finished putting together the GDD, but I have started goofing around with the mechanics of the game and how it’s going to work.

It’s going to be like Oregon Trail, but on a different planet.

Right now I’m calling it “Crap, Our Leader Died” or COLD, but the name will most likely change before the game comes out.

As soon as I have something to show you, it’ll be here, so stay tuned.


Catch you on the flip-side!

Have a great week.

-Garrett Mickley
GarrettMickley.com

Consistency is the key to success. 2017-02-27 Newsletter

 

New from the Blog…

People are going to forget about you. They’re going to forget about your games, your art, your programming, and you.

Pretty terrifying right? No one wants to hear that. Sorry for being so harsh, but you’re not doing anything to remind them who you are.

That’s why you need to be consistent. Consistency is the key to being successful in anything, not just video game development.

Let’s start at the top…(click here to read the full blog post).


What’s Garrett playing right now?

Hidden Folks

First of all, I’m totally in love with the art. It’s simple in that it inspires me, a non-artist, to try and draw the art for my next game, but also so good that it shows the artist is clearly skilled and practiced at their craft.

I’m also super impressed with the game play in that I find it very calming. Great for people like me who have anxiety and generally freak out about literally everything.

I would be lying if I didn’t say that on rough days I sneak away to the bathroom to play Hidden Folks for a few minutes.

It’s basically a search-and-find type game, like Where’s Waldo or I Spy, but the sound effects are amazing and the art is perfect and I’m just really really into it right now. I can’t say enough good things about it.

I’m playing it on iOS but it looks like you can get it for various platforms.

What’s Garrett working on right now?

I actually have nothing to report on this because I’ve been 100% focused on the website, my blog posts, and this newsletter. Don’t worry though…I’ve recently been fooling around in Blender and Unity and I will be working on some gamedev very soon. Perhaps next week as this week I will be traveling for my day job.

Catch you on the flip-side!

Have a great week.

-Garrett Mickley
GarrettMickley.com

Consistency is the most important part of your career.

People are going to forget about you. They’re going to forget about your games, your art, your programming, and you.

Pretty terrifying right? No one wants to hear that. Sorry for being so harsh, but you’re not doing anything to remind them who you are.

That’s why you need to be consistent. Consistency is the key to being successful in anything.

Let’s start at the top.

Note: there are a couple of affiliate links in this post. For more about that and how they work, check out the Resources page.

You need to be consistently making games.

My friend Sean McCabe says “show up every day.” Every day you should do at least one thing that works towards your game design and development.

That doesn’t mean you have to code every day, or draw every day.

Just one thing is all it takes. Show up every day and do at least one thing that’s going to get you closer to completion.

One thing every day that’s going to get you closer to your goals.

He says that doing this for two years will get you where you want to be. That’s such a short period of time if you really think about it.

Plus, you’ll be getting better at your game design and development each day as you work on it.

While you’re getting closer to completion, you’ll need to be working on marketing. Building your audience is what you should do, which is why the next three parts need to be consistent.

You need to be consistently showing your games.

Show people what you’re working on. Show your works in progress.

It doesn’t have to be anything crazy or intense. Maybe it’s a gif of an animation you made this week. Or you added in a cool game mechanic that you can show.

Heck, even just share a teaser of the story.

There’s so much in the process of gamedev that can be shared, and it drums up interest in your game.

Of course you can and should be sharing this stuff on your social media like Facebook, Twitter, etc, but you should also be sharing on your blog.

You need to be consistently posting on your blog.

If you don’t have a blog, make sure you’re signed up for the newsletter right now. Next week I’ll be posting a comprehensive guide (for free!) that will teach you step by step how to set up a blog for your gamedev.

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You need to be posting to your blog because it’s the one platform you control.

Remember MySpace? Who uses that anymore?

Don’t think it’s impossible that Twitter or Facebook could be next. I don’t even know anyone who really uses Tumblr anymore (of course I still post there but that’s another story).

But your blog, your website, that is something you can control. It will exist as long as you want it to. I use A2 hosting and their quick and easy 1 click WordPress installer.

There’s also a simple little thing you can do to keep people coming back to your blog for more. Aside from posting consistently, you need to be collecting emails from your visitors, and sending them a newsletter.

You need to be consistently sending out email newsletters.

My biggest regret is not starting collecting emails sooner.

I would have made way more sales on my previous games by now had I started collecting emails from the very beginning.

It’s just the best marketing you can do on a video game. Tell people about it.

Like I mentioned above, controlling your own platform is important. If Twitter disappears it will be very difficult to retain that audience and move them to whatever new platform you’re on.

I use ConvertKit because it’s easy and they have great functions for automation.

If you have their email, you’ll be able to take them wherever you go very easily.

Plus, people will see you all the time. You’ll be in their thoughts because you regularly send them valuable and interesting content.

That way, when you launch a game, they won’t see it as spam.

You ever sign up for an email list and forget about it? Then weeks or months later you get an email that’s like “Hey I just released my new game!”

Of course I usually check it out but it’s just like “ugh who is this person and why are they trying to get money from me?”

You need to share at least once a week.

They won’t forget about you this way. We think in weekly cycles. That’s why most TV shows put out new episodes at least weekly (during their season).

Of course, you can share more than just once a week if you want, but don’t overwhelm yourself.

Trust me, people will start to notice.

I’ve been inconsistent in the past and people have commented on it. I was totally embarrassed.

Consistency is totally hard but there are lots of ways you can prepare, like setting up an editorial calendar or automating your social media posting with a tool like CoSchedule (that’s a referral link, btw. If you sign up, they cut me a discount on my subscription at no extra cost to you).

An example of what not to do:

This is tricky and I need to preface this by saying that I am not trying to call out this gamedev publicly or anything. He’s wildly successful and I am confident that he will continue to be successful for various reasons, despite the things he’s doing “wrong” that I’m about to show you.

I do believe he would make a lot more money if he were to put more into marketing in the ways that I have suggested here (and will more in the future), but I also don’t get the impression he’s too worried about that. Please know that while I am saying what he’s doing here is “wrong”, I highly admire him and he’s one of the reasons I got into game design and development in the first place. It’s only “wrong” from a marketing standpoint.

But, as no-name indie dev, you don’t want to repeat what he’s doing here, because you need all the help you can get.

That said…look at this tweet:

Take a second to think about what you just learned and see if you can figure out what’s right and what’s wrong here.

Okay now that you’ve thought about it, I’ll list out a few things that were done right:

  • Really well written posts.
  • Lots of images in the posts.
  • Definitely content that will build up hype.
  • Pinned tweet…I wouldn’t have seen this otherwise.

But here’s what’s done wrong:

  • Not hosted on its own platform.
  • Telling people to bookmark and come back on their own accord.
  • No email list?
  • Posts aren’t really consistently posted. Definitely not weekly.

Again, at this point in his career I’m sure he’ll be fine and continue to be successful, and he absolutely deserves it.

But for an indie dev who’s not at that point, you need all the help you can get. That’s what I’m here for!

Make sure you’re signed up for the email list so that you can continue to learn more about video game design, development, marketing, and business.

Don’t forget to change your socks. ~ 2017-02-23 Newsletter

Don't forget to change your socks.

There is one item of G.I. gear that can be the difference between a live grunt and a dead grunt. Socks, cushion, sole, O.D. green. Try and keep your feet dry when we’re out humpin’. I want you boys to remember to change your socks wherever we stop. – Lieutenant Dan, Forest Gump

Things change, and this newsletter is one of them.

First things first: the newsletter and blog post will now be coming on Mondays, starting this coming Monday. This, and the following changes, will help with the consistency of this newsletter. Coincidentally, that’s what next weeks blog post is all about, too. Consistency is key. We’ll talk more about that on Monday.

The newsletter is also changing format.

From now on you’ll get a summary of the blog post and a link to read the blog post on the website.

You’ll also get some other cool stuff like info on what games I’m working on and what games I’ve recently been playing, along with anything else I think you might find interesting.

Hit reply and let me know if that’s something you would be interested in.

Or tell me it’s a terrible idea, you don’t care, and all you want is the blog post emailed to you every week and no other correspondence.

You could shape the future of this newsletter.

-Garrett Mickley
GarrettMickley.com

The one thing that will save your gamedev career from certain failure.

This is a long post, so here are some important sections you can skip to:

You gotta eat. You gotta have a roof over your head.

Here’s the thing: you need money.

We live in a post-scarcity world that thrives through a strange, impure, though somewhat functional version of capitalism. At least, those of us in “developed nations” as they

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I was supposed to launch a book last week.

I was lost.

I was supposed to launch a book last week.

It was called Gaming for Fun and Profit, and it was about how to make money streaming video games on websites like Twitch.tv and YouTube. It was originally going to be supported by a website, CharityStreams.com, which was going to empower people to use the knowledge they gained from the book as a way to raise awareness for causes they believe in.

I’ve been working very hard on these things for the past year, and I’ve decided to shelve them both for now.

Yet again, I lost sight of what I truly want to be doing: making video games. I saw dollar signs in this idea and was chasing money, not happiness.

That’s not a way to live.

90% done w/ writing it and I was miserable. I knew that after writing came all of the promotion. A week before launch, I had a conversation with an entrepreneur colleague of mine that went something like this:

  • Them: “What have you been working on?”
  • Me: My GfFaP book and CharityStreams.com.
  • Them: “What happened to making video games?”
  • Me: I’ve been working on this and then I’ll switch to making video games.
  • Them: “Between writing the book, promoting it, building out and managing CharityStreams.com, on top of having a day job and spending time with friends and family, when will you have time to make video games?”
  • Me: Well…uh…
  • Them: “Do you want to make video games or do you want that book and website to be your business?”
  • Me: I…want to make video games.
  • Them: “Then why are you spending so much time working on this other stuff when that’s not what you want to do?”

Of course my first reaction was “I’ve already put so much time into it, it would be a waste to not keep working on it,” but that’s the sunk cost fallacy. The worst thing I could do right now is keep working on it. I need to stop and shift focus to what I really want to do: make video games.

  1. I want to build a company I can operate from my laptop from anywhere in the world.
  2. I want the freedom to wake up and go to bed whenever I want.
  3. I want the freedom to go wherever I want, whenever I want.
  4. I don’t want to be held down by an 8-5 job.
  5. I want to make video games that make people happy.
  6. I want to help people learn how to make video games in a better way than I learned.

Which is why I’m shifting my focus to work on GarrettMickley.com and game development. The future of this blog+newsletter will be focused on discussing the design, development, business and marketing of video games.

For those who made it here from IndieGameDev.Club, that site is going on hold until later this year. GarrettMickley.com and this blog+newsletter will handle everything that site was originally supposed to be, and later on in the year I’ll be building a community for game designers and developers at IndieGameDev.Club.

If you would like to join me on this journey: awesome! I’m excited to have you here.

Starting next week you will be receiving emails about my journey in game design and development.

Write About Things Even When People Won’t Shut Up About Them

this guy found a pikachu
this guy found a pikachu
This guy found a Pikachu.

Raise your left hand if you’re sick of hearing about Pokemon Go. Raise your right hand if you’re playing Pokemon Go. Clap your hands if you’re sick of hearing about Pokemon Go even though you’re playing it.

It seems like over half of the articles that have crossed my path this last week have been about Pokemon Go. That’s not including all the social media posts from my friends and family.

It’s really cool and really popular right now. It’s a game changer by being the first wildly successful augmented reality game. That said, we’re all sick of hearing about it.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t write about it, too.

If you have an idea, you should be writing about it. Even if you’re sick of hearing about it, get out there and write about it.

This doesn’t just apply to Pokemon Go, but anything that is being talked about. Don’t worry if other people are talking about something too much. If you’re afraid you’re covering something that’s already been covered, don’t be.

You are so unique.

Even though there are over nine thousand articles about Pokemon Go to come out in the last week, no one else has your perspective. No one else has gone through your exact same experiences in the exact same order.

You are unique, and you have a voice.

Your voice brings a new outlook on the subject.

Write what you know.

As I’ve said before: write what you know. If you know something about Pokemon Go, share it.

At the most, you’ll get some work, or maybe a check out of the content. At the least, it’s something to put in your portfolio.

You could also run a case study on newsjacking. Whether you’re successful or unsuccessful with it, write about it. Write about why it was or was not successful, and learn from that.

And if it is a failure, the transparency in your failure will speak volumes.

Newsjacking isn’t all bad.

Some content marketers shudder at the word “newsjacking”. It’s not all bad, but it can be.

The proper way to handle newsjacking is to take a news event and write about it from your perspective, or how it applies to you or your industry.

  • If you do marketing as a profession, you could discuss how Pokemon Go is increasing profits of local businesses.
  • If you’re a fitness instructor, you could talk about how Pokemon Go is great for exercise.
  • If you’re a writer, you could talk about how other writers shouldn’t be afraid of writing about something even though it’s being talked about by what seems like every other website on the internet right now.

The bottom line is this: don’t ever feel like you can’t write about something because it’s already been written about before. Just write it!

Word Count Doesn’t Matter Online

Word Count Doesn’t Matter Online

Word Count Doesn’t Matter Online

I’ve been getting a question frequently: how long should my blog posts be? Is there a minimum word amount for blog posts? Maximum?

No. There isn’t. People will tell you otherwise, but I’m telling you there isn’t.

Side note: this only counts when online. Magazines and other print media will require specific word counts because of space. I’m not saying that you should ignore those word counts. In fact, those word counts are extremely important. The only time word count really doesn’t matter is when online.

If you charge a flat rate per word, you should stop doing that right now. Charge per piece. Not per word. I’ll talk more about that in a future post.

Blog post word count doesn’t matter, even for SEO.

In SEO (Search Engine Optimization), the rule of thumb is frequently changing on blog post length. It was 300 words. Then bumped up to 500 words. Then bumped up to 1000 words. I don’t keep up with it anymore, so I don’t even know where it is now.

It doesn’t matter.

Google and the other search engines are going to find your content if your content is good. They’ll rank it well if your content is good. Focus on creating valuable content for readers, and you won’t need to worry about those stupid SEO rules.

The thing about those SEO rules is that they had to be enforced because SEO’s were all posting as much trash as possible. It was all about more pages and more keyword optimization and stuffing and all that. Of course, they’re trying to get hundreds, if not thousands, of pages out every month, which is expensive, so they shoot for lowest word count possible to get them all out. There can’t be duplicate content, either, so each page needs to be written individually.

The problem with SEO is that it has always encouraged sketchy practices, work-arounds, and generally just trashy work for the sake of getting more rankings. SEO’s would sell companies that more rankings are important.

What’s important is getting the right traffic, not as much traffic as possible, and then turning that traffic into leads/conversions. Of course, that has been done with SEO by many companies, but I have found that all companies do much better when they focus less on SEO and more on content marketing.

Of course, I still write with SEO in mind, but I’m focused more on providing value to readers and website visitors, which ultimately turns them into customers and clients.

Get the point across in as many words as you need.

Here’s the thing about writing content that provides value: the word count doesn’t matter as long as you get the point across.

You need to provide the value the user is looking for.

If they found you on Google, because you’re ranking well, they’re looking for an answer to their question. Answer it. Don’t fluff the content with a bunch of BS in the beginning or end to reach the wordcount that some SEO recommended to you for every page.

A lot of stuff, especially “how to” guides, will come under whatever word count is recommended. I bet you can find a ton of them ranking well in Google that are under 500, 300, even 100 words.

They’re ranking well because they have been seen to provide value to visitors to the site. The people who read the content share it because it answered their question and they want the rest of the world to know the answer to their problems, too. People are nice like that. Sometimes.

If clients want a specific word count, obviously do it.

Some clients aren’t going to know this. Or they’ve heard it and they don’t understand. It’s not your job to educate them. It’s not worth your time to educate them. Those clients are going to ask for specific maximum and minimum word counts.

Sean McCabe would say those aren’t the clients you want. And, he’s right. But until you’ve switched over to Value Based Pricing model he teaches, and ditch scarcity mindset, you’ll be taking clients on that want specific word counts. And that’s okay. Take them and do their word counts. Get your pay. Save up for Value Based Pricing and get out of scarcity mindset. Or, even better, go get a day job and then only take on good clients.

This was supposed to be a short article to prove a point, but it ended up being well over 1500 words because there was so much to say.

Where were you the night of June 20th? – 07-01-2016 Newsletter

The light shining above you is so bright and focused on your face that you can’t see more than a foot away from you in any direction.

The detectives lean in and slide photographs across the table.

They know you committed the crime.

At least, that’s how it feels in an interview sometimes. Like you’re being interrogated.

I hate doing interviews, but the truth is that when you’re writing the right content, sometimes you have to interview someone. Maybe it’s the focus of the page, or maybe it’s just a few questions.

Either way, make it easy.

I wrote some tips on how to conduct a great interview. Check them out here: http://bit.ly/28Y2QhZ

Have a great weekend, and I’ll see you next week!

Garrett Mickley, GarrettMickley.com

P.S. Do you have any questions about writing creative content? Reply to this! Seriously. This isn’t noreply@garrettmickley.com (that’s not even a real email address). It comes straight back to my inbox. I’ll get your questions.

P.P.S. Did you know you can read old newsletters at GarrettMickley.com/newsletter?