Three tips to be an effective hobby game developer

Being a hobby game developer is fundamentally difficult, since you have to divide up limited time between the rest of your life and game development, which is inherently a time-consuming activity. In this post I’ll discuss three ways to help maximize your time to be effective as a hobbyist game developer.

Use idle time wisely

In almost everyone’s life there are moments where we don’t have an opportunity to do proper game development, and yet our brain is free to think. These include when you are in the bathroom, shower, commuting, or putting a child to sleep.

During such times, assuming I have some mental energy left, I try to think about a game I am working on, either planning what I will code next or sifting through ideas that might improve the game. By doing such pre-planning, when I actually do have a few minutes of free time I can start working almost immediately.

Pipeline projects

When working on any project, there are usually times when you have to wait before you can proceed. For example, you might be waiting for app store approval, or feedback from a tester.

To make effective use of such times, it’s good to have a second or third project to fall back to so you can avoid wasting time. In an extreme case, you could be thinking about how to market a game that is already released, waiting on a second game to be approved for an app store, and planning what time of game you’ll develop next.

Say bye to TV

This time is really a good one for life in general, but it is especially true for hobby game developers that are time-limited. TV is really addicting and can be load of fun, but generally it is not a great way to learn new things or even exercise the brain (this is true even if you are watching a story with a complex plot). To avoid watching too much TV I don’t subscribe cable at home. Even though movies may seem more intellectual, I feel the are equally wasteful. The only good exception I can think of is if you are studying dialogue, camera angles, or editing techniques to apply to a game you are working on.

Strictly speaking, I could include other hobbies like reading, but at least those things exercise the brain better and it’s good to take a break from game development once in a while.

I’ve seen a recent study that says the average person the US spends almost 3 hours watching TV. Just imagine how much more could be learned, and created, if  even a fraction of that time was used for something more productive.

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