Thank God, I’m An Indie Dev

One of my favorite songs that comes up on my walk to and from work is John Denver’s Thank God I’m A Country Boy.

Am I a “country girl”? Kind of, but that’s not why the song is on my “walking to work” playlist.

I’m lucky to work at an awesome company that encourages creativity and independence. They support my public speaking and writing not just about issues that are tough for me personally, but some of the toughest issues we face in game development culture. It’s more than that though: they let employees pursue side projects, even in games, even to the extent of publishing the result. In fact, they encourage it.

I’ve been chatting with the leadership here about speaking at GDC on this unusual policy. There are a variety of reasons for it, including that they believe it creates a stronger, more creative company with tremendous energy. I agree with the philosophy and can honestly say, as someone who has worked at a lot of game development companies, that the creative energy at The Workshop is something special.

So why does Thank God I’m A Country Boy resonate with me? When you have a minute, listen to it. My farm is The Workshop. When I go home at night, I work on personal games and a novel–I fiddle.

Well, life on a farm is kind of laid back.
Ain’t much an old country boy like me can’t hack.
It’s early to rise, early in the sack. 
Thank God I’m a country boy.
Well, a simple kind of life never did me no harm,
raising me a family and working on the farm.
My days are all filled with an easy country charm.
Thank God I’m a country boy.
When the work’s all done and the sun’s setting low,
I pull out my fiddle and I rosin up the bow.
The kids are asleep so I keep it kinda low.
Thank God I’m a country boy.
I’d play Sally Gooding all day if I could,
but the Lord and my wife wouldn’t take it very good.
So I fiddle when I can, work when I should.
Thank God I’m a country boy.
I wouldn’t trade my life for diamonds or jewels,
I never was one of them money hungry fools.
I’d rather have my fiddle and my farming tools.
Thank God I’m a country boy.
Yeah, city folk driving in a black limousine,
a lot of sad people thinking that’s-a mighty keen.
Son, let me tell you now exactly what I mean:
Thank God I’m a country boy.

I think every game designer who’s been around for a while, especially in the console/core world, gets the hitmaker urge. We need a bigger team, more money, more sales, a higher metacritic rating–these become the things that define us not just as designers but as people. We swim in the commercial sea–our careers can easily become all about surviving wave after wave of “progress.” Eventually we find ourselves so far at sea that we’re effectively alone. Congratulations on your design success: your reward is that instead of making games, you get to talk to other people on your gigantic team about the game they’re making. We’ve lost sight of the shore–the simple joy in creation.

That’s where I was a couple years ago. I feel differently now. I’m just as driven to make great games, but I want to make them with heart, soul, and a personal sense of purpose. I’m aware every day that I’m working for and with “the good guys.” My life is not about fighting the waves anymore–it’s all about teamwork, creativity, self-expression, passion and the simultaneous achievements and joy that can come from aligning yourself with folks on the same path.

I fiddle when I can and I work when I should. Thank God I’m an indie dev.

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