11 Tips for Becoming an IndieDev Autodidact

With no previous training in Video Game Development, I put aside my degree in Aeronautical Engineering and Infantry Officer experiences, and dove into teaching myself the trade.  There’s a lot to learn.

IndieDev_Autodidact

Getting Started Learning

I started to read blogs online and came across the site, The Personal MBA.  From it, I concluded that I didn’t need to spend the money getting an MBA.

I wanted to go into business for myself, and didn’t need a “check the block” MBA, so I started to read the books the website suggested.

While deployed on my second deployment to Afghanistan, I started to order the recommended books, and also found the best sites ever for learning game development: Pixel Prospector and Gamasutra.

What little time I had for downtime, I spent studying these site, practicing programming tutorials, and playing video games.

Why IndieDev

Independent Video game development was the perfect solution to my life’s passions.

It combined the art I always wanted to pursue, with the natural talent I had with problem solving (engineering).

Most importantly, it allowed me to work from home. My wife and I had been apart for the first 2 years of our 3 years of marriage serving the military and after I got out, she would have an additional two years left.  The military taught us that life is short, so make sure you spend it with those you love.

While the last year of the military was the worst, I burned out, and spent the first few months just researching video games…

DrEvil_IndieDev_Research

Where the Story Begins

Upon Honorably discharging from the military, I spent the  following 2 years studying and learning art, music, game design, programming business and marketing.  (My IndieDev Education is listed here).

In the 3rd year (this past year), I incorporated my business, and started applying what I learned.

Here are 11 tips from what I’ve learned along the way:

  1. Try everything – I thought I’d pigeonholed myself into the sciences since my natural talent lied within them, but art and music were always the most impactful parts of my life.  So I tried everything when I first started out.  Learning everything helped me to find out what I enjoyed the most and least, while also giving me a good understanding into the difficulties of each subject.
  2. Focus on Your Strengths –  The books Strengthsfinder, Standout, The Fascination Advantage and Disc Personality Test are all tests about finding out how you’re unique, and what your strengths are.  Once you’ve tried everything, focus on the areas you’re strongest in.  My #1 strength is learning, so, that might explain this blog post.
  3. Learn Business and Marketing – If you’re an Independent Developer and don’t have an income to hire a CEO and CMO, then you’ll be wearing these hats for a long time.  With so many different games out there, you’ll have to learn how to stand out, while also running a business.
  4. Study Other Developers – Part of studying is also studying your fellow developers.  It’s awesome how much our community is willing to share the areas they’ve failed in.  I studied Gamasutra’s Post-Mortems in Afghanistan, and then conducted my own IndieDev Marketing Analysis.  When you search for other developer’s wisdom, sometimes they’ll even share their own findings.
  5. Save Money – I recommend using your local library to save money.
  6. Spend Money – I’ve listed several online courses in my IndieDev Education that I’ve taken. Spending money helps you to commit to applying what you’ve learned.  Truthfully, there’s some classes and subscriptions I’ve partially regretted, but if I hadn’t taken the chance, on some, I wouldn’t have been as willing to take the chances on the courses I think did pay off.
  7. Keep “Researching” – All those years playing games before becoming developers helps us to know the difference between quality and crummy games.  Don’t lose that edge you’ve gained.
  8. Practice What You’ve Learned – I made the mistake of not doing this enough.  There’s only so much you can learn by reading.  You need to actually apply it for it to cement in your mind.
  9. Schedule the Time – There’s some days when you don’t have the energy to read.  Allotting time in your schedule for learning helps ensure you’ll be ready to do it.  Whether it be as you read in bed at night, or before the work day, allotting that time helps to get it done.
  10. Don’t Waste Your Time – Some books, and some articles don’t keep your interest.  You can usually know when a book is going start boring you to death.  Don’t waste your time grinding through it.  If you’re using your library, it’s free anyway.
  11. Take Notes – I mark with a pencil the areas of the book I get the most of, and at the end, transcribe it.  I review a book’s notes every morning as part of my morning routine so I remember what I learned.  Here’s a spreadsheet of how I track which books I haven’t reviewed in the longest time.

Keep Learning

Learning is a lifelong journey.  It’s awesome that we get to be a part of this particular emerging artform.

I’m always eager to be expanding my knowledge on all things IndieDev, so please let me know a good book you’re reading.

What’re you reading to improve your IndieDev Education?