Avoid “Burnout” as indie

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My cat Mirtillo doesn’t look very burnedout…

Wikipedia defines “burnout” as: Burnout is a type of psychological stress. Occupational burnout or job burnout is characterized by exhaustion, lack of enthusiasm and motivation, feelings of ineffectiveness, and also may have the dimension of frustration or cynicism, and as a result reduced efficacy within the workplace.

Now, I absolutely love my job. I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t love it. However, even indies can suffer from burnout problems.

When you work for yourself, without a boss, it’s easy to forget that you still need to take breaks and relax. And that not necessarily working more will bring better results.

I noticed this myself in the recent years. Personally, I think I’m very resistant to burnout, but it still happened. I think the main issue is that you are so absorbed in your work, in what you love, that you “forget” to take breaks. When you work in a office doing a job you hate, or even just don’t like it particularly, you’re eager to take breaks and holidays!

It’s not only the work itself though: also the “release stress”. Whenever you release a new game, there’s a lot of stress involved. How it will do? Is there any bug left? etc. Talking with other indies, it’s well known that the release day/week is one of the most stressing periods in the life of an indie. Then, there’s also the normal stress when things aren’t going well, sales are low, or you’re struggling with the development for whatever reason.

All this stress can lead to burnout as well.

Possible solutions

So, now that we know even indies can suffer from burnout, what are the solutions? First of all: take things easier. Luckily for us, we’re not doing “critical mission” software. A nuclear plant won’t blow up if there’s a bug in our code! We won’t go bankrupt (hopefully) if a few people don’t like our game. As long as enough people like it, will be fine. It’s OK for some (or many!) people to say that our game is bad. It’s not OK to insult you, but they’re going to do it anyway, so why worry or get angry? πŸ™‚

Another very important thing, not just for indies, but for any creative job, it’s to take “full breaks”. I mean, stop completely working, for a week or two (usually for me is never more than a week though).

Do other things: read, walk, bike, go out, watch movies, play other games, etc. Whatever you like to do, that is not related to your job.

It really helped me many times when I felt I had “no strength left”. It also helped me to regain “inspiration”. I suspect will be the same for artists/writers/designers/etc.

You might think that you “lose time”, when you take breaks. In some cases yes, but personally I found that in many cases it wasn’t lost time. Not at all! A lot of positive things happened: while playing other games, I got ideas on how to do some gameplay changes in my games. While watching movies/tv series, I got ideas for new games stories. And even when I didn’t get any “inspiration”, I was well rested and relaxed so when I resumed working I was going twice as fast as I would have if I didn’t take the break.

In conclusion

That’s why even if I’m at good point both with Heirs & Graces and PSCD DLC betas, once they’re done, I’ll take a short break before jumping back immediately to work on Queen Of Thieves RPG coding: I’m doing the new main plot scenes now, but that’s just basic scripting so really something easy compared to the RPG part.

Even if the “pressure” is high, even if a lot of people are eager to play it. I really need the break to do a better job later πŸ™‚

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20 Responses to Avoid “Burnout” as indie

  1. Jewel says:

    Jeez, Jack, you didn’t need to write an opus to tell us you need a break! xD
    We all understand and appreciate you enough to let you go for a couple of weeks. Better yet, hit the beach, go camping or idk shopping? I know workaholism is beyond modern medicine to cure, but do relax sometimes! πŸ˜‰ And eat chocolate. As stress therapy.

    • admin says:

      Haha I wrote it to warn other indies mostly. I know a few that are workaholics as much as me, and I know they read my blog, so maybe they’ll think that they need a break too πŸ™‚
      I eat chocolate (only dark chocolate), perhaps even too much !

  2. Linds S. says:

    Play Doom. Nothing relieves stress quite like mowing down the minions of hell with a mini gun.

  3. Xarena says:

    Have fun with your time off did you know cats can relief stress? Maybe that’s part of the reason you can go so long without a break the pure awesomeness of cats is the answer.

  4. Aguntuk says:

    You are absolutely right. Professionally, I am a researcher and recently have I found out that taking breaks especially after working for a long time indeed raises you level of productivity. Long mind-work can actually stop you from thinking in alternative directions and thus often its reduces your creativity. In fact for this very reason, I often indulge myself in working with DIY tools and has formed a hobby and this works very well with my research work…
    I hope the same logic holds for you as well…

    • admin says:

      Probably my main problem is that as hobby… I play games πŸ™‚ so it’s still something computer related. This Summer I’ll try to take longer breaks doing something completely different, away from the computer (if possible!).

  5. IotaOne says:

    Best line:
    ” It’s not OK to insult you, but they’re going to do it anyway, so why worry or get angry?”

    • admin says:

      Haha πŸ™‚ I know some indies are really upset about it, and while of course it’s not that I LIKE it, it’s going to happen anyway! lol

  6. IgamsMan says:

    As someone extremely psyched for Queen Of Thieves it’s great to hear you’ll be working on the game at your own pace. There’s almost nothing worse than when circumstances force a developer to release a rushed product.
    So enjoy your break and I hope you decide to take that extra week or three off!

    Also, I second Doom πŸ˜‰

    • admin says:

      I am working on it but very slowly so I don’t burnout, and doing the easiest stuff first (like scripting scenes). This way I make some progress every day, but I don’t get too tired unless I finish the other betas running at the moment πŸ™‚

  7. Bob The Mob says:

    I know I’m in late (as usual… XD) but I figured I’d say about this:

    Ya ever heard of ASMR videos? Search “ASMR” on YouTube; you can find all kinds of things directed at relaxing those who watch them. πŸ™‚

    From personal experience, they work wonders. πŸ™‚

    • admin says:

      I didn’t know about them, that’s very interesting! I will try with some and see if they work πŸ™‚

  8. Xarena says:

    Hi kind of off topic but have you ever thought of making a story game thingy where your character’s are half animals?

    • admin says:

      You mean like furry and such? yes I thought about that. Maybe one day…! πŸ˜€

      • Xarena says:

        Heh that would be fun I was thinking more like Catwomen maybe? Where your still mostly human and everything but have the abilities of whatever animal or maybe you can full blown turn into an animal don’t take my idea seriously dude it’s half baked.

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