Hobby vs Indie Game Dev and the War of Art

I'm currently stuck on the history generation of the world.  So this is a tiny break away from the code to reflect on other grander issues. :-)

This Extra Credits video centers on the difference between an Indie dev and a Hobbyist. The hobbyist builds the game for themselves, the indie builds it to be enjoyed by others.

This is interesting to me because in 2014 my previous 2 years of mobile games had failed to generate any income and I was back working a desk job at my software company. I wondered if I would ever make a game again.  Had I blown my only shot?  (If you are unfamiliar with this story you can read detailed, visceral, personal article I wrote on Gamasutra at the time)

I started tooling around on weekends making prototypes.  Frankly, I had no goal other than to keep up what little game dev skills I thought I had.  Actually that's not entirely true.  I did it because I love it.

I've written code I'm very proud of for some very large ecommerce and package delivery companies in North America.  I say this to share I've had some exciting, rewarding, truly joy filled moments at work.

Yet nothing can match the giddy elation I feel inside when I write a line of code like this:

monster.hp -= damage;

In my head, this is happening:

Giddy elation is how i felt as I tooled around with this weird eclectic prototype Wizard I was working on in windows forms C#.  It was a hobby project, just for me, for no other reason than how I felt when I write a line like the above.

But when I randomly showed it to a friend, for a reason I don't remember, I mean if it's a personal project why show it to anyone?  Well I did and he said "I've always wanted to play a game like that."

That was the moment Archmage Rises went from Hobby game to Indie game.  With this outlandish new concept that other people would actually want to play a realistic RPG in a procedurally generated world where the passage of time really matters, I started work and assembling a team to make a game others can enjoy too.

Archmage Rises is still in this weird middle ground between Hobby and Indie.  

I design as if it is Hobby.

When Nic and I are at a standstill on which way to go with a feature I return back to the source: what do I want to see in a game?  When I saw the now cancelled Hero's Song world generation screen it brought back memories of the first time I played Civilization 1.  I wanted to capture that moment.  So, I'm redoing my world generation.  Nic is indifferent to it, but I'm in love with the new version.  Another example is the yet-to-be-announced new Town Screen.  I didn't feel our current town backgrounds reflected the dynamic changing personalized world well enough.  I'm in love with the new approach because it feels like every tabletop RPG book I've had the pleasure to leaf through.

I work as if it is Indie.  

The recent update to the UI is just one example where we have collected feedback from the fans and worked it into the game.  I like the new UI and think it is better, but I didn't do it for me at all.  I was fine with the previous version.  I knew how it worked and had been staring at it for 2 years so it didn't bother me at all.  I did it so others could enjoy the game more.  I think the new UI looks better (for marketing), works better, and is more accessible for first time players.





I meet game devs both online and offline.  I see confusion on if they are Hobby or Indie.  They may say they are Indie and are making their project as their profession, but their behavior and decision making is all rooted in the Hobby mindset.

Steven Pressfield wrote an incredible little book called War of Art.  He wrote it for novelists but its universal truths are applicable to everything in game dev.  It changed my life.  

His terms are different from Extra Credits: he uses Amateur and Professional.  We assume professional means you are paid and amateur means you are unpaid.  Pressfield says no.  It has nothing to do with pay and everything to do with mindset: How you think about yourself and your work.

So what about you?  
If you are making a game right now, are you doing it as Hobbyist or Indie? 
If you started your project as Hobby like I did, is there a clear moment you can look back at where you transitioned from Hobby to Indie on your project?  
If not, should that concern you?