Becoming a Game Design Pro (Part 1)
This was a post that I wrote over 4 years ago, shortly after I left my day job and went full-time in the board game world. Looking over this, it’s a solid reminder of why I chose to make the transition and some of the things you’ll want to consider if you’re thinking about making a change in your life in the future. I hope you find this helpful.
It was one of the toughest decisions of my life.
I had what most would consider a great job with fantastic coworkers, benefits, five weeks of vacation, and one of the best pension plans out there.
I had been in my job for 17 years, working my way up from an entry-level analyst position to manager, with a lot of potential to move into a director position, if I chose this route.
But something was missing.
I just didn’t feel the passion for the work that I was doing like I did when I first started.
Coincidentally, I had been introduced to the world of board game design, and it became my favourite hobby. I started spending way more time on this than playing and writing music, writing sketch comedy, or any of my other interests. I began enjoying designing games and playing other designer’s prototypes as much or more than published games.
After loving the hobby for four and half years, I finally made the decision to do it full-time.
It wasn’t easy. There was a lot of comfort and stability in my day job, and sometimes it’s hard to step away from something that is so familiar and that you are already confident about. But the status quo is also dangerous. It can keep you stagnant and from exploring and living up to your true potential.
My day job was safe, whereas with game design, I hadn’t yet gotten a single game published. I didn’t even have one signed yet. But I knew it was just a matter of time.
You see, I had been focusing on understanding the craft of game design and improving my skills and processes. Getting my games published was secondary. I knew that if I worked on them and put a lot of passion into this, the end results would come.
It’s about putting in the work. Nobody sees all the hours and effort you put in behind the scenes. So, when you finally make it big, some call it an overnight success. They don’t realize the overnight part was many years in the making!
Some of my early games were terrible. Many will never see the light of day, and that’s a good thing, because I’m constantly recognizing that my games are getting better and better all the time. Practice may not make perfect (because there’s no such thing as a perfect game or anything else), but it will make you better.
Hard work trumps talent. I’ve heard this time and time again and it definitely rings true.
If you’ve got both, you’re golden. But talent alone won’t cut it. You have to put in the time and effort. Even if you’re not particularly gifted, by working at something and consistently improving your skills, you’re just going to get better and better at whatever you’re doing.
So here I am.
I walked away from a six-figure job with all the perks you could ask for, and now I’m earning a fraction of that. But you know what? I’m so happy I did. I wouldn’t change it for the world.
Stay tuned for part 2 next week. In the meantime…
Have you ever seriously considered leaving your day job? What made you want to leave and was there something else pulling you in another direction?