When Ryan and I decided to hold this competition, the first thing we did was create this blog. It was tempting test game development frameworks, prototype, or do anything actually related to game development, but we know first hand the benefits of blogging on both yourself and your product. Blogging does cut into precious development time, but I believe the benefits outweigh the costs for a number of reasons.
The journal Science published an article stating that information retention increases by about 50% when that information is recalled as compared to just repeated studying. The results conclude that students who continuously study are under the illusion that they’re the superior learners when in fact more knowledge is gained when a test is performed shortly after learning new information.
I’m not in school and I don’t have any tests to take, so blogging will be the tool to train my brain. I know little about creating games and must learn how to program a game, discover artists, select sounds, prototype, market, and price a game. There’s a lot of learning in my future and hopefully I’ll be able to retain that information by actively recalling it in the form of blog posts.
A product needs an audience, and blogging is a cheap and effective way of building that audience. My last company, Wufoo.com, had 80,000 people eager to beta test the product. Wufoo was able to attract so many testers primarily due to the loyal readers of particletree.com, our (retired) web development blog. Those readers were critical because many of them also became our first paying customers and product evangelists.
This new venture is similar to my last because I’m again starting with a small marketing budget and will lean on the community to shape and promote my game. I’m hoping to gain an audience by sharing what I learn about game development, and hopefully my readers will one day give my game a try, like what they see, and maybe even tell their friends.
Paul Graham, founder of YCombinator, said that the most important factor to a startup’s success is determination. Starting a difficult project is easy, but finishing that project is hard work. Flashes of inspiration, tales of genius, and explosive growth make great magazine headlines, but it’s really sustained momentum and grit over the long slog that determines success. Some people are more resolute than others, but we all benefit from motivational incentives.
Extrinsic rewards like money or fame are poor motivators and I can’t lean on a team or boss for energy, so I need to look elsewhere for my motivational fix. Not wanting to lose any type of competition to my brother certainly helps, but what really keeps me moving is the fear of public failure and the feeling that somebody else is counting on me.
Blogging does all of that because everything on the web is public (forever) and blogging makes me accountable to my readers. People are investing their time by following my site and nobody reads a stale website. Not wanting to disappoint my readers or myself will pressure me to incrementally complete my game and sustain momentum.
Maslow said that being part of a community is a prerequisite to realizing one’s full potential and I couldn’t agree more. South by Southwest was the catalyst behind my first company. YCombinator’s Startup School conference was the catalyst to the second. I rely on open source software. I find answers to my questions on Stack Overflow and personal blogs. Blogging in the past and participating in the web’s altruistic ecosystem introduced me to a lot of amazing people, taught me countless lessons, and shaped my life.
This experience has to be about more than just learning how to make video games, because I know how much of my past success was due to the communities I joined. I want to be a part of the indie gaming community, and that requires putting myself out there and sharing information. I can’t think of a better way to do that than blogging.