Friday, 3 January 2014

Why getting pregnant meant going indie.

As I write this two very significant things are happening; first, I am eight months pregnant with my first baby and second, I'm about to submit my first independent game with +Alex Trowers to the app store.

Right there are two things that should probably never be attempted at the same time, but then I didn't really have much choice.  So how did I end up here? 

Good News and Bad News

Way back in May 2013 my personal life started moving in a different direction to my professional life, without wanting to bore you with all the soppy stuff, the decision was made that I would re-locate and move to Brighton from Plymouth to be with Alex.  So I handed in my notice and prepared to walk away from my wonderful creative producer role at Remode Studio, it wasn't an easy decision (I'd miss the people first and foremost) but also it wasn't all that hard, after all the opportunities were fantastic.  Brighton is a hub of game studios and there was always the option to commute to say London or Guildford.  And so the job hunt began in earnest.

A month later I find out I'm pregnant.  Now this wasn't planned but, it wasn't an unwelcome surprise!  Alex and I needed little to no time to decide that we would see the pregnancy through, the timing wasn't great but starting a family was something we both wanted (and in fact still want, we're not there just yet).  And although I knew this wouldn't help my getting a new job I was still optimistic, I was after all still perfectly capable, willing and wanting to work.

Of course what had happened was I'd become unemployable.   

Rejection is never easy, even when you know that it's not a reflection on your skills, personality or passion.  There is however a limit to how many times you can be told to 'keep in touch for future opportunities' before it drains the last of your self esteem.  And of course it only got worse, the longer I couldn't get a job, the closer to the inevitable maternity leave I was getting.  Eventually I gave up.  We decided that we would wait until after the baby for me to find a new job and in my extended maternity leave I could have a crack at some personal projects, make some indie games and have a stab at learning Unity.

So that was the new plan and a very exciting plan it was!  I had been hoping to get some Unity under my belt for a while (programming is not exactly one of my strengths), and making a game myself from inception to product was something I had been itching to do.

And then the plan changed again.  Alex had to leave his job.  Suddenly the game we had been pottering around with in our spare time was promoted to Plan A, and we had to make it work. 

Glyph Quest

Don't be fooled that Unicorn is not your friend.

Glyph Quest started as an experiment, a simple puzzle game for iOS we would release to see what the process was like as neither of us had done it for ourselves before.  When it evolved from experiment to career choice we knew we had a very hard deadline to make and a lot to learn and produce.  Alex took charge of the code (he's a self confessed non-programmer but he's a damn sight better at it than I am), I took the role of art monkey, and between us the game design continued to evolve and grow into what is now (very nearly) the finished game.

So there we are working from our tiny one bed flat in Brighton (ah yes did I mention that we are soon to be moving house too?).  It's not the most ideal of set ups, although my desks proximity to the kitchen fridge has proven useful (it's within arms reach, yup I'm practically working in the kitchen...) and the further along the pregnancy has got, the greater the need to be as close to a bathroom as possible has become (did I mention this flat is tiny?).  So things are nice and cozy, the biggest challenge we've found to this games production has been reigning the design in.  It turns out Alex and myself are the worst for 'wouldn't it be cool if...' and by worst I mean best, we are very good at coming up with great features, mechanics and tweaks.  But we are a production team of two and as such there is only so much we can do before our time to actually produce this game is up, having a baby on the way as your deadline is a milestone that can't slip.  Once the baby is here that will certainly mark the end of any production time, at least for me (did you know it's possible to have to spend up to 12 hours a day breast feeding in the baby's first week?  No, neither did I...). 

I've had many challenges with this pregnancy (if it could er on the side of complicated it has), 3am hospital trips, crippling back ache, pre-natal depression.  But this blog post is not about that.  Despite all that pregnancy has thrown at me, and for that matter every other bit of bad luck and timing, we have made this game.  I have continued to work right to the wire to make this happen.  I couldn't get a job when I was looking, I wasn't desirable at the time, so now I'm an indie.  It's sad that I had to go through all this to get here, and no doubt I'm not the only person who's given up with trying to fit a job description and gone it alone, but that's what had to happen.    

By the end of the month I will have achieved two life goals. I have wanted to have children for a long time and now I've found someone I can share that with and very soon we will meet this little person who will change our lives forever.  I have wanted to make games for longer than I've known I wanted to be a parent (after completing FF7 in 1998 if you're curious), and soon I will be releasing my first independent game.  It has not been smooth, easy or painless, but it will hopefully enable me to continue to work for myself.  Well, for my family.


  1. Best of luck with the game and lil one! I'll be sure to download a copy and send out some tweets n stuff! Glyph Quest looks pretty sweet!