How a homeless man gave me an indie dev existential crisis

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An encounter with a rude homeless man has got me thinking about where my life is headed as an indie game developer.


I came across him last night while walking back to Old Street tube station from a London Unity Usergroup game dev meetup. I’d attended for a couple of reasons; primarily to plug The Last Time, and to get a few people to playtest the demo and provide feedback, but also to get myself out of the little bubble I’d been in for the past couple of months. I’d kept my head down, focused on developing the game, and felt that coming up for air and a dose of reality was long overdue.


Unfortunately, reality had hit me a little harder than I’d expected. Watching strangers play a game that you’ve put your heart and soul into can be a scary thing, and though I’m grateful for the useful feedback I got, it’s still a little depressing if people don’t ‘get’ it. I’d therefore left the meetup not only with some points for improvement, but also with less spring in my step.


I was thus not in the best of moods as I walked down the ramp to the south entrance of the tube station, where the homeless person sat with his back to a wall asking passers-by if they could ‘spare a smile’. This struck me as an innovative – if slightly depressing – variation of asking for change, and I felt that the least that I could do was to force a smile for him. And for what? For him to call after me about how he’d rather people gave him money, or food, or booze.


Staring into the face of homelessness when you are a lone indie developer who quit a job to follow a dream is a sobering experience (genuinely no pun intended). I was already questioning the potential success of my venture, and the timing of this encounter seemed almost as though it were designed to illustrate the worst case scenario should I fail. Suddenly, I found myself plagued with questions of self-doubt. What the hell am I doing? Do I really need a dream to be happy? Can’t I just be grateful that I have a roof over my head?


Well, I’ve slept on it, and optimistic Big Cow and self-doubting Big Cow have shaken hooves and agreed to get along (albeit with a mistrustful glance at each other when they thought I wasn’t looking). It’s not healthy or productive for me to oscillate between hope and despair, and I’m going to do my best to stay focused as I continue work on my project.


I am trying to turn a passion into something more. I do need a dream to be happy. And, while I should always be grateful that I have food and shelter, I’m not going to let fear of losing it keep me from pursuing my goals.


Keep it real. Big Cow out.

4 Responses

  1. Don’t give up, man. It takes balls to pursue your dreams 🙂

  2. Big Cow

    Thanks, Pedro! 🙂

  3. the curse of indy development. This image sums it up:

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