Where’s the voice of the single indie game developer?

It’s V-Day week. So this week at Sonic Toad, I’ll be posting all about singledom and relationships in the game development and self-employment contexts!

And if you’re an indie developer who’s single, it probably feels like every dev diary, postmortem, or Gamasutra piece about the vagaries of the indie life is virtually always centered around married/coupled up people. For the pieces that get a little more personal, sometimes relationship status isn’t mentioned but I’ve honestly had a hard time finding one that doesn’t even have just one sentence mentioning a partner. I know I’m far from the only single game dev, or entrepreneurial sort period, out there: but yet I find myself inwardly groaning every time I get my hopes up reading a harrowing account of that leap of faith into game development or other venture but then a spouse and their financial and emotional support is mentioned, which leaves me saying to myself, “Where the hell is the voice of the single indie developer?”

Young male progammer working at home.
Fotolia, a fine Sonic Toad partner, doesn’t have any realistic photos of indie dev workspaces. That coffee cup would’ve left more rings than a frigging Kay Jewelers on that desk if he were real deep into a sprint.

Where are the articles that talk about devs not having a spouse helping with the bills and household and/or business responsibilities? Or, how the intrepid singleton didn’t need to consider a partner at all when they decided to go through with making games for a living? It’s important that every indie dev tells their story steeped in reality that has their unique fingerprint on it, and this largely includes couples as well as parents, but I honestly find the single point of view really lacking. In the spaces I frequent, there’s so many stories framed in how financially and/or emotionally supportive your spouse was or how you broke up when you decimated your joint savings on a game that flopped: but where are the stories about the single indie who had to get creative in terms of keeping their living expenses paid because there was no one else in the picture? The one who may have not had any emotional support? Why is it just assumed you have a partner once you’re over 30?

As someone who’s been perpetually single out of choice, maybe I just notice this more. But if the game dev and business worlds even recognize that single people exist, we tend to be written off as these carefree bon vivants with boundless free time and money. To everyone outside these worlds, we’re these sad sacks who can barely function like Bill Dauterieve from King of the Hill.

There are both awesome things and things that suck about single life, particularly when it comes to entrepreneurial paths and especially one like game development where your risks are more protracted. I don’t have a boyfriend or husband sponsoring me so this means I have to carefully calculate my risk on the things I do to subsidize my game dev efforts. This is a good thing in that I have no desire to be beholden to anyone financially, and it’s more push for me to really get out there and crush it because I don’t have being a stay-at-home toad mom as a backup plan. Then it really sucks when I wind up having a whole month of very little or no income because of payment lags and/or allocating more time to bigger projects like my books or new games.

Disregarding finances, I love faceplanting all starfish-like on my bed and making a giant pillow fort while I watch cartoons or spacing out with Magicka. No one’s schedule has to sync to mine. If I need emotional support, I can look to my friends in and out of the game dev world. It’s utterly important to have those relationships and couples can sidestep them sometimes because friendships get harder to maintain in adulthood, and it just makes you default to your partner. I can’t imagine my life without my friends and nowadays, my game dev collective.

And TACOS! Tacos I didn’t cook because fuck that noise, I’m a busy single game dev. Groupon deals are part of how I save on single living. Yael also gets a worm if you click the nice tacos.

But my friends aren’t there by default. I don’t come home to them. As awesome as the work-at-home lifestyle is for the most part, it gets lonely during those busy times or when there aren’t any collective events or punk shows happening.

Time also erodes the same for us all. Something that used to annoy the fuck out of me at past regular jobs was the assumption that I had nothing to worry about because I’m single, and single people are ALWAYS expected to pick up the slack for the married people whose spouse may be pulling them out of work for an illness or a personal reason. Whereas if I get sick or injured, I have to take time away from my businesses to recover with no one else’s income as a backup if that illness gets really dire. If I don’t take care of my personal and business errands myself or outsource them to someone else, they simply don’t get done. This adds up insanely fast and quickly leads to overwhelm. All the to-do lists in the world won’t save you from the fact that figuring out how to stretch your time and money by all creative means possible is really dire when you’re single. That dear readers, is what makes single people get stabby when they go to an entrepreneurial or indie dev space and only see things told from the lens of a married person.

My dear toadlets, I’m sure you encompass everything from single to married to “it’s complicated” and aren’t condescending to the singletons in your life. But if you seriously do not know any perpetually single people or totally forgot what it’s like, you need to understand that when it comes to both our entrepreneurial and personal lives that literally everything falls on us and it’s not this blissful treasure trove of time to play Fallout, and money for nice vacations or whatever. We have to make our own safety nets and backup plans which means being judicious with money and carefully prioritizing both business and personal expenses, and trying to figure out how to squeeze more out of 24 hours without sacrificing our health, savings, and social lives. It’s just really fucking baffling that it’s 2016, people in my age bracket are delaying or completely forgoing marriage in record numbers, and yet the single perspective is lacking so badly in both mainstream and niche media.

Overall, I can’t say I have any complaints about single life since it certainly has its perks. Most of all, speaking just for me I’d rather be single than in a relationship just for the sake of not being alone. I’m open to something happening but not “looking”.  But like a lot of other single game devs, I have those days when I just wish I had someone with me to go on these adventures in other cities with, whether I’m there for industry stuff or not. It would be nice to give perspective on a partner’s life and work and get his feedback on mine. A guy who I can go to not because I just want to get laid and basically be each others’ sexual stress balls, but to just fucking hold me and tell me it’ll be alright when I’m freaking out over how long it’s taking to get my game released and that everything is riding on the contents of my notebooks and sketchpads. Someone who I can share all my crazy inspirations with and vice versa who will never fight with me about housework because we agree to outsource that shit. Who’ll bring me green tea when I’m pulling an all-nighter, or at least just wants to join me in that pillow fort where I’m currently watching Steven Universe while I’m trying not to think about ports, release dates, and invoices.

Eh, but I’ll also be happy if it’s always just going to be me and the toad. Indie devs need strong debuggers!

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