A Guide to Failure at Game Development

There are many among us who would wish to succeed in game development. Article after article, seminar after seminar of what you should do as a game developer, how you can succeed.A daunting task, you might say. The video game industry, already oversaturated and mired with competition, has only grown more so in recent years. From an outsider’s perspective, it might seem impossible to get in. Harrowing. Unrealistic.

So instead of that, why not try something simpler? Why not find out the things that you shouldn’t do as a game developer, how you can’t succeed? Why not, instead of win, lose every skirmish and every battle and every war that a game developer must wage? Why not, my friends, do everything you can to weigh yourself down with the anchor of failure, stranding your ship out at sea until your sailors of progress die of starvation, madness, and scurvy?

My friends, if it be failure you seek, then failure you shall have. Here lie just a handful of the steps to the path of defeat:


Build Your Army

Whether you’re making a Pong reskin or the next World of Warcraft, (you should definitely be making the latter, but more on that later,) make sure you bring on as many people as possible. How much is enough to stifle progress? There’s never enough, of course! Projects with 3-4 more members than is realistically necessary to complete a task for a particular team not only fail to get things done, but tend to bog down on the strength of your most hardened soldier’s spirit. As an aside, make sure you never pay any of them, no matter what you’re asking them to do, when you’re asking them to do it, etc. etc. etc.

Fit lazy, unskilled, and inexperienced workers up together with their foil counterparts, the hardworking, skilled, and seasoned developers, and tell them to split work equally on a task. This will not only lead to a lack of progress, but in-fighting, tension, and a loss of morale. Soon enough, people will lose their motivation and laugh at your project, thinking it as something akin to a meme and want to leave. Success!

In truth, any size will do, but if you can break the 50+ mark, or better, the 100+ mark, you’re golden. As long as you aren’t keeping it down to an absolute minimum of who you need and don’t need, and instead bumping it up to a maximum, you’re well on your way to achieving that sweet, succulent, success-void soufflé.

Promotion Before Production

Always make sure that you get to promoting your work and thinking about how you can get as many people as possible to see it before you actually worry about getting stuff done. Simply put, googling “how to pitch my game to a publisher” before googling “how to use a game engine”. This one’s much easier than the last one, as it doesn’t take nearly as much effort as going on an internet-born membership crusade, but it’s still just as effective for its ability to turn into an endless cycle that you nor anyone else on your team can ever hope to escape from. It’s so beautiful in that way, isn’t it?

Know all those social media platforms you like to go on? Youtube? Google+? Twitter? Facebook? Make sure you make a page for all of those, and more still. Put an “official” at the front of the name for each of them as, after all, you want everyone to know that you’re not an impersonator. Through those accounts, emails, or some other means of communication, talk to bigger developers that are already established. Ask them to help with or promote your work so you can only further climb the ladder of fame and feel good while you’re doing it.

In keeping with the last tip, the one about bringing on as many people as possible, know that, in a way, this tip returns in form of promotion. As a part of your growing game dev armada, make sure that many of the people you hire are either translators or representatives from various countries all over the world. Make sure your studio has a member from every country there is to be a member of. Be it Denmark, South Korea, Singapore, or Iran, your soldiers should be a part of global, growing force.

The Invisodev

Make sure you’re damn near unseen by your colleagues, spoken of only in myth and legend. Remember: motivation is key in creative projects; they have a tendency to bleed and die when you lack it. One of the best ways to bolster that motivation is to establish a sense of comradery. It helps to talk to your teammates, keep up consistent communication, and care for them not only as a fellow developer, but maybe even as a friend. <<< So make sure you don't do that.

Don’t talk with anyone on your team unless it’s work-related. A sucky developer knows that the only topics that matter are those pertaining to the game they are making, and even those topics can take a back seat to whatever they’ve got going on at the given moment. A coldly professional, but lazy demeanor should be so radioactively present that it irradiates everyone around you.

If you ever do respond to people, make sure that response comes only after the grueling wait of hours, days, and weeks. A returning response should never be immediate, and almost always delayed. The only time it should ever be immediate is if it has to do with the two most important factors to the unproductive game developer: their reputation and their level of popularity.

Master this point, and people will swear you have 101 Sneak not only in Skyrim, but in the real world too. Ninja! 

Grow Your Neckbeard

Ever had dreams and aspirations of getting in shape? Well, go ahead and kill them immediately, as they won’t serve you well here. Stop going to the gym, stop working out, and just stop going outside in general.

You’re already going to be staring at a screen for long hours as a part of your work as a game developer, so make sure you continue the trend and stay glued to that screen for as long as you possibly can. Choose one room to work and, well, live in, and rarely ever leave it. Turn off all the lights to keep it as dark as possible. Sit in a chair that makes your back hurt, then slouch. Angle your head down as far as you can and keep it held down like that; using your phone for extended periods, dependent upon the physical position you’re in, is a great way to do this. Never sleep until you pass out, eyes always fixed to something that glows.

Take on a daily diet that consists of soda, fast food, and fried everything. Fried chicken, fried cheese, and even fried butter! (It’s an actual thing, look it up.) Eat what you feel like when you feel like it, never keeping track of what you put into your mouth.

Hell, remember those Twitter and Facebook accounts you started awhile ago? Put those to extra use and start getting involved in all the political nonsense that’s going on both platforms these days. Pick a side and fight ’til the end, riling yourself up with as many unsavory feelings for the human race as you can muster before taking to the arena, armed for a flame war to end all flame wars. Get obsessed with something you have absolutely no control over and let it become your life.

Oh, and to conclude, when you’ve made a habit of all these practices, make sure that you follow your instinct. Very important. The human mind is constructed in such a way that, if you get into the habit of living a corrosive lifestyle, you will continue and continue and continue to be drawn to pursue it.

Deadlines Are The Devil

Even when you’re doing your best to follow a routine, it can still be hard to get things done in a reasonable timeframe. The setting of a goal itself guarantees the possibility of failure from the onset, which is good. However, we can amplify the effect by making sure that, instead of working off a checklist, mandate, or deadline, you work only when you’re motivated to.

Motivation is a shifting, amorphous thing. It is not SMART, (Specific, Measurable, Action-oriented, for which you are Responsible, and Time-Bounded,) but instead, VAPID (Vague, Amorphous, Pie in the sky, Irrelevant, and Delayed). If you begin to do things only when motivation strikes, then it will soon feel as though completion for every goal that you set is like waiting on that one high-level construction project in Clash of Clans… except the construction finishes first.

When dealing with your coworkers, make sure to tell them to only “get it done when they can” or “get it done soon”. Setting a specific time for things and holding people accountable when they fail to get things finished when they’re supposed to is a sure path to success, so be sure to be vague about when you want it done, and like a teacher that can’t stand up to their students, let all the missed assignments slide under the rug.

The Corrosive Commander

A truly corrosive project lead is essential to poisoning progress, but what makes one, you might ask? Well, there all kinds of ways to be a planet-destroying director, of course!

If some of the members of your team are slacking or putting off work, then don’t try to hold them accountable for it. Instead, gradually build upon the belief that those people aren’t going to be very helpful in the future. Do not delegate assignments to them and instead work on it yourself. Become your studio’s design team, 3D team, playtesting team, programming team, and 99% of it’s writing team, for example.

Don’t be mindful by using proper manners or executing on effective communication. Either be so grimly professional that people will never be able to approach you, or if English isn’t your first language, speak with such broken grammar that people will never be able to understand you.

When someone says they feel you could improve upon your leadership or that you aren’t doing a good job, hit them like Shepard himself likes to hit that reporter. Feedback is one of the most crucial elements to getting better in any field, and thus is not at all acceptable here. Keep it up champ, and before you know it, you’ll be cultivating a galactic harvest ripe for the Reapers.

Dream Big

Oh yes, best for last, right? This point right here, more so than all the others, is an absolute project killer. It is the star destroyer of game development, the Hercules of bodybuilders.

Remember when it was mentioned earlier that you should be trying to make the next World of WarcraftWell, instead, try to make that and six sequels afterwards. Don’t start small by trying to make a portion of a single level in Mario. Give the world it’s next Assassin’s Creed, it’s next Grand Theft Auto, etc. If it can be made in Gamemaker Studio 2, then it shouldn’t be made at all. Shoot for something like Unreal in place of it.

This shouldn’t just be a part-time group activity, but the world-changing masterpiece you live and die upon. Advanced art, graphics, animation, and music. A story that will make you weep and mechanics that will give you cause for gaming addiction. If there was ever any one thing you could do to assassinate your progress from the inside, it’s putting your ambitions before reality.


A list like this may seem depressing. It might also seem like common sense. Who would just mindlessly speak with broken English, not set deadlines, or set their scope so high that they couldn’t see it above the clouds, I can hear you asking now. The unfortunate answer is “all kinds of people”. Not a single one of those points was something I pulled out of a magic hat. None were copypastas pulled from another site. These were all things I witnessed in the dozen or so creative projects I’ve been a member of, all things that drove those projects into the ground.

In the end, the most important thing to take away from this article is that common sense isn’t common. As a part of an experiment, studies have shown that over 47% less people died in hospitals that utilized checklists for the most basic of things, like washing your hands, making sure your surgical tools are clean, etc. Imagine how much more success we could have if we simply stopped, dropped, and made sure that we were fulfilling upon all the basics in our own lives and, of course, in our creative projects.

If you really want to succeed as a game developer, than simply look to the follies and pitfalls of those who came before you, as mentioned above, and do the opposite. (Oh, and check out some of my other articles about game development. Shameless self-promotion FTW)


Dylan Russell has worked in over 10 different creative projects and as a game writer in over 5 different fan development studios.