Thursday, March 27

Going Full-Time: Justification

I've been thinking a lot about why I decided to quit my job and try to get Reiver Games off the ground as a full-time job. I thought I'd try and get my thoughts down on (electronic!) paper.

First I ought to give a description of where I stand now. I've been running Reiver Games in my spare time for about eighteen months. I have a full-time job that requires frequent travel to London (approximately once a week), plus infrequent travel around the world (six trips last year: San Francisco, Paris x 2, Copenhagen, Oslo and New York). In addition, my ordinary journey time to work varies between thirty and seventy-five minutes. The job does occasionally allow me to work from home though, and being civil service it comes with a great pension and reasonable salary.

In order to spend time on Reiver Games, making the games by hand, I've needed to do RG work a couple of nights a week and on the weekend almost every week for the last year and a half. I've also had to take holiday to make games in the run up to conventions so I had enough stock to take to them. This has been possible due to The Wife's PhD, which has meant she's been home late frequently, plus has trips away of her own and can't afford to take as much holiday as I can.

Things at work have been changing, with my role expanding to include some technical support for a new service we're offering. This is work I'm not so interested in, so from that point of view I fancied a change. My diagnosis with MS a year ago has led to a few minor health problems which make working from home more appealing and international travel less so, and on a lighter note, some money.

The Wife's PhD is coming to an end, and so we might have to move in a few months, which makes getting another real job awkward. Also, it will mean that she will get home earlier and have more holiday time to spend with me. At some point we're going to want kids, and so if I'm going to do this, now is the time, as this level of risk is not appropriate when you've got kids to support.

But the real question is why do I want to make games for a living? Is this some half-baked plan to have a year's holiday while quietly pissing our savings up the wall?

I've played games (board and computer) for as long as I can remember, even now when I spend an inordinate amount of time making them, I still want to play games with Paul (at least once a week) and Dave (alas no more!), at Beyond Monopoly! and with my friends further afield when I visit them for a weekend, or when they visit us. I'm obsessed. There I said it - the first stage is always admitting you have a problem.

Ever since I started making Border Reivers, I've had a pipe-dream that one day I could do this as a living. I enjoy the development of other peoples' games as much as designing my own and also get a real kick out of the graphic design and the final product. There's definitely more money to be made in the publishing side of things than designing (unless you're a really big name like Reiner Knizia, Klaus Teuber, Klaus-J├╝rgen Wrede or Alan Moon), but it also carries with it the lion's share of the risk - it's the publishers who invest their money in the game, and they're left holding the bag if a game doesn't sell. That makes it exciting, but also terrifying. Bigger companies balance the risk, they have enough money to invest in lots of games, some will work, some won't, but as long as more work than don't they'll make money, and hopefully some of those will be fantastically successful like The Settlers of Catan, Carcassonne and Ticket to Ride, and make them a fortune. I can't afford to cock up until Reiver Games is quite a lot bigger, however.

Working from home can be difficult, I did it for a year when we first moved to York. I hated being stuck at home alone all day - how will this be any different? At the time we were living in a small village about five miles outside of York. The village had almost no amenities, appalling bus service into town, and to make matters worse I hadn't passed my driving test yet, so I felt like a prisoner in my own home. Plus, I didn't know anyone here, as all my friends and colleagues were still in Newcastle. This time round there will be some pretty substantial differences:

  • After three and a half years here, I've now got good friends in York
  • We now live a short walk from town, so I have plenty of amenities within reach
  • My mate Paul has offered to help with playtesting during the week

Hopefully those differences will be enough to stop me going mad!

In other news, I've started a thread on BoardGameGeek asking for name ideas for Codename: Network - it's had a lot of responses.


Custancia said...

I wish my thoughts were as clearly thought out as yours!
I think it's a good decision, which I think will work, but if not, it's the things you don't do that you regret far more than the things you did...

Jackson Pope said...

Hopefully it will. I need to work hard on those areas of the business I don't have much experience of - selling to distributors and shops and dealing with manufacturers. We'll see...



Philip said...

Very inspiring post. I have three kids, so finding enough time it a real trick. I had no idea you were diagnosed with MS. What is your prognosis? I'll understand if you'd rather not discuss it...

Jackson Pope said...

Hiya Philip,

Yeah, I don't think I could do this at all with kids in my 'spare' time, and jacking in my job would be way too risky with kids to support.

As for my MS, I have 'Relapsing Remitting', so it's not too bad. In theory I should have periods of (partial) recovery between attacks.