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  • Living In Seattle As An Indie Game Developer

    [10.12.17]
    - Jakub Kasztalski
  • If you want to move to Seattle to pursue indie game development, I'm now you one year into the future. Looking back at my experience, I have attended many more gaming events than before, met countless developers in my shoes, fostered promising business connections, and got a chance to showcase my upcoming game frequently. But there are some disappointments as well, such finding a flourishing social life like I had before. Here are all the pros, cons and what I learned from living in Seattle for a year.

    (This article was originally posted on Koobazaur's Blog)

    The before, and why I moved

    I've been a geek my whole life, spending more time making intricate RPG-esque Starcraft maps than actually playing the game. I'm sure most can relate so let me jumpstart two decades later. It wasn't until I graduated my Masters and moved to Los Angeles (to work as a cinematographer, no less) when my first indie game Postmortem: one must die started taking off and I realized, crap, now I need an LLC.

    To cut the story short, I went thru a bit of a passive-aggressive-hating-on-LA phase. Ultimately, I think it's a pretty alright city, but it just did not mesh with my style (especially the ruthless indie film scene and laissez-faire approach to time management).

    As far as "indie game dev ecosystem" goes, there really isn't any of it. There is the Glitch City, an indie workspace and collective I never really got a chance to interact with while there, and then a ton of triple-A studios everywhere. When I went to the once-a-month (if lucky) game dev social, I'd be chatting with veterans complaining about managing their 20-people art teams. Needless to say, we weren't exactly on the same level. Sure, there's also IndieCade for smaller indies, but that's a once-a-year festival, hardly supporting a year-round community.

    So I pulled out my map, opened the googles, and did some research. I was looking for a decent-sized but not overwhelming city that's walkable/bikable, good public transit, adequate weather (read: I like my rain), and an indie game community. Montreal, Austin, Portland and Seattle were just a few of the choices I analyzed. I did the responsible thing laying out the pros and cons, and settled on Seattle as my next destination... but not before shedding most of my material properties, accidentally setting a trashcan on fire, and backpacking across Europe for 2 months. Did I mention, responsible?

    The Seattle Indie Community

    Big shout out has to go to the Seattle Indies, a local non-profit group that organizes numerous events and basically keeps the game dev community together. Weekly co-working meetings in downtown Seattle, monthly socials, and the Seattle Indies Expo during PAX are just some of the many awesome things these guys do for us. And all for free (read: voluntary donations). If any of you guys is reading this, seriously. thank you.

    Through these few events and other announcements, I quickly exploded my calendar even more: the weekly Beer Wednesday, Monday night Geekaraoke, Serious Game Discussion group, or the Eastside meet and greet for those across the pond. Some weeks, I'd be going to game related happenings as often as 3-4 days! Quite a big change from the rare and awkward LA social.

    The natural by-product of this is meeting devs, SO MANY DEVS. But here is where my first little niggle comes in. The vast majority of attendees are going to be programmers. Finding artists is still hard, and I ran into whopping 3 writers during my whole year here. There's few full-time indies as well, with most pursuing game dev as a hobby in the evenings and weekends after their much more stable tech job (a prudent approaching, if you know anything about tho volatility of the indie scene).

    Lastly, my biggest pet-peeve: while I definitely met some awesome people and have a strong development support network (the weekly co-working event is called the "Support Group" for a reason), I can't honestly say I made many friends.

    Most will meet once a week for an event, and rarely talk in-between. Most will ask how your game is going, but not how your day was. We have a discord channel but there is hardly any conversation besides occasional and court "how do I do X in Unity" or "check out my latest screenshot" messages. While part of it is my own lack of trying, I've undoubtedly had much better success making meaningful personal connections outside the game dev circles (and even those are quite bare-bones compared to what I had before, but more on that later).

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