Rick Davidson is a man of many talents – game developer, career coach, online educator, psychologist, and unintentional game dev dad. Rick has been massively immersed in the gaming industry for over 20 years. He’s worked with small and large studios on some exciting things throughout his career, including IPs like Marvel’s Captain America and Nintendo’s Mario games. He also co-founded his own indie game studio, Inspirado Games, which was acquired in 2012 by Electronic Arts/PopCap.
Today, he is a qualified career coach at Gamedev.tv, helping thousands of people achieve their dream of making games for a living. In our latest podcast, we go deep with Rick on becoming an indie game creator, his transition to online coaching, and forging your own path.
Nobody said it was easy
Rick created his own indie game studio when he became a little fatigued by working for the man. He wanted to forge his own path. He knew it wouldn’t be easy but that it could be done. He says, “It’s possible to develop games for a living. It’s possible to start your own indie game studio. It’s possible to be profitable. It’s just really hard.”
As such, Rick has devoted his time to being an online educator, teaching people how to make games and achieve their career goals. He reminds us that game development is about so much more than just creating a game. “It’s about creating a moment. It’s about art. It’s about coding. It’s about time management and your own sense of accomplishment. It’s about doing something important to you. It’s about chasing your dreams. That’s what I try to instill at Gamedev.tv.”
Get in the right mind space
According to Rick, the key to being a great educator is to stay in the mind space of the person you’re teaching. If you’re able to easily step into that mind space, you’re already one step ahead. He also emphasises having a passion for the result, the craft, and the topic. “I love games and game development. I love the idea of bringing joy to people through making games. I don’t consider myself a world-class programmer, and in a way, I think that makes me better at teaching programming. The passion is there.”
For people wanting to create their own game, Rick warns that your first game will be terrible. And your second game. And your third game. “Do not make your first game your dream game. There’s a whole bunch of people scattered along the roadside, broken and destroyed because they tried to make their dream game first. They didn’t know how to make it, and they weren’t ready for it. They were so precious about the idea. The idea has become immovable, and you can’t be agile if you’ve already crafted the entire experience in your head.”
While having a purpose or goal in mind helps many people achieve their dreams, Rick feels that it’s not always possible, especially when things are not on fire. “When things are on fire, you have to get it done. You have to put food on the table. You have to pay rent. That’s how we’re wired. If you don’t have to create your dream game right now, they’ll be no fire, so sometimes you have to create that artificially.”
The value of community
These days, the definition of an indie game studio is fluid. Just because you’re an indie game developer does not mean you can’t have a publisher. But generally, indie refers to the size of the studio and a certain level of success. However, the indie spirit of a couple of people working in a garage on a passion project with the hopes of landing a publisher and achieving success remains. “Truthfully, the days of having a good idea and getting money for it are gone,” he says. “Today, you have to be as far along the game development path as you can be before you go out and knock on doors, whether you’re looking for a publisher or hoping to crowdfund. As such, having a community is very important in the indie game development space.”
Rick also reminds us that it’s never too late or too early to start developing your own games, as long as the customer enjoys your product. “We have people in our community who are 12 and people who are 70. It’s never too late to create something really exciting. In this day and age, the customer doesn’t care about who you are when looking at your product. They want a game that’s engaging, interesting and exciting. At no point do they question the age, gender or ethnicity of the game developer. No matter who you are, there’s absolutely no fundamental reason why you can’t succeed in making video games.”
You can check out more of Rick’s work at the links below: