The answer isn’t the same for everyone, but for me, the answer to the question of creating a podcast during a pandemic morphed from “hell yes!” last summer to “maybe? maybe not?” over the last few months.
My wife, Stephanie, and I launched How Indie Games Get Made, a narrative nonfiction podcast, last October as a spiritual successor to BosBattle, which was an interview show about the Boston video game industry. When we landed Abby Howard and Tony Howard-Arias as the guests for our first episode, we were ecstatic. It was so exciting to tell the story of an artist we have followed for several years. And that excitement fueled the many nights and weekends it took to record and edit that 57-minute episode.
But that fuel only lasted for so long. It became clear from the months-long sprint it took to get out the first episode that our original vision of releasing one episode per month was unrealistic, so we changed the release schedule to every two months. It just wasn’t enough, though.
While I saw the early months of the pandemic as an opportunity to do something creative outside of my full-time job, my viewpoint began to change as we got closer to the election. Then as the pandemic intensified and conspiracy theorists attacked the integrity of the U.S. presidential election, I no longer felt like I had the bandwidth to make a podcast. My anxiety was reaching new heights, and I realized soon after changing the podcast’s release schedule that I needed to make more time for myself. As cool as it was to make a narrative nonfiction podcast about video games, it was still a job, even if we weren’t really getting paid with the exception of two Patreon backers. I still struggle with the idea of getting back to work.
The truth is, I have really enjoyed having more down time, to play video games, to do more leisure activities with Stephanie, to stay connected with friends and family. I have learned over the last few years that when I create my own rules and constraints for projects I do on my own time, it can become a new source of stress. The large amount of work I created for myself with the podcast had become a new way for me to make myself feel bad, and it wasn’t motivating me.
What does this mean for How Indie Games Get Made? It’s safe to say it’s on indefinite hiatus. I could start working again on the podcast again today or three months from now or possibly never. I’ve thought about starting back up several times now but two things usually give me pause: (1) to what extent will other people enjoy what we make and (2) how long will it take to get to a satisfying audience size?
This is something many indie game developers must struggle with: How do you go on when you lose that initial excitement over a project? What happens when external events make life more stressful? If the initial response isn’t as great as you had expected, do you rethink the scope of the project to save on costs (in time and money), or do you keep your original plans and hope that people will eventually show up?
I could have written this blog post two months ago, but what prompted me to write this now is that as a journalist and media producer, I still feel this drive to make something related to video games. I play video games all the time. When I’m not, there’s a good chance I’m listening to a podcast or watching a YouTube video about video games. When I hear someone talk about an interesting story or idea, my instincts quickly jump to, “this would be really cool to write about or explore through reporting.”
It’s a hard feeling to shake, which is why I’ve been writing about video games on-and-off since I was in middle school (my friends and I ran a review site in the early 2000s called “Online Gaming 2Day”). I’m hoping this will motivate me to continue working on How Indie Games Get Made and at least finish the episodes we already started working on last fall. But whatever comes next, I know it will be smaller in scope, and I will not promise a regular release schedule. The only other thing I know is that I need to find a sustainable way to do this.