As more and more game developers are choosing to start their own games companies, it’s essential to consider whether this is the right decision for everyone. While entrepreneurship can be a rewarding and fulfilling experience, it shouldn’t be undertaken lightly.
At its core, entrepreneurship is about pursuing your purpose and finding happiness in what you do, not from an outcome. For many game developers, this often means creating the games they’ve always dreamed of making and sharing the game with the world. However, it’s essential to consider whether entrepreneurship is the right path.
It’s been nearly twenty years since I started my first games company, and I might have figured out ways to know if it’s the right thing to do.
In 2004, I was contemplating starting a games company. What was holding me back was a lack of a good enough game idea.
Now in 2022, I can see a problem here. I didn’t have a why, a purpose, a meaningful reason that would last beyond one game. What if that game failed, and I needed to find another game?
My second company, started in 2013, was about proving that I could make a company that makes games and is thriving. A better purpose, but not strong enough.
Now with Elite Game Developers, it’s not about proving myself. I find meaning in exploring topics that don’t get talked about and helping gaming founders navigate all the problems they face when building game companies.
Doing a startup as a means to an end
Figure out what your compulsion is. Put that as the center of your job.
— Harley Finkelstein
Let’s go back to having that game idea, the reason to start a games company. If you objectify doing a startup, it becomes a struggle when the object you seek doesn’t materialize.
Besides the game, it could be a big exit you seek—the fame of having a top-grossing game because you never had any success in gaming. Or, you’re doing a startup because everybody else is doing it. It sounds like a fun thing to do, or doing a startup is an item on your bucket list.
With Elite Game Developers, I know that I hold the knowledge that can benefit a global audience of gaming startup founders. My content adds value to people. I don’t need any specific ending to the story of Elite Game Developers; it will continue until, maybe at one point, it doesn’t anymore.
But the point for me is that I’m not doing it as a means to an end.
I do not want to do another startup
I’ve told many that I’d never do another game startup. Why not? And how did I come about this realization?
In the last twenty years, most of the time subconsciously, I’ve been refining my “why.” First, it was a game; second, it became a company I wanted to build. Why stop there and not do the third one?
First, I don’t want to feel the startup burdens anymore. Working on a venture-backed company is challenging. Life is short. I had two attempts at building a venture-backed startup, and I’m happy to explore other work now.
Second, I was always the catalyst in my previous companies. I put together the founding team and planted the company’s seed. If I was asked to join a sapling of a company as a co-founder, it might be different. My answer could still be “no.”
Third, It’s evident that company building is crucial for a games startup. You have to get the product and timing right, but company building is equally important. I’m not interested enough in doing a “company building” project myself. If the right team would come along, who knows?
Entrepreneurship and happiness
If you really want to start a games company, ask yourself:
Are you genuinely passionate about entrepreneurship and want to follow your dreams? Or are you simply chasing the money and looking to capitalize on a booming gaming industry?
It is important to remember that entrepreneurship is not always a path toward happiness and fulfillment. It can take many years, even decades, before success, including lots of toil and sacrifice.
The key to happiness in entrepreneurship is to manage one’s expectations.
A key expectation is not to aim for a reward or what you get from it once it’s done.
One way to set expectations is to find meaning in the happiness of others, from your company’s people.
Kieran Setiya writes in his book Midlife:
Those only are happy who have their minds fixed on some object other than their own happiness; on the happiness of others, on the improvement of mankind, even on some art or pursuit, followed not as a means, but as itself an ideal end. Aiming thus at something else, they find happiness by the way.
When it isn’t about you and your needs: Having the company and its people exist is the source of happiness. Seeing people develop and gain fulfillment from their work is what brings joy.
Here’s an example.
Out of the dozens of companies I work with daily, I’d like to highlight Fingersoft, where I sit on the board of directors. The Finnish games developer, whose games include Hill Climb Racing 1 and 2, has spent a decade building up the company. They first spent years developing the games, getting them to a point where they had stable incomes, and during the pandemic, they started to shape the company culture to be about the people.
Fingersoft’s website says:
The pure essence of what makes Fingersoft, Fingersoft – Is its people. A unique and diverse bunch of battle-hardened professionals at the top of their fields, each united by a love of making amazing video games and having a good laugh.
Many would say that those are just words. It’s the action that counts. I’ve been on the board since 2021, and the daily behavior signals that the company is focused on “people.”
Again, it’s not about the individual’s means to an end. People should derive happiness from being in a place that cultivates the happiness of others.
Building a company that is about the happiness of others
Here are a few tips to end this piece on a strategy for building a company that is about the happiness of others.
First, you’ve got to create the foundation for a thriving company:
A) State values, mission, and vision. The purpose; why the company exists. This will help you to make decisions and hire the right people.
B) Work hard to get to a point where revenues allow you to build the company into a strong and staying company
Second, once there’s enough staying power in the company, put the focus on the people.
C) Define how your company can be about the “happiness of others.” To what extent will financial rewards bring happiness, and where does it becomes excessive?
Then find ways to make it show in the daily life in the company and constantly pursue better ways to achieve happiness.