What being on welfare for 18 months taught me about indie game development

Not many people know this about me but…

I was on welfare for a good year and a half.

My diet was expired dollar store food with cheap ramen. It was all I could afford.

Let’s rewind.

Years ago, I was fresh out of college with a mountain of student loan debt.

…with a Psychology degree that I thought was useless at the time.

I had spent the past decade or so fixing computers for various companies.

While getting paid minimum wage to reformat hard drives seemed appealing for a high school or college student, I didn’t really figure things out career-wise.

I aspired to be a professional musician. It didn’t quite work out.

I wanted to be a professional League of Legends player. It didn’t work out (although I came very close).

I wished to be an IT manager like my bosses at the time, but was unamused by the path required to get there.

…I knew I wasn’t happy with where my career was going.

So, I looked at the man in the mirror one day and made a change.

Just kidding, it didn’t go down quite like that. It was actually a long existential struggle.

I had been working on a free game called SanctuaryRPG Classic at the time, and never really thought it’d amount to much.

I mean, it was free at the time and I honestly had no idea how to monetize it.

But… I had built a small and loyal community around it, and that’s when I started to realize something.

Maybe I had a knack for this stuff, and maybe I could leverage that to actually get more people to play my game.

So, I got to learning.

I’d listen to hundreds of podcasts on marketing.

I’d watch hundreds of YouTube videos on marketing.

I’d read thousands of articles on marketing.

…and applied that information to the indie game market.

I taught myself how to grow an audience around my game, and for the better half of two years… I executed.

Heck, I even stopped development for a good six months to execute on marketing strategy.

I eventually monetized a paid version of SanctuaryRPG on Steam, which took off.

Half a million copies shipped later, and here I am. An indie game marketing evangelist, if you will.

My mission? Empowering game developers with as much marketing knowledge as I can.

The moral of this welfare story?

All that matters is your drive to learn, and your ability to execute on that knowledge.

As an indie game developer, it doesn’t matter where you came from or how broke you are.

Focus on learning, doing, and moving forward.

I hope you enjoyed reading this post! If you did, It’d be amazing if you could share this on social media so that others can find it as well.

About Daniel Doan

Hi there! I’m the Co-Founder & CGO of Black Shell Media and the developer of SanctuaryRPG and Overture, among dozens of game prototypes. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram.

If you’d like to steal my marketing and/or game development knowledge, you can book a consultation with me for only two bucks.