How Torturing Yourself Can Help Get More Development Done

If you really love to develop and play games, here’s one trick you might want to try:

Stop playing games until your game is finished. (Or next major milestone achieved).

For many developers, this might not be a big deal (we don’t play as nearly as much we used to play when we were teenagers, right?) and many of us play very little if any. But if you enjoy playing – even a little bit – then this trick might work.

Take playing away. Don’t allow yourself to play games (excluding your own game for testing purposes…) until you’ve finished the game (or the next milestone). You might feel bit of anxiety in doing this, but it also gives you a one more reason to code your game. Make a promise to yourself that you “reward” yourself by allowing you to play as soon as your own game is done.

After you’ve finished the milestone, the funny thing that happens (I can almost guarantee this) that you actually might be much more thrilled about the development status – that you forget to reward yourself with “playing”. You see how much more rewarding it is to get stuff done.

Might feel like torturing (not playing)… but don’t get a quick fix (playing). It’ll get much better to wait a bit and then feel absolutely great about the progress done.

Juuso Hietalahti


  1. I imposed a deadline limit on my game for November 10th. Whatever happen, we absolutely need to finish our game by that date. After that, I’m calling in sick for a week to play Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2….or whatever they are calling it now :)

  2. @Juuso: Glad to help

    @Roman: I guess the important thing is to make sure that during the working day (8-10 regular hours) you are as productive as possible, so no games, forums, procrastinating, and then set aside some time for cool stuff in the evening. However, when I’ve been working on something I really love, I often want to carry on working on it. For example the other night I turned off Shadow Complex on my 360, to go and plan the map screen for my current game, this was at 12:30am.

  3. I thought that this strategy is good. I banned all “nice” stuff until I achieve some goals and it turned out to not work. Why? I was just too tired of working and without good relaxation I couldn’t focus on coding. So I started to play again, mostly evenings, and work regular hours.

  4. @Jake: Yeh, I know I know. I’m just not totally sure if others know ;)

    You’ve always given excellent feedback. With Dead Wake – you brought a hurricane to me, and it was all helpful. What you said yesterday (jokingly), indeed contained a seed of truth in it, and that helped me to reach to be even more open.

  5. @Juuso: Just to be clear, my comment was just a friendly joke that I made because I could see a pattern. I do the same on my blog; sometimes write about what I do but shouldn’t, and what I do that works, plus what I see others do that they shouldn’t, and what others do that does work. Basically blogging about your own journey is always useful to other people if you are willing to observe yourself carefully and be (constructively) self-critical – just as I see you do a lot, so well done :)

  6. @Oliver: yeh, I don’t play games… I just “research” them.

    In fact…. when I was doing my thesis at the university, I almost started writing “communities/social aspects in online games”… which would be equal of “I play Battle For Middle Earth all day & night long :D”. Too bad couldn’t find a good (economic) angle on that… so I ended up doing my thesis about digital distribution channels. (Well, I did play BFME all days anyway :P)

  7. @Jake: Heh, no shame in doing that! (And yeh, there’s a bit of element of truth of course)

    I (hopefully usually) say when I’m being a bad example or if have messed up things/or I’m m wrong (never happened of course)/act as an warning example or simply got nothing done (this blog post actually came to my mind as an example). I keep the doors pretty open here…

    … and keep on writing about stuff I’ve done, or I’m doing or I don’t do or what others did, or others are doing or others not doing. :)


    P.S. I don’t read blogs for getting “daily fix” (I spend that time writing mine… ;) – I’ve just spotted that there’s many people who visit this site instantly after getting Twitter notification about a new blog post… (I’ve done loads of “getting my daily forum/blog/whatnot fix” in the past – it’s minimal nowadays – close to zero. Honestly :))

    P.P.S. I’m a casual hardcore gamer – but admit I have played a bit more in the last few weeks. Steam is saying I’ve played Zombie Panic “5.7 hrs past 2 weeks” (it’s the only game I play) – I thought I might as well drop playing altogether until my game’s next milestone is finished ;)

  8. Hmm, I think the problem might be solved naturally for gamedevelopers.
    When you develope games you become more judgmental of games, so its more difficult to find a game that satisfies you.
    For instance, its much more difficult for a 3D game to impress my visually than it used to be.

  9. My (hobby) game development is at a complete halt due to the cool minis that came with the recently released Space Hulk board game. They “need” to be painted and it takes a load of time.

    I promise that I will continue development soon. I really do :)

  10. All Juuso does is write the exact opposite of what he is actually doing, so if he plays loads of games he says “don’t play loads of games”, or if he reads loads of blogs he says “don’t read loads of blogs”, it’s really easy to write motivational stuff like that, I’m good at it too ;-p (just teasing, but there’s an element of truth right? It takes a procrastinator to know one…)

  11. Cool to hear that Dan.

    Free bonus tip: stop checking that RSS until you’ve finished your game ;)

  12. Just wanted to leave a comment and let you know that I for one dig all your motivating tidbits showing up in my RSS reader. (Not that I ever look at that. Because that is against the rules right? :) Seriously though, it’s little things like this that can be the difference between “just doing it” and making yet another excuse to put things off until I feel like doing them.
    Keep it up! :)

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