Have you heard? Anyone can make a game these days: for fun, profit, or both. To help you out, I asked some successful independent game developers about the first piece of advice they'd give to new creators, and here's what they had to say:
Adriel Wallick, creator of Train Jam: I know that this can sound really scary to a lot of people (especially those with social anxieties), but I can't stress enough how motivating, encouraging, and invaluable it can be to meet and talk with other developers. If you live in an area where there are regular developer meet-ups, start attending them. If you live in an area with no regular meet-ups, try to organize one on your own.
If you live somewhere where there are absolutely no other developers in your immediate vicinity, reach out to online communities! There's twitter, TIGSource, makegam.es, and countless other game development forums. Find the ones specific to your interests (art, programming, design, MMO, mobile, indie, roguelike, etc) and introduce yourself. Game development doesn't happen in a bubble – reach out to people, talk about your ideas, brainstorm, bounce ideas off of one another, ask for advice, give advice, share your processes – anything – just reach out and join a community.
Anna Anthropy, veteran indie, developer of Dys4ia, author of motivating manifesto Rise of the Videogame Zinesters, among many other projects and books: value yourself and your time. that means 1: make sure you're fairly compensated for your work! this industry loves to use appeals to ~PASSION~ to trick people into giving up free labor. "if you're really PASSIONATE about games you'll put in another few hours of unpaid overtime." don't!
and 2. remember to take time for self-care! even in indie games, there's this bullshit work culture that wants you to sacrifice all of your life, time and health to the game. don't do that either! be gentle with yourself and give yourself space to be a person.
Lucas Pope, developer of 2013 IGF-winning completely brilliant game Papers, Please: Start small and finish what you start. Think of a game you want to make, then narrow the scope to an embarrassing degree. Take the part that interests you the most and try to build your concept around that exclusively. Try hard to make a complete game before moving on to something else. There are countless mechanical details involved in finishing something and releasing it. Going through that process, even for a bad project, will give you valuable experience.
Christine Love, creator and writer of many innovative, sexy and romantic visual novels: Learn to make small things. It's hard, probably none of the things that made you want to get into games are small things; it probably won't come naturally. Making small games is a skill. But it's the best one to develop first: if you can make a finished game in less than 4 weeks, you can experiment more, have more experience in actually finishing projects—which is by far the most important skill—and develop all the other skills you'll need. If you can learn to start small, it becomes a lot easier to learn the harder things.
Brendon Chung, of Blendo Games and its practically-literary suite of deeply charming, short games:The common adage is quality over quantity. I think there's a time and place to flip that upside-down. For me, being prolific is how I learn. Make a mountain of work. Fill your toolbox. If there's great value in completing a project, consider the value of finishing 100 projects.
Zoe Quinn, maker of Depression Quest and many other small works: A great place to learn is by downloading a free dev tool like Stencyl or Construct 2, and walking yourself through their built in tutorial step by step. Once you've completed it, play around with a demo game that comes with the program. Fuss with it and change the art, the variables, the level design, until it doesn't resemble the original. This is a great way to get familiar with game tools, thinking like a programmer, and basic development skills.
Finally, for the only-slightly tech literate, Quinn developed a free utility called the Sorting Hat, which helps you decide on the right tools for what you want to build (we previously covered it here).
Try making something. We'll be cheering for you!