How this co-working space helps build community and camaraderie around indie game development

Developers at Indies Workshop giving feedback on one of their games. (Indies Workshop Photo)

Christopher Floyd moved to Seattle in 2014 because of its massive gaming industry presence. Along with big game publishers including Microsoft and Nintendo, the region is also home to independent developers of all sizes. From 300-plus person studios such as Bungie and Valve down to countless one-person teams, the independent scene is huge. There are also various official meetups focused on indie game development with members that total nearly 6,000.

So it’s easy to understand why Floyd wanted to move to Seattle. He just wasn’t expecting such a disconnected and fragmented development community.

“Everyone’s here,” he said. “But they’re all kind of in their own little pockets.”

Christopher Floyd, founder of Indies Workshop (Indies Workshop Photo)

Floyd, an alumnus of Vicarious Visions and one of the original organizers of the Indie Megabooth, did what most other independent developers do: work from home.

After about two years, he could feel himself “getting weird,” and knew he needed to be around other people. Going to Starbucks to work or renting a space in another coworking environment wasn’t attractive to him because the chances of being around like-minded people and having meaningful interactions were pretty low.

He thought there had to be other developers with the same mindset — and he was right. Albert Shih of Pillow Castle Games was also getting tired of working out of his house.

“At a moment when I was trying to fix large design problems in my game, I had no one to talk to but myself,” said Shih, whose game Superliminal got some attention at this year’s E3. “I tried a lot of things — going to developer meetups, taking long walks, reaching out to other developers online — but nothing really clicked until I found a game-related co-working space to work at.”

And that space is Indies Workshop, an organization founded by Floyd in 2015 and open exclusively to independent game developers.

Floyd said his philosophy around the space was like that of a community center.

“I wanted it to be a place where maybe you don’t go all the time, but you always know you can,” he said.

He appears to have fulfilled that vision. Many developers who work in the space have an overwhelmingly positive experience working there.

“It feels like working with a group of friends who are all working on different projects,” said Shih. “I know that if I have an issue or if I have something on my mind, there will be someone to lend me an ear.”

Allie Ast of Sundew Studios, whose game The Window Box was developed while working at the Indies Workshop, likes the space because of the camaraderie.

“The best part about working at Indies Workshop is probably that everyone knows, from start to finish (to even post-finish), there’s nothing easy about making games,” she said. “I can be a real head-down workaholic since I’m a one-person team. It’s nice to have a group of people who can pull me out of that headspace for 30 minutes a day to eat lunch and chat.”

Allie Ast developed The Window Box while working out of the Indies Workshop. (Sundew Studios screenshot)

But access to other game developers to bounce ideas off of doesn’t end at the nitty-gritty of game development. Floyd said at one point a bunch of the developers embarked on a social media marketing experiment together.

One developer used Facebook, while another used Instagram, and so on. Then they all got together and shared their successes or lack thereof from using the different platforms. That helped to save everyone a lot of time and guesswork because they had each others’ experiences to use as a reference.

Floyd said the cooperation between the developers makes them feel like a “team without a payroll” even though they’re all working on their own games. The mix of personalities and genres of games being worked on gives the developers access to the thoughts of a wider audience that can be extremely helpful during development.

But Indies Workshop wasn’t a big hit when it first launched.

Amazon, which has its own game development arm, provided initial funding for the organization to get off the ground. The first location was a warehouse-like space in Seattle’s Sodo industrial neighborhood. And while many of the developers who worked there were thrilled to have a place to work, that office never reached full capacity and therefore wasn’t sustainable without outside investment.

Floyd said he was on the verge of giving up when John Krajewski, founder and CEO of Strange Loop Games, offered to share space with him.

The developers who work at Indies Workshop. (Indies Workshop photo)

The move to 911 E. Pike Street in Capitol Hill was just what Indies Workshop needed. It immediately went to full capacity and there’s even a waiting list of developers who want to rent space. It’s also now self-sustaining and planning to be around for the long haul.

This enthusiasm for gaming-focused co-working spaces isn’t only happening in Seattle. These types of spaces are popping up around gaming hubs all over the country and overseas as more and more game developers decide to strike out on their own.

Indies Workshop offers three tiers of renting options. The most expensive is $350 a month and provides the developer with their own desk and access to other office resources including a conference room. At $250 a month, the developer shares a desk with one other person, but still has access to the rest of the office. There is also a daily option for $30 for a communal desk without access to the rest of the office resources.

Indies Workshop is one of several co-working spaces in the Seattle area, including many that have niches or specific focuses. See this resource for a list of all co-working spaces around Seattle.

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