At some point you're going to have to leave. It may be a slow transition or it may have to happen suddenly; either way you want the work you've done to continue moving forward without your direct involvement. And if you want continued progress and new improvements, that means stepping back and letting someone else take over.
The events at The Arthouse Hotel grew from 50 developers meeting to debate game design and playtest each other's games to over 120 coming back every other month. Established studios like Halfbrick, Nnooo, KMM Games, and Epiphany Games have become active mentors to local startups. Local government has even renewed interest in funding game development projects with the relaunch of the NSW Interactive Media Fund.
Now, I'd been here in Australia on a temporary work visa for nearly eight years by this point, and there's always been the possibility that I might have to leave the country quite suddenly if something didn't work out with my employer, or if immigration laws were to change. In early 2012, immigration laws had changed, and it looked unlikely that I would be extending my work visa. Not only was I going to have to leave Sydney, I wasn't sure when I'd be able to get back!
Everything I had been doing here had to keep ticking forward without me. Fortunately, one of the side effects of local industry growth is the introduction of more active players onto the scene, and people like Convict Interactive's Rebecca Fernandez and See Through Studio's Paul Sztajer had rapidly become more vocal and involved in the community -- and they have amazing ideas of their own for what's next in Sydney!
Step 8: Replace yourself in the pipeline. You can change things. You can build on what has been done culturally, and improve it for the next generation. At some point someone else, like you, will come along with an idea of how we can do more and take things further. That's how society progresses! But if you try to stop that and maintain control, you're just going to artificially slow things down. You have to replace yourself and let someone else take over. Then you're free to find solutions to entirely new problems.
Stepping Back in Sydney: Once I'd answered the major experience design questions around these playtesting/debate events at The Arthouse, it was just a matter of cleaning up the format until it ran cleanly and easily every time. That freed me up to keep an eye out for people who I felt had the ambition and the vision to take what I'd started and do something more with it. I quietly began stepping back my involvement in the community, creating room for other people to step forward. Sure enough, a few did, and they obviously had great ideas of their own. Replacing myself was a combination of slowly handing off what I was responsible for in the Sydney development community, and encouraging and promoting the ideas and ambitions of others.
What's next for Sydney? I don't know, but we now have a culture focused on making, finishing, and releasing better games. That can only lead to awesome things, and I can't wait to see what happens over the next few years!
I hope my story here showed you that no matter how small you are, you can achieve big things! Pick a dream, whether that dream is to make better games or grow your local industry, and then just start working your way through the steps to make that happen.
Next time someone tells you something's impossible, here's a quote for you: from Randy Pausch in The Last Lecture "Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams":
"Brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out; the brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. The brick walls are there to stop the people who don't want it badly enough. They are there to stop other people."