Why I'm Giving Up My Game Jam For The 7DSaaS Challenge

March 13, 2020

tl;wr (too long; won’t read): Instead of taking part in 7DRL, a seven day game jame, I’m launching the 7 Day SaaS Challenge (from March 20th to March 29th) and participating in that instead.

Why I’m giving up the Seven Day Roguelike Challenge

So, I recently wrote a post about my goals for the Seven Day Roguelike Challenge. I’ve particupated in this challenge almost every year since 2013, or tried to. I haven’t successfully completed every year, but it’s still been really fun.

This year, I was having a difficult time reconciling the amount of time and energy I was going to invest in building a game that nobody would play, with my newfound ambition to build a SaaS platform and achieve financial independence in order to spend more time with my family.

I remember sitting down one evening and planning what I would build with my wife, Alena (who is always wonderfully supportive of the things I decide are important to me).

Since I was really feeling unmotivated and a little depressed by my lack of ability to come up with a Cool Idea™️, I decided to take a look at a game somebody else had written in one of the previous years in an effort to drum up some inspiration.

I fired it up on itch.io and started playing. It was clear that the author had put a lot of effort into it, but clearly very few people saw it. It wasn’t even a bad game, it just wasn’t great.

But I saw the amount of work that it took to build it, and then it really hit me hard.

That time – they’d never get it back. And while it may have been fun to build, it wouldn’t ever really serve them that much. Sure, it might be good for interviewing for full-time roles at some point in the future (I know one of the games I built is still the subject of most of my interviews), but that’s all it’s good for.

A bunch of effort, for what? Building a game that will only help them get more work that’s just barely enough to keep scraping by?

Right then and right there, I decided not to participate in 7DRL, and instead focus on more productive pursuits. I just gave up and figured I wouldn’t do any coding jams / challenges this year.

It was kind of a growing up moment. Having just recently gotten married, and even more recently learned that we are expecting our first child, I’ve been experiencing a lot of mindset shifts like that in the past few months.

It felt like a real sacrifice, because I’ve so enjoyed doing 7DRL in the past, but at the same time it felt right. Now isn’t the right time to sink a bunch of effort into building a game that is only fit for my own personal entertainment.

But that’s how the old Bible passage goes:

“When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I set aside childish ways.” – 1 Corinthians 13:11

That reality is what got me up at 5:30am this morning to get to work on my side projects, before my work day begins at 9am.

I guess it’s also that reality that caused another idea to spark in my brain only days later…

What I’m doing instead

All that to say, I’m launching an alternative challenge called the Seven Day SaaS challenge.

I’ve written about what it is here but the basic idea is that you have seven days to build the MVP for a SaaS.

Just like with 7DRL, you should still have your product idea thoroughly planned out and a to-do list ready to go for when the week starts, so you can focus on just building the product during that week.

The value here is that it will allow you to quickly build something and escape the trap of spending months iterating on something before you release it to the world.

Building a successful SaaS startup is all about releasing early and releasing often, so you can quickly either validate an idea by getting it front of customers, or realize that it sucks so you can quit and start something else.

The Seven Day SaaS challenge will start in a week’s time, on March 20th. And no, I have no idea what I’m going to build yet – I’ve been focused on writing a talk for the startup that I run, and launching the 7DSaaS platform until now).

I feel a lot better about this. Not only do I still get the fun of participating in a coding challenge / hackathon as part of a community (we have close to 60 people signed up for the mailing list, and ~25 in the Slack currently), but 7DSaaS will eventually / cumulatively have huge positive impact on my future and the future of my family.

Thanks for reading.

The next post I write will be about how to generate startup ideas. I’ve been reading a lot of interviews on the Indie Hackers podcast and I’ve learned a lot about idea generation. I’ll be posting what I’ve learned soon, for the new 7DaySaaS community and also for all of you!

Elliot