It’s been more than two years since the first time I got paid to develop video games, and almost two months since I started working in the industry full-time. Sometime between then and now, I appear to have semi-officially transitioned from “hobbyist” to “professional”: a career dream I’ve had ever since I was prepubescent. Lately, I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about what that entails, and how this niggling detail has affected my work now and will continue to affect it in the future.
Initially, I’d thought — and sort of worried, to be frank — that once I started getting paid to develop games, I’d stop wanting to do freeware projects anymore. That has since come to wind up being far from true. Instead, I’m learning to see my job and my personal work as complimentary. The things I learn at my job — techniques of the trade, words of wisdom from those who have been there — helps inspire my personal projects, and in the meantime, what comes out of my own stuff — the willingness to try new things without the pressure of making sure it sells well — improves my craft and therefore makes me more useful to people who pay people like me to do stuff for them.
One of my biggest worries was that as a professional, I would stop loving game development, instead seeing it as yet another way to pay the bills. I figured there must be a reason why the word “amateur”, originally stemming from the Latin word for “love”, is now juxtaposed as the opposite of “professional”. Admittedly, I probably haven’t been in the industry long enough to become cynical and jaded about what I do, but I find that I’m extremely fortunate in not only being able to develop personal games that I believe in deeply, but also to be able to work on a highly innovative upcoming commercial title that I also happen to believe in deeply. Up until about four months ago, I wasn’t so sure that the latter was even possible, so consider me very pleasantly surprised on that front.
So, what did change when I “went pro”, so to speak? In a nutshell, I’ve become more and more of a stickler for professionalism, not only on the job, but also while developing freeware projects. See, in the amateur adventure game development community, there’s a frequent “it’ll be done when it’s done” attitude to finishing projects,  many of which take years to finish, if they finish at all. It’s quite all right for many amateur developers, because for them it really is just a hobby, but I’ve found that I myself can’t accept this attitude anymore. I already know I’m capable of finishing games in only a few months, so I tend to get upset with myself if I find that I’m being less productive than I know I can be. 
Where this seems to cause the most problems is when I work on pro bono projects in teams. I’ve been ranting about the disadvantages of doing so for years, and this means I’m very selective about who I decide to work with, if anyone. That said, I’ve never yet finished a freeware project in which I didn’t do all the grunt work myself. Though I’m hoping this will change with a certain thing I’m working on, I get the feeling that I hold myself to much different standards from my teammates.  I’ve come to expect more structure and organization, and more clarity as to who’s supposed to be doing what. I often tend to feel like I care more about the project than anyone else. I’m sure this doesn’t denote a lack of passion on the other party’s fault, so much as to them, it’s just another fun thing to engage in, whereas to me, it’s what I do.
My pattern so far appears to be to start working on solo projects instead when the going gets slow. (Chivalry while waiting on the team game that eventually morphed into the solo Pigeons, DREAMING while waiting on Stage!, the fate of which remains unclear.) It’s strange, because this makes me sound like such a workaholic. Still, the fact that I genuinely love my work is consolation enough. From what I’ve gathered about the world in my few short years here, it’s rare that people can actually feel this way.