Thursday, January 7, 2010

The cafe lifestyle

I mentioned in my first post how I generally write my games from various cafés in New York.  This practice started with in 2006 and continues now.

At the time, I did it because I was between jobs and I wanted to feel like I was really working, so I'd pack up the laptop and bring it to a café in Tribeca (an area of NYC which is short for "triangle below Canal").  I'd plop down, order a latte, boot up the laptop, and then type type away on The Shivah.  For a solid month, I'd be there by 9am and leave sometime in the later afternoon.  The place had food, so I was able to nab lunch when I wanted it.  When I finished the game I figured it was a neat way to work, so I kept doing it.

In the four years since then, I've worked on games in all sorts of different coffee joints.  Most are your average Starbucks, others are New York based chains, and some are unique privately owned indie cafés (which there are less and less of, lately).  I tend to choose different cafés depending what my needs and mood are that day.  They all have something different to offer. Some have food, others have free wifi, and others have more convenient electrical outlets. I've actually become an expert on the location of every electrical outlet in every café with a five block radius of my apartment.  

Lately, more and more people have adapted to this café lifestyle.  I used to be the only nerd in a Starbucks with a laptop, but now it's hard to find a café-goer without one.  I see people writing papers, working on resumes, updating spreadsheets, or just surfing the internet.  I've seen a group of men in suits gathered around a café table, hunched over their laptops, discussing what appeared to be a high-powered business stuff.  I once saw a dentist examining 3D models of his patients' teeth!  The sheer amount of productivity that goes on in these places is mindboggling.

Earlier this year, the crowds temporarily drove me out of the cafés and I actually rented a cubicle in an office.  I gave it up in a few months.  Despite the crowds, the café lifestyle suits me.



  1. How much do you typically budget for café obeisance? I know that I start to feel guilty somewhere around less than one overpriced beverage per half hour, but I find that everyone seems to have a different idea of what nice spots with good wifi/outlets are worth to them.

  2. @WorldMaker

    It depends. Some days I am one of those freeloaders who stays in the cafe all day on one cup of coffee, but other days I purchase several drinks and even have lunch. I'd like to think it evens out!

  3. >"I've actually become an expert on the location of every electrical outlet in every café with a five block radius of my apartment."

    Hilarious! Yes, I too became an expert at feeding the power needs of my antiquated laptop. A lot of freelancers feel the need to get the day started in some structured way, which is usually a good thing for their business. In his book, Smarter Consulting, Mike Johnson recommends finding the routine that works for you, whatever it may be, and sticking to it.

    For me, the ever increasing volume of the music and blast of the A/C drove me away. However, my routine still incorporates driving out to get a coffee mid-morning after checking my morning email and dealing with any immediate morning business.

    When I started working for myself I discovered that I missed the drive to get coffee. Reflecting on it, it dawned on me that the drive was tranquil and helped me gather my thoughts for the rest of the working day.

    So whatever routine works for you, do it.

  4. Strangely, this is very fun to read!

  5. Strangely, this is very fun to read!

    P.S. : This is mrkwang from Pig-Min. Not sure why, my google nick was named as 'Staff Finder', so edited it & re-posted this comment.

  6. @neurowire

    Oh man. There's this one cafe that's impossible to go to during the summer, because the electrical outlets are all placed strategically under the air conditioning vents. It could be 90 degrees outside but I'd be so cold that I could barely type. Unfortunately, it's the cafe that's the closest to my apartment so it's the one I like to go to the most when I'm feeling lazy! Ah, decisions decisions...



  7. I wrote a couple of long questions, then I realised you had already answered them.

  8. Good post, I enjoyed it... I even posted it to Twitter, ah ah.