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The Game Design Studio on a Boat

This game design duo is getting paid to live on a boat.

Devine Lu Linvega and Rekka Bell, the duo behind the game design studio 100 Rabbits, are living their best life. They decided to pack up house, buy a sailboat, and attempt a transient lifestyle documenting their travels and creating games that draw from their experiences.

And here's the thing: neither of them are sailors. Linvega, 29, tells me he doesn't even have his driver's license. He works as an iOS game developer and web developer, and Bell, 31, is an illustrator, two occupations that are pretty far from the grit you'd expect from seafarers.

The Vancouver-based duo is part of an emerging group of boat dwellers letting the internet sponsor them for videos that more or less give you a vicarious look into a self-sustaining DIY nautical lifestyle. It's more or less a digital re-emergence of a trend that started out with yacht owners and was appropriated by people wanting to live a cheaper, more spartan lifestyle.

Bell and Linvega, blessed with jobs they can do remotely, will live part time aboard a type of sailboat designed specifically for long-term cruising. They'll keep themselves sustained by docking near land, working remotely by developing apps and working for clients, as they've done before in many other countries.

With the help of the crowdfunding platform Patreon, which helps fund artists and creators, 100 Rabbits will post a number of exclusive videos to their supporters that document their learning process as they figure out how to maintain and sail a boat and keep it in ship-shape. Now that they're past their $400/month milestone, they'll film for Oculus Rift viewers as well.

Unlike Kickstarter, where you pay once, Patreon's system allows for supporters to pay per video or per week or month in exchange for goodies, live chats, and exclusive content like photos, videos, and other media that are locked behind the user's patron page. Add enough incentives and attract enough eyes and you have yourself a working wage from an audience of supporters.

100 Rabbits's first project together was a game called Oquonie, which they built while taking diving classes in Thailand, Bell told me. "The game was nominated at the Independent Games Festival the following year."

Their next project is decidedly nautical: "Our second project is not exactly a game, but a sort of app that navigates a series of comestible algae," said Bell.

100 Rabbits plans to begin its journey in earnest starting in 2016. The couple plan to bring along a number of friends from Seattle on their boat to the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco. They're also possibly taking a three-week stint to sail to Hawaii, but not before deeply considering whether three weeks without seeing land is a possible, if not good, idea.

"We're surrounded by people who are living sedentary lifestyles and it's not working out so well for them," Linvega told me. "So we want to see if it's possible to make a sort of model that's easier to follow for people who want to live this sort of lifestyle."

Bell and Linvega aren't the only professionals eschewing the sedentary lifestyle for a nautical existence. Linvega pulled in ideas from several couples on YouTube. Wicked Salty, for one, has their own Patreon page and makes weekly videos where they swim around in the Bahamas and go spearfishing. Patreon users collectively pay over $900 per video. La Vagabonde is another. They make $2,577 per video, roughly weekly.

Linvega told me over voice chat that they were inspired by seeing other couples who went off and did pretty much the same thing: left their desk jobs and started over on the seas. Now the duo wants to document their transition as a guide for others to follow in their footsteps.

"I think the timing of it is really good right now because there's this kind of tiny house movement going on, people who are tired of everyday commute, I think the boat is—like yacht clubs were really popular like 60 years ago and they kinda died off," said Linvega. "Maybe we can revive that. Would be nice to have a bunch of game developers on boats."