Welcome back for this weeks state of the game! As much as I would LOVE to continue to jumb on the loot box hat-wagon, it seems a lot of the game blogs and personalities I follow have started hammering that practice into the ground. So, instead, I wanted to talk a bit about something that is closer to my heart.
Overcoming your fears.
This might seem a bit out of context, so I will provide a bit of history. I feel like ‘Fear’ can be a massive force for both game developers and content creators and if left unchecked, can cause significant bouts of depression.
I think the topic of depression in game development and content creation is fairly well covered. Jonathon Blow has a great video on this. However, I am a firm believer that a lot of this depression can be caused by fear. I know that was the case for me.
I do want to add a disclaimer here that I am NOT a psychologist and I am only presenting this as a story of my journey, yours maybe different and if things are looking bad you should always seek professional help.
So, my journey into what is affectionately called ‘The Dark Times” began with a failed release. Prior to the release, I was making incredibly fast development progress, balanced between adding features and addressing bugs. Each build was not perfect, but they were packed with content and they were exciting, both for me to create and for the players to get. Momentum for the game was also building, new players were joining everyday, content creators were picking up the game and approaching me daily for permission to create content and news outlets were reaching out to me to create stories and coverage. You could say things were going really well!
This all came to a head when I was approached by a media outlet that wanted to do some additional coverage of the game, including a few gameplay videos. I was excited about this as I was just getting ready to release the first iteration of campaign mode and having these events align would make for a big impact. Unfortunately, the first iteration of campaign mode had some big issues that really prevented it from being played in an enjoyable way. There were even some game breaking bugs that prevented the mode from even being loaded up in some situations.
Now, at that stage in development, this was really not that unusual. I was prioritizing speed and I feel that the community knew this and expected it. They were ok with builds that were not the best, as it allowed them to see what was coming and immediately start to provide feedback. What was different about this release though, is a media outlet got the same build and they had a VERY different reaction. The email I received from them describing the game was very discouraging, they were disgusted that they almost covered it and heavily advised me to fix everything about the build. That was the last piece of communication I received from that media outlet.
This was depressing, to say the least. But, I had and still have an amazing community, so I was not depressed for very long. I was shown incredible support as the community came together and was massively understanding as I pulled the changes out and focused on bug fixing. The true damage of this interaction was still festering though.
I was scared to take risks.
I became fearful of reliving that release. I became scared to be vocal within the community. I was scared to reach out to anyone and tell them about MAV. I, most importantly, because scared to trust myself. With that fear, I lost the biggest edge I had, the ability to task risks and adapt to a changing environment.
That fear has stayed with me ever since. I am still, working to this day, to overcome that fear and learning how to trust myself again. That fear can fester up in every choice, every balance change, every update, every forum interaction, and can become crippling.
Now, I admit, I am incredibly lucky, I have a support system that is amazing, between my wife, my kids, the ‘hardcore’ MAV players, and even the random thank you comments I receive. Not everyone can have a system like this, and without it, that fear can become crippling. When we talk about ‘burn out’ I feel it’s just a nice way of saying ‘they got too scared to try anymore’.
How have I been overcoming this?
Rachael, my wife, is the strongest person I know, mentally, and she had some incredible advice for me. She told me, “Chad, focus on what you are scared of. Look deep into it, find out what feature, update, or choice is causing your fear. That is the thing you need to do. Fight it face to face. I will be there to help you.”
And it has been working. Simple things, like heat vision, I was scared to implement because I was not very good at writing shaders and wasn’t sure if I could do it. Rachael made me face down that fear. Having monthly updates acts as a cadence to ensure I am not able to back down from my commitments. All planning sessions start with the question “What are you afraid of doing and why?” and go from there.
This advice and methodology have been incredible in allowing me to trust myself, but more importantly pushing me back outside of my comfort zone and into new things. Each of these accomplishments carry a sense of pride and excitement that allows me to continue to find motivation to face my fears. It is a system that creates a positive feedback loop!
This doesn’t mean I am ‘Fearless’ (I still haven’t put out another version of Campaign mode!), but it does mean I am no longer paralyzed by fear. I don’t know if I will ever be fearless, but I do know that I will never allow fear to hold me back.
P.S. Tell your significant other they are awesome! Rachael, you are awesome!