Battling the Green Eyed Monster

Advice is a funny thing. I often get asked for advice on getting into game development. The thing about advice is that, while even with intentions, it can come from a very personal place. Many of my generation of developers got into game development in ways that simply wouldn't happen these days.

So unless you are taking particular care to frame your advice, the words of veteran developers can often seem rather hollow or even counter-productive to the incoming generation of potential developers.

So I'd rather focus conversations on a narrative that asks questions about how you might best succeed today, in all the realities of modern game development. It's far from an easy path to crave out a career in this space. You probably even need a little luck along the way. 

Above all else, no-one else can tell you exactly how things might work best for you.

What I tend to find more productive is offering insight into some of the more common pitfalls that can sidetrack or derail your creative efforts.

Why do I mention this?

In my conversations with folks about this, I've started to hit up upon a trend that reminded me of old flaws, and one of the traps that I knew all too well starting out in this industry. A trap that involves one of the most potentially destructive of human emotions.


Jealousy by Trollwaffle

The green eyed monster.

It's all too easy to look at other people, other projects, other games, and wonder why they are seemingly achieving some form of success when you are not.

You're working just as hard as them!

It's not fair right?

They are only successful, you tell yourself, because they have the right friends, are buddies with the right bloggers, writers, streamers, or otherwise influential folk. You create a narrative for yourself that says these people are given preferential treatment, or more exposure, only because they belong to some group, clique, minority, or fandom, to which you do not.

It's not fair right?

It might not be, but life, with it's eternal vagaries, tends not to be.

Sitting and complaining about things isn't just unhealthy (I'll leave that discussion to the armchair psychologists), but it can also be actively counter-productive to achieving your goals. It can lead you to chase the wrong things.

In my experience when you start chasing popularity, or embrace the desire to impress the 'right people', you risk losing the part of you that sets you apart in the first place.

I firmly believe that everyone is capable of bringing a little unique piece of themselves to their creative endeavors. You will discover that for yourself more easily when you are being honest with yourself.

You want to embrace and develop your own skills and creative habits. Don't fall into the trap of constantly comparing yourself to others.

The reality is that there will always be someone a little better than you. There will always be someone more successful than you. That's not a bad thing. Be inspired by it, not intimidated by it, or worse still, frustrated by it, or angry about it. 

Make the things that you make, for you, not for the approval of others.

There are of course powerful benefits to sharing your work. I do so almost religiously, but you have to maintain the right perspective as to why you do so. Do so for learning. Do so to help develop your skills, not just to buff your insecurities. 

Trust me, that tactic tends to actually reduce your confidence in the long term. If you tune the internal calibration of your artistic worth based only on how many views, favorites, or retweets, your work gets, then you are putting yourself at the mercy of fickle winds indeed. It also reduces the likelihood of you taking artistic risks, or experimenting, both of which are vital for learning.

Life is rarely easy, let alone fair, even for those with relative affluence or privilege. It can be even harder if you are also up against any form of institutional social or cultural bias. This is a universal challenge. A raw human emotion. None of us are immune to it. Jealousy can always undermine us. It's how we deal with it that we can define us.

All too often I see designers, young and old alike, let the bitterness warp their motivations. Maintaining your creative motivation is also hard enough at the best of times, so this is why this is important. This is why it's worth talking about.

Jealousy can be an extremely destructive emotion, and is one we rarely talk about.

Much is written about forging ways to work on your art, even when your motivation isn't flowing. Those words are important too. It's often very good advice. However, I also believe that it means we don't talk enough about the factors that can sap that motivation in the first place.

Jealousy is one such factor.

That is why it is important.

So try to be honest with yourself. Acknowledge when it happens, and try not to let it guide you towards darker places than it should.

It's not a weakness to admit to being jealous of something, or someone. It's natural. Just admit it and move on. Try to turn it into a positive driver for your creative work. Be inspired by the work of others, and their successes, even when that's not easy. Bend it to your will, and forge some motivation out of it.

It'll also aid your collaboration skills. See talented people not as rivals, but as opportunities to learn. If they aren't the sharing type, then simply move on, rinse and repeat, until you find yourself with a circle of like minded creative contacts who are willing to help your development.   

Come to see those pangs of jealousy as opportunities.

Make the things that you make for you. Keep making them. Make them with people you enjoy making things with. Keep getting better at doing so. Keep moving forward.

That is what will drive your creative development. 

You can defeat the Green Eyed Boss Monster, collect his treasure, and move onto the next level.