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Emotional implication in game development

Sometimes people tell me things like “you are very lucky to have a job that you love”, and they are right, it is such a priviledge, but I cannot answer that with my biggest smile because every time they tell me, I remember how hard it has been for me to get to our current point with our studio and how hard it still is. When I say “hard” I am not talking about number of working hours, crunch weeks or months, or the huge variety of responsibilities every team member has, or how brutally competitive the game industry is; but this means to some of us that we can work in a indie game studio, in many cases, making the games we really want to make in a way, let’s say, honest and passionate.

During the development of The Last Door, my responsibilities were design and art, creative stuff, scripts, dialogues, etc; and maybe because these new responsibilities I had I thought that the stress I was suffering from was because of these, and I believed so for a long time. Almost immediately, I started to feel that my personal life blended in with the professional one. If I watched a movie it was because I was doing research, if I played a game, it was to analyze it and not to enjoy it, etc. At first, I didn’t see this as a problem, in fact, I saw myself as a passionate, creative professional, involved in projects with all my heart and soul. The stress increased and I became anxious, like the main character of the great Silicon Valley, but without the humour part.

I am not a psychologist and I haven’t experienced those symptoms before, but when trying to analyze them I realized that part of those fears, if not all of them, came from the same source: the development of the game we were making. The game became the center of my life and was also the center of my fears.

Every project’s development is always a big uncertainty, no matter how well planned it is, problems will arise all the time, some of them will really put the project or the team itself to test, and in extreme cases, they will theaten the survival of the studio.

It’s been a long time since we published The Last Door, every team member has lived the development in his own way and learned many things, so this article is actually about a very valuable lesson I particularly learned, and, although I still am dealing with my emotional implication as a creative member of The Game Kitchen, I can say that I progressively achieved the separation of my personal life from my professional one. But it wasn’t easy.

Being developers and making the games we really want to make, we can tend to involve ourselves emotionally in this job that define us and that we want to protect to all costs. So one of the many skills we have to learn is the one that helps us to tell our job apart from what it is not, because if we don’t really do that our personal problems are going to have an impact on the project, on the studio and back to our lives.

And yes, we are lucky working in what we love.

3 thoughts on “Emotional implication in game development

  1. Hi 🙂
    I’m not a professional yet, only a last year student but that’s the videogames magic and curse I think.
    The good professional works like an artisan, leaves a part of him in every sprite, dialogue, mechanic or script.
    Because He loves what He is doing, He believe on the message that this game transmit and He care about protecting it. The much He loves, the much He cares, and that’s our curse.
    We need to learn to enjoy the life apart the job, because as you said with bad emotions, If we are happy, that hapiness will be in our sprites, dialogues, mechanics, scripts and through them will reach the players, that’s our magic.
    Of course, all of this is the personal opinion of an aprentice.
    I wish you good luck learning to separate job from personal life. I also have to learn it yet.

  2. Thanks for this. It’s important to remember that life supports art, not the other way around (to paraphrase Stephen King). I’m glad to hear you guys are achieving more balance!

  3. I remember having depression and Celeste got me through it. Games really can heal. We shouldn’t listen to stupid reporters on the TV telling us otherwise.

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