Let’s talk a bit. This one’s gonna be rambling, but honest. =)
The pixel artist I want just got married and is taking off a few weeks, which makes me feel oddly better about essentially doing nothing this past week because of Smash Bros. 4. Not to compare our circumstances, of course! …but this brings up something I’ve definitely wanted to mention here.
Right now I’ve backed 135 Kickstarter projects and I often see creators mentioning in their Risks and Challenges section that family comes first and that if anything happens to their spouses or kids, they’ll have to sideline all work on the game.
In one sense, this is a silly thing to list as a risk; anyone could get into a horrible accident, after all. The composer for Midora just lost a finger in mid-September and about the only good thing one can say there is that at least it was his pinky and not an index finger or especially a thumb. It could have been worse! Whether on Kickstarter or not, every project run by a human bears the implicit risk of the sudden death or incapacitation of its creator.
In another sense, listing the risk makes sense; not everyone has spouses or kids, so a solo individual like myself only needs to worry about one person. Sure, I could develop amnesia or get hit with SADS (Sudden Adult Death Syndrome) or a 9.4 earthquake could completely destroy California or something, but I can’t go through a divorce, a child can’t run away, and a death in the family wouldn’t leave me depressed for three months.
…but I wonder if there’s a third sense. Maybe in my case the “risk” is that I don’t have someone encouraging me and pushing me forward every day. I used to resent family obligations; truth be told, there’s probably still more of that within me than there should be. Isn’t there value in a supporting voice?
Three years ago I would have been upset by the idea of celebrating a birthday. Why bother? Unproductive. Frivolous. Wastes of time. Those were the kinds of things I thought about celebrations, family obligations, and more. Because I considered weddings, honeymoons, and vacations to be useless wastes of money, I couldn’t have sincerely said “Congratulations” to Becca, the pixel artist. Today I can, but it’s only because I assume that she understands the value, not because I myself understand.
In a few hours I turn 30. I’ve already been out for a birthday lunch and I still feel slightly guilty about it—more than I feel guilty about playing Smash Bros. and not making a game, which in turn is more than I felt guilty about playing Bravely Default and not making a game back in February. At least Bravely Default is an RPG, you see, and one that’s balanced in a shockingly similar way to what I’m aiming for. Smash Bros. is, though I’m stretching, at least a video game. What’s a birthday lunch?
But should I feel guilty at all?
Make no mistake: I’m the furthest thing from a “Type A” workaholic personality. I’ll put in 12 hours if I feel like it, but “if I feel like it” usually depends on whether I’m having fun. My days are more commonly six hours whenever I find the first natural stopping point or hit some roadblock that I need to sleep on.
At the same time, the idea of taking three straight weeks off—like for a wedding and honeymoon—would probably make me squeamish. And I mean that: frustration and anxiety would pile on until I’d feel sick. I can’t even fully enjoy taking a week off here and there for a major game release (major to me in the case of Bravely Default) without that nagging guilt feeling. I still haven’t touched my copy of Tales of Symphonia Chronicles or Tales of Xillia 2 because I have my own Dreamblazers to make.
And yet… I’m not in a traditional job, so there’s no technical obligation to put in a certain number of hours per day. All of my guilt is of my own making. My ambition clashing against my interests. “All work and no play” battling with “all play and no work.” What’s the appropriate balance? Can I take a week off here and there? Is that okay or is it unacceptable? To be honest, I’ve cut off nearly all social contact, so my life is about either playing video games, making a video game, or pondering. Is that fine? Could I do better? Would I actually be more productive if I disconnected completely on occasion?
I don’t have any ultimate answer to my questions. Like the Musings side of my blog implies, I’m much more interested in raising questions and thinking about them than finding solutions. Since I don’t have an ultimate answer, I probably won’t change anything that I’m doing. I only want to be honest and straightforward—and, for posterity’s sake, these are my true struggles at this time, right now, while I’m arriving at the border between 29 and 30 years old. I’m an indie game developer who recently hit a severe roadblock with making functional 2D movement, I’m burying myself in someone else’s game, and I feel guilty about it and I wonder if I should feel more guilty or less.
At 0, 10, 20, or 30 years old, life can be a mystery.
And I suspect 40, 50, 60, and 70 won’t be any different.