It’s well-known that being creative is synonymous with being rather volatile. One minute, we’re letting the creativity flow and the next minute, we’re questioning whether the past work week was really our best, most inspiring effort. We all feel as though the job is never done and there’s always things we wish we could change. It’s much like walking around with regret, with random moments of pride over what we’ve accomplished.
In essence, creatives are their own worst critics.
Tthe irony of it is that whether you’re just starting out in the industry, or a hardened veteran, you’re not above feeling this “creative insecurity.” People who work in large studios feel this way, just as do young, wide-eyed indie developers. It’s something we have to admit, accept, and try to rise above, not just individually, but as an industry.
As something described at GDC 2016, the “Imposter Syndrome,” is the feeling of not belonging in the industry. It’s that nagging feeling that you’re faking everything, pretending like you know what you’re doing. The funny part about this is, that there is no right or wrong way to get into game development. There are basic steps people could (should) take, several tips that one can follow, but in essence game development is one of the most challenging industries to build a career in. No one knows if they’re doing the right thing until they reach a level in which they get frequent emails about potential work. Even then, what if the work isn’t the greatest, most glamorous task ever?
Obviously, there’s several variables at play. It makes sense for people to feel uneasy in a challenging field where there is no proper sense of direction. How do we find our footing, if we don’t know where the footing is?
Effects on Developers, Young & Old
Developers can suffer quite a bit from the feeling of insecurity. There is always someone better around the corner. There’s only so many available studio positions. There is always something to be unsure about and this insecurity can actually grow substantially, regardless of the years in the industry.
Many developers suffer from depression, anxiety, and actual mental illness, due to the level of stress. Age isn’t a factor either, it’s something that can affect young and old alike. People with dozens of released titles as well as those currently working on their first project are susceptible. No one is safe from potentially developing a level of insecurity that can be genuinely dangerous.
What Can You Do About It?
Support systems are not to be taken for granted by any developer. Whether it’s family, friends, coworkers, or other developers that you keep in touch with, having a support system is crucial. People outside of the industry especially provide an outlet from the tunnel vision that is easily developed when you put in countless hours during a project.
More so, asking for help is logical, and beyond important, but unfortunately very daunting for some developers. Many worry about jeopardizing their position at work, or how they are viewed by friends and family. However, at the end of the day, health is everything. You can’t work, at least not efficiently, if you are not at your best.
But perhaps the best method of battling this creative insecurity is lining up an overall plan of attack for career building. Forget what you don’t know, and focus on what you do. Making connections, not being overly picky about the jobs available, trying to land paid opportunities, attending conventions and game jams, staying up to date with the industry, etc. These are all proven steps that help build a career in gaming.
The great creative insecurity is a cancer in the industry. It’s something that threatens every developer out there and makes them rein in the fearless drive needed to thrive in game development. We have to battle this insecurity that has been proven to cause much bigger problems for many developers. It’s not an individual fight, it’s a fight we can all help battle.
If you believe you may be suffering from a severe case of stress or anxiety, please don’t be afraid to ask for help. Let your loved ones know. Let people help you, because they can, and they will.
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