Staying Sane Whilst Making Things


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Examine some of the ways your mental health can suffer working on long term passion projects (with a particular focus on Indie Games). Topics covered include crunch and the way in which success might not bring you the happiness you expect.

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Staying Sane Whilst Making Things

  1. 1. Staying Sane Whilst Making Things
  2. 2. On Being Passionate Passion is absolutely non-negotiable in any successfully creative endeavour. This is particular true of indie developers, who risk poverty and extreme odds to follow their dreams.
  3. 3. On Being Passionate Passionately pursuing our dreams has the power to blind us the detrimental situations we put ourselves in. In some cases causing significant harm to our mental health.
  4. 4. Crunch-a-holics Anonymous Crunch krʌn(t)ʃ/ : What happens when otherwise sensible people allow themselves the be abused in the name of passion.
  5. 5. Crunch-a-holics Anonymous Crunch, it doesn’t work.
  6. 6. Crunch-a-holics Anonymous Things Crunch is good for: • Wrecking your physical health • Mental breakdowns (Burnout) • Ruining personal relationships • Poisoning your success stories
  7. 7. Crunch-a-holics Anonymous Burnout: • Inevitable when you’re not looking after yourself. • Turns you into a bit of a dick. • Unable to regulate emotions (e.g. crying) • Your body’s last gasp effort to force you to take it easy. (e.g. Panic attacks )
  8. 8. Crunch-a-holics Anonymous The little lie we tell ourselves: It’s all going to be worth it in the end.
  9. 9. Crunch-a-holics Anonymous So how about the guys at Irrational Games? Spent months crunching hard making one of the highest rated video games of the year - Bioshock Infinite. They were handsomely rewarded with: • More Crunch (DLC) • Being Fired
  10. 10. Crunch-a-holics Anonymous Boss not required: Matt Gilgenbach spent four years crunching on his game Retro/Grade. Only to enjoy: • A lukewarm reception • The realization he’d missed out on his relationship with his wife.
  11. 11. Don’t care, I’m gonna be famous! We have a great deal of respect and admiration for those that have followed their passions, elevating them to cult status – the cult of celebrity
  12. 12. Don’t care, I’m gonna be famous! Why do we aspire to be these people?
  13. 13. Don’t care, I’m gonna be famous! Yeah sure, it’s about spending the better part of your life doing something you actually care about and believe in.
  14. 14. Don’t care, I’m gonna be famous! But, that has nothing to do with why we crave recognition for our creative endeavours: It’s about Happiness.
  15. 15. Don’t care, I’m gonna be HAPPY! It’s very seductive to believe that when we have everything we want we’ll be happy. We also like to believe that having scores of adoring fans will be immensely validating.
  16. 16. The dark side of success: Success does bring with it elation. Elation fades. Quickly.
  17. 17. The dark side of success: Our enormous capacity to normalize means we only ever compare ourselves upwards.
  18. 18. The dark side of success: “The most significant and direct outcome of being nominated (for Game of the Year) is that I become more deeply unsettled by being omitted on subsequent lists” - Davey Wreden (The Stanley Parable)
  19. 19. The dark side of success: Some super successful indies who suffered post release depression: • Davey Wreden (The Stanley Parable) • Alexander Bruce (Antichamber) • Jonathan Blow (Braid)
  20. 20. The dark side of success: The truth is that success is an enormous emotional burden. You now feel responsible for the opinions of thousands or millions of people. Outsourcing your validation to this many people is a pretty good way to feel miserable.
  21. 21. The dark side of success: Especially because people on the internet can be absolute total slimy irreprehensible arseholes spewing immense amounts of bull faeces from their mouth holes. No matter how thick your skin - they cut deep.
  22. 22. The dark side of success: How many people who find sudden and wild success crash and burn spectacularly: Flappy Bird Much? We struggle to comprehend this and tend to regard them as ungrateful bastards.
  23. 23. The dark side of success: The adoration of fans, whilst rewarding, is not real connection. Connection and a sense of belonging is the only antidote for loneliness.
  24. 24. The lonely path of an Indie Perusing your indie dreams often means turning away from comfort and safety nets to swim through storms of anxiety and a seas of doubt. This is particularly brutal if you’re doing it by yourself.
  25. 25. The lonely path of an Indie "In 2011 I was dealing with a bunch of depression, and by 2012 I was going batshit crazy. I work in a bedroom by myself. I would drink a bunch of alcohol because that would make me switch my mind off and I could focus on getting work done. ” - Alexander Bruce (Antichamber)
  26. 26. Isolation and Depression Humans aren’t very well designed for loneliness and feelings of isolation. This can lead to depression. Or in the case’s of people already predisposed to depression, the consequences can be tragic.
  27. 27. Isolation and Depression Depression isn’t a choice. It’s not simply a matter of hardening the fuck up choosing to be happy.
  28. 28. Isolation and Depression Depression is far too big for me to cover here, But I want you to be aware so you can stay out of situations that put you at risk:
  29. 29. Please, Please, Please! Please don’t trade away your current happiness • Sacrificing your physical fitness • Working unrealistic hours • Neglecting your relationships • Beating yourself for not being successful yet.
  30. 30. Please, Please, Please! If you’re struggling for validation, success isn’t going to change that.
  31. 31. Please, Please, Please! The best way to find happiness is to look in your current circumstances, and foster connection with people you care about.
  32. 32. Fin If you need someone to talk to: