reflecting on five years of sort of “doing videogames”

so recently, i decided i was done pursuing being a “games person”, and you can catch up on that here. it doesn’t mean i’m suddenly done making videogames or that i got ahead of myself in a fit of pique, but i’m done being a “games person”. (tl;dr: I wanna pursue other passions) the scare quotes are being used here are because that identity really is a unique kind of monster–other folks in games might be familiar. it was a loaded identity i’d built up for myself over the course of a decade, stuffed with arbitrary expectations and presumptions and anxieties that i’d felt forced (but always inevitably failed, of course) to conform to.

in a way, this identity was my captor and i was stockholm syndrome’d. for years i’d constantly struggled with an ever-diverging sense of self: i got older, i learned more about life and myself, i figured my shit out, transition happened, multiple major life events, etc., and the whole time that old identity tugged at my heels and occasionally dragged me back down. as i finally began to learn who “me” was i became more and more actively afraid of being myself, as part of some kind of ultimate culmination of unresolved internalized self-hate mingled with a clearly unhealthy identity complex. being a “games person” was, to put it plainly, a way to be somebody else when being me was scary.

so after I made that announcement on twitter friday evening I spent the entire ensuing saturday suddenly confronted with all that printed above and more, but now that you have the intimate background let’s rewind to my original motivations; i lost my passion for making games. a soul-sucking identity complex might make that seem like a matter of course, but the truth is there was more to it than that. it hopefully goes without saying how hard it is to be in games, the level of personal sacrifice it requires, etc, especially as a person trying to achieve the dream of going full-time. that was always a thing i dangerously held onto, chasing the dream no matter how much it messed me up. then it turned out that dream wasn’t even really my dream, it was just something i did because in the world i lived in at the time, it was the dream you had, and i didn’t have anything else to chase. that was my version of going to school, graduating, getting a 9-5 then settling down in a quiet suburb and having two children, and in the same way it became my own personal hell.

it’s ironic that giving up on all that and chasing a dead-end job or even some kind of 9-5 gig is where i’m at now, but at the same time it’s liberating. passion aside, trying to be full-time indie is like climbing a staircase you nor anybody else can see the top of. eventually your legs give out.

i think there was a point in my life where i enjoyed making videogames, the process itself, but it had come to feel like an unshoulderable burden. over years the desire to make something i actually gave a shit about was increasingly obscured by the obligation to make something marketable. every time I landed just off the mark of where I wanted to be I blamed my creative vision or my dedication, even when i didn’t need to, and over time i think i punched it right out of me. as the early wide-eyed passion of “indie games” was gutted into capitalistic cynicism, i believe so was i.

yet an even greater truth here is that videogames have never been the only thing in my life, despite the tendency for them to demand to be (and how i let myself be fooled into going along with it). in my childhood and teenage years, before videogames, i wanted to be an illustrator. i had learned photography and filmmaking and painting and typography and graphic design and i loved creative writing and poetry and music, i had this passion for so many things. i loved studying history and politics and culture and natural sciences and social sciences and mathematics and programming–and when videogames came into my life, it was almost exciting, it was like “I can bring all these things together,” yet that is not how things are so easily allowed to be, or at least were. and more importantly, that didn’t necessarily turn out to be what i wanted. it was more like, instead of becoming this person with so many different interests, i had to reign all those interests in to be safe for videogames. that’s how it felt.

a lot of it was self-imposed though, videogames just became the demon my fear to be myself manifested through. videogames happened to be an easy place to not be myself, to run away from all the things in my life that intimidated me, an easy place to feel like a comfortable authority thanks to the vacuousness of the surrounding culture. but you can’t do something like that without it eating at your soul.

so that’s why i’m leaving videogames behind, at least in all capacities it was previously in my life. not because i don’t care about games even, but because it wasn’t good for me. i’ve learned recently that i don’t have to try not to be myself, truthfully i can’t even if i try. so i’m gonna try and do me, i’m gonna get back to my love for those other things, then we’ll see where i land from there. thanks for sticking with me this far, but i think the real journey begins here.

p.s. i’ll still make games, but as i please. i love my family at @pictochic too much to quit that too.

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