"When I was 27, I'd shipped two big games. Something inside me said that couldn't go on."
- Game designer and filmmaker Jordan Mechner explains the origins of his own "shadow" and its influence on his career.
Jordan Mechner has cut an interesting path through the game industry, having released the seminal '80s games Karateka and Prince of Persia before his 27th birthday.
He went on to release The Last Express and other games while exploring the world of film production; but in a recent talk at Gamelab in Barcelona attended by Games Industry, Mechner says his early success shaped the "shadow" of negative behaviors and self-perceptions that has dogged him throughout his career.
"It's as if there was some voice inside of me that didn't want to feel like a success, a big shot," Mechner said, noting that after the success of Prince of Persia he self-exiled himself to Spain as part of a foreign exchange student program. "It was as if what I needed was not to be raised up, but to be cast down."
Now, decades later, Mechner recommends that fellow developers seek out the negative voices of their own "shadows" and embrace them, sating them with occasional indulgences like venting to a friend, marathon game sessions or self-imposed exile in order to vent that "shadow energy" and keep it from negatively affecting your work.
"Every rise must have a fall. But we're supposed to constantly rise," said Mechner. "So I went 6,000 miles to a place where nobody knew me, lived the smallest life possible, refused a lot of the opportunities which were coming in. I think I dispersed a lot of shadow energy."
For more on Mechner's struggles to harmoniously deal with his negative side, check out the full talk write-up over on Games Industry. To hear him deconstruct the design and development of Prince of Persia, check out his GDC 2011 postmortem talk.