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Why do we keep doing what we do?

Some thoughts on how to get remotivated if you're stuck in a rut. TLDR: songs and death.

I have been thinking a lot lately about motivation. I am in my final semester of school, school that I went back to by giving up locked in employment and pension for the rest of my life. Getting back into the swing of programming after so many years of IT was tough, but I was able to get back on the horse quick enough and have turned out some assignments and projects that I’m quite proud of.

But the grind has started to take its toll. I’m at the end of a long, challenging program. The industry is in the midst of massive changes in terms of company and industry structures (but for the better in the long run). And it’s another Vancouver liquid sunshine winter. In short, I’m tired and struggling to find meaning in it all. 

However, lately two things have turned me around. The first was a reminder from an artist of a different medium, Amanda Palmer, who recently gave a TED talk about her experiences. In discussing it on twitter, she mentioned a lyric from one of her songs. It was one I’ve heard before, but it stuck with me this time. As she declares that you should get out there and play your ukulele (yes, really), Palmer sings, “Stop pretending art is hard”.

Now don’t get me wrong, we’re in an industry full of challenges, including technical, artistic and business. But all of these can be overcome with enough determination (or at least die trying). Why am I putting up roadblocks for myself when these things already present their own obstacles? Why am I trying to size up monoliths instead of chipping away at their bases? Will I make mistakes? Sure. Will I stumble? Yup. But those will only make me better. A lot of that seems like common sense depending on where you’re looking at it, but I think sometimes we forget the simple things when we’re lost in the complexities of our own lives.

The second, and much more poignant realization came from an unfortunate tragedy. The death of a friend is always a sad occasion, and John Driftmeier’s untimely passing was no exception. Admittedly, I didn’t personally know him very well, but my partner did and so we, along with many other friends of his, attended his memorial last night. John was in the film and television industry and was very good at making films, but more importantly, he was very good at making friends. Person after person came up to the microphone telling stories, some funny, some nostalgic, but they all shared a common theme. John respected everyone he met and always made time to try and make their day better. It could be as complicated as flying through multiple countries filming a show, or as simple as just picking up a phone call.

Now, what does this have at all to do with game development? Respect. Respect for your colleagues and employers to produce the best work possible. Respect for your craft to capture the emotional essence of your subject. Respect for your friends and family in making time for them amid all that work. Respect for yourself, in knowing that by doing all of these things, you are making the world a better place to be in, either in person in front of someone, or from thousands of kilometers away as someone enjoys your production. 

So in short, if you’re feeling down, get some perspective. How you do that will depend on who you are. You might not even be able to control when and where it happens. It can be as simple as a song lyric, or as complicated as losing a friend. But know that you’re not alone out there and that you can push through it.




This post feels like kind of a downer, so I’ll let you know that there was actually a third motivator. I read on twitter about a Duruma Doll. Quite frankly, the mental image of a battalion of one-eyed dolls staring me down freaked me out man!

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