Frustration as motivation is like throwing a whole container of gas into the brazier. The flame is lit for damn sure, but at what cost? To kick off my blog I’m gonna discuss one topic that has been on my mind for quite some time. Strap in, because I’m not pulling any punches just because it’s the first post.
As we know it or are at least familiar with it, frustration is the outward propulsion of unmet expectations and general case irritability. From the hot red anger that seeps within the depths of our spirits (much like that of joy, and sadness) we let loose an internal storm of pent up energy. All of this of course, leads to anxiety, negative thinking, and the physical or even mental sense of pressure – all of which inevitably influences all that of which we do. With such a wide and open definition of frustration it becomes very clear how this can be applicable as a fuel source to motivate our projects and desires.
Joy and love for all that we are passionate about shows that you can indulge (sometimes excessively) into something and still have it be a healthy thing. Further down the spectrum we have sadness – which to be frank does not seem to be motivating (although there have been odder cases of its impact on the creative muse) Both of these are commonplace in any field, but let’s home in on the impact of frustration in the field of content creation. It is after all a fundamental part of the spectrum of the development experience – but is it a healthy source of fuel to burn?
Since this is after all my own blog, makes sense to use a personal example to paint a picture. Like any normal human being I’ve spent years playing video games “in the name of research” (inb4 yeah that’s what they all say) – and as a part of my formal education I’ve taken the liberty of involving myself in just about as much as I could in the world of video game development. I’ve watched conferences, read interviews between major game magazines and famous game console designers, and even went to Game Jams/Hackathons to see where my skills lie in this wide scope of video game design and development. To put it plainly, I made sure that the tools on my belt where the ones I needed to get started. So what next?
Before I began my years of research, I felt it essential to put my name on something. Doesn’t matter how bad it was or how I made it, I needed something to show that I was a true blue “Video Game Developer”. Before I even really knew what the concept meant, I went to work. Time and time again I was met with obstacles that really should not have been as challenging as they were had I been better informed (or read the documentation!) but using a program called MIT Google App Inventor I made a fun little android game called Happy Droid. The whole premise was to tap the android guy (and he did jumps/jumping jacks as you did) as fast as you could before the clock ran out. I set the goal of making something, and by gods I did it. But at what cost?
I often joked with those who played it – because of it’s simple mechanics – that even though its just a jumping android guy I put a lot of blood sweat and tears into it. An old adage, but what I was really trying to say was “You should appreciate this as much as it frustrated me to make it”. At the time did that concept really hold the weight it should have, or was it the impact of an inflated ego? Realistically I was too much an infant in the field to really know where I was with the project, and it became shortly abandoned after as I did not have much to add to it. This of course came much before the post launch day festivities (marketing, PR, bug fixes) even entered my radar of “TODO” as a dev because at the time I just skipped that phase entirely. It was just a dumb little game I shared with friends.
Fast forwarding to now, I am met with a different form of frustration. Feeling the urge again to constantly work on something, to spend my waking hours behind an IDE pinpointing bugs and troubleshooting errors. With the self proclaimed title of game dev you always want to have something to show for it, no matter how serious or renown you are. So of course I’m making an active effort to learn aspects of Unity game engine, and exploring the more “programmy” side of the more plug and chug game maker applications I’ve come to know and love. I read all the books and take all the notes. That sort of thing. By the time I actually get around to working on a project, I feel like it’s out of sheer frustration that it “must be done” rather than doing it because I want to.
Reeling this back in, the previously mentioned project came into fruition because of the sheer will and frustration I put into it. I spent more time developing it than I did learning how I should develop it (although I did “learn” how to develop on the go it was nothing compared to what I later learned). The end product met the means of creation, but in retrospect there just wasn’t enough moderation. There wasn’t self care, there weren’t breaks except for those phases of the day where I ate and slept, just point A to point B until my priority driven mind came to the end. If I were to go back and do it again, it would obviously be done slower. More time to process how some things worked, the different ways I could have designed things logically, and there would have been a much more in depth plan of “what’s next” even after I had finished making it. I think one of the major keys in development, any field really, is just moderation. Balance how much frustration, sorrow, and joy goes into your project as to not gimp yourself of any experience and you’ll feel all the more better by the end of it.