What now?

It’s been a while since the last entry. I’m still here, alive and doing mostly fine. A lot has changed since I have written it. However, I feel like the time experienced back then left me with quite a lot scars and bruises, mentally, and it will take time to get back. I definitely believe in “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”, so I plan learn from that experience. I don’t think I can make myself immune to pressure, expectations, disappointment, be it external or internal, but at least I know where the road leads to if I push myself too much.

So what’s going now? Currently I’m at the airport waiting for my flight to San Francisco where I’m going to attend Game Developers Conference. Thanks to being involved in organizing Global Game Jam, I qualified for one of the All-Access passes to the conference. Getting it is like dream coming true. My first possibility to face the gaming industry in person, and not just reading articles and books about it. I can’t be happier! And in San Francisco out of all places! I don’t even know how many years it’s been since I dreamed of going to US, and SF in particular! Even as I’m sitting waiting for my flight I think I still haven’t fully acknowledged this is all true. I’m as calm as never, and I was during all the days before the trip.

But that calm is also something that arrived after my breakdown. Shortly after the last entry I decided to take a break from studies. I’ve been thinking about it since mid-November, but I didn’t have the courage, I thought I can force my tired mind to push through. In December I learned that I got the pass to GDC, and with the new goal on the horizon trying to focus on the school became even more difficult, juggling all my responsibilities at school, and being afraid of losing “chance of a lifetime” if I don’t prepare right and get rest before GDC.

A few days ago I watched a couple of TED talks, and as usually with TED, they were very inspiring. I can relate very well especially to this one about the the inner “hum”. I got tired, overworked, by my own ambitions, I liked what I was doing, maybe I didn’t love it but I liked it a lot at least. But as the pressure continued and I had barely anything to balance with it, I just burned out. Seeing my motivated classmates and feeling guilty for lack of that motivation made me retreat. What I wanted was not to be as good as the, but have that passion that they have, because I know I used to have it, but I lost it somewhere along the way. However, my passion is different from their passion, mostly in how much I value entertainment (i.a. video games) and amount of non-profit things I like to engage in.

I was a vice president of the student union, chief editor of the school magazine with the unwavering sense of responsibility that that magazine has to come out every week, and no matter how little time I have and how tired I am, I will make that happen. At the same time I was organizing Global Game Jam in the city where I study. Trying to work on my portfolio to have something to show for myself. And of course the regular 6+ hours a day school work. Sounds pretty impressive. But it completely doesn’t feel like it to me. I did most of those things because I wanted to, not because it was expected or to get any direct benefits or recognition. I recently read about an “impostor syndrome” – people who do great things but don’t give themselves credit for it. Can that be? I don’t have any particular one great thing I did, but all of it together makes something, right? I feel uncomfortable when people praise me for those small things, because they don’t feel anything special to me.

I’ve spent 3,5 years in Sweden now. People ask me if I plan to stay here, and I always answer the same: I want to work on cool things with cool people, no matter where it is. And I was working on cool things, maybe they were small, but they had a lot of meaning for me and were enjoyed by people who were just receivers. But then the problem became the “with cool people” part, which was lacking, made me feel very isolated and alone in what I was doing. I don’t like working alone, I’m not looking to take all the credit for myself, I want to enjoy what I do with a reliable team of people with similar values. I didn’t feel that was the case. The social frustrations became so exhausting I had to quit.

Of course I can put all the blame on other people. I can’t change other people. I can change myself though, and be cautious about falling in such situations again. But changing one’s mindset is not easy.

It’s been a month and a bit since I started the break. It was the best decision I could have made and I don’t regret it one bit. But I still haven’t found my lost motivation. Another TED talk I watched was about “finding home”, finding your way back to the passion lost in the face of adversity. I realized that my entire life I wanted to design, graphic design, web design, game design, but always design. Being at UID made me feel that I can call myself a designer, even if I subconsciously knew I am a designer. I never wanted to do any other thing in life. I always wanted to design things for people. And I still do. I just have to find my path back. I know the destination, I just need to find the way.

I’m gonna wrap up this another insanely long entry of my personal reflections on my “luxurious problems” of being too ambitious, and not working with the right people.So what I do now other than waiting for my epic trip to start? I stay at home play games and try to survive the ups and downs delivered my brain, and find my lost motivation.

As a concluding thought I want to share this entry by Marc Merril, the CEO of Riot Games, because I found it very inspiring, and relevant to my case.

 

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Realizations, part 2

Some time ago I wrote this entry called Realizations where I presented some of my thoughts on my future, education and skills. I want to follow up on that a little bit now.

Intro

We have this project now, a transportation design project. The brief stated:

During this 4 week course students will have the opportunity to choose a specific area of transportation to develop. Students must have chosen a segment of transportation and a specific area or detail to work on and deliver a brief description.

Expected learning outcome
After completing the course students shall have gained some knowledge of the complex World of Human interaction with transportation design, at the same time evaluating the effects of form and function in an integral part of design development. Students will also demonstrate basic skills in communicating their ideas and concept, reflecting on their strengths and abilities in the design process.

As open as that. No particular requirements, go with whatever you want pretty much. And that’s where the problem starts for me. I chose snowmobiles, out of lack of ideas, and though that one was at least somewhat interesting. And it is in fact, I loved the research part, reading opinions, seeing history of the machines, how they looked 10-20 years ago, and what directions should the improvements take. But not that it comes to applying this research… I haven’t done a single thing on it for 1.5 weeks. I’ve been thinking about it, and planning to work, but it just never happened. Why? Because what’s the reason actually?

Realizations

I realized that I’m very reason-guided person. Whatever I do in design or any sort of content has to have a clear reasoning and motivation. But in case of this project I just fail to see the reason to work on it, other than passing a course. And, honestly, that’s the same sort of experience I had though 4 years of my bachelor studies. Learn this and that to pass the course. IDI doesn’t grant me a degree and it’s a skill-improvement course for one’s own pleasure pretty much.

Over the recent projects and experiences I realized that there are things I enjoy a lot and I’m good at, for instance I really liked a recent short Arduino course, and I loved the previous project for the library. While organizing Global Game Jam I had a great time co-ordinating everything and now I’m volunteering to organize Music Tech Fest, and I spend large part of last weekend on helping with their website. Even though I abandoned web design for the most part, I still understand the code and I still enjoy it, and now having that experience of working on improvements for a large WordPress site I realized I’m pretty good at that.

Back to the project then. So basically, I’ve been doing quite a bit of meaningful and enjoyable things recently. I found out what I’m good at and what I like doing. And sketching is not among them. Nor is designing transportation or any part of it really. So why should I put my efforts in that? Of course expanding skills is good, but how much do I have to do that? I feel like my skills and interests are broad enough and I should finally start to narrow them down instead of expanding.

I’m basically the only person in my class who doesn’t like sketching. I don’t feel confident with it, but I also never really had any passion for drawing. I see how it’s useful, but it’s just not my thing. It’s not relaxing for me, it’s stressful and uncomfortable. Others like it, so for them having a meaningless project like that should be fine because they get to practice sketching.

Well, yes, I did pick a thing that doesn’t really require that much sketching, but still. It comes down to the reason. For the library project, we did it for the library, for Gardena, we did the project for the brand, and the previous couple projects were targeted at teaching us ways of working, just introduction. Now it’s no longer time for meaningless introductions like that in my opinion.

TL;DR

I don’t like how open and seemingly meaningless this project is. My inner need for reason for everything is violated. Over the last weeks/months I realized that there are things I’m good at and I enjoy a lot and have enough skills to work with (graphic design, web design and coding, organizing events). So in the end going to the gym everyday and relaxing feels more meaningful than working on a project that is “just for passing a course”.

Realizations

Ever since I came here to Umeå I keep meeting people who make me realize things about myself I have never thought about. Changing my point of view and broadening my perspective. It’s in fact incredible, really. I guess it’s going to be easier to create sort of a list with that.

1. Quite early on, right after beginning studying in the HCI program I was presented with what academics is. I also noticed that I was one of the youngest, if not the youngest in the class. That made me realize it’s not necessary to complete the studies in 5 years, get a job and work there for the rest of my life. It’s fine to study even being older, while wanting to change the  field of work, etc. I also realized that great careers and clear view on what I want to do in life is not for people my age, which I was delusionally believing. I was made believe that I need to complete my studies all at once and find a work and be great at it. Of course, there are some “genius” young people like that, but in most cases it comes with experience – working in different places, trying a bit of different things, independently from education.

2. I realized everyone has some work experience, except for me. Some people worked for a couple of yours in the field related to their studies, some – just anything. I have NO EXPERIENCE AT ALL.

3. At some point in the beginning I talked with a classmate about how much I love playing video games. The conversation made me realize that this industry also offers jobs. Literally, I have not realized it before. And it’s not necessary for the best of the best. Of course, it’s not easy to get a job in game industry, but I think it just requires motivation in working towards it. A bunch of people play video games, but many are lazy, they might say it would be nice to work in a gaming industry but don’t do anything to make it true. It’s like grinding for an achievement for beating the hardest difficulty, I’m talking like Dante Must Die mode in Devil May Cry or well, harder, requiring much more persistence, motivation, and skills, but so damn rewarding.

4. Games I classified as “not real games” are, in fact, real games. Just the target audience is different. I thought I’ve been playing video games since 2007 when I started with Devil May Cry 3, because The Sims or Harry Potter games don’t count. But they do count! Right now I’m re-playing Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone which I played 10 years ago, and it feels very much like a proper game to me, even though it does not require shooting and slashing through enemies. I have never also counted the Pegasus games, because it was a Pegasus, ever kid had it. Just recently, I learned it was original Nintendo games, and Pegasus was a Super Nintendo rip-off. And I had my first computer where I played Dizzy on Norton because Windows was crap back then. Looking at it this way I have nearly 20 years gaming experience, not 6 years as I thought. Writing an essay for one course made me realize it.

5. I am actually above average. Both essays for two previous courses that I’ve done last moment (as usual) that I evaluated as terrible quality got a pass with distinction. But that’s teachers’ opinions and preferences. I also see I have more skills in design than others. Well, of course, I’ve been doing that for many years now, purely as a hobbyist though. But still, I’m surprised with how often I’m meeting with “I wouldn’t be able to do that”. Just surprised. It comes down to me realizing I have more skills than I thought I had, and they are not strictly amateur skills.

6. I tend to judge people based on their skills in speaking English. Basically, the better you speak English the more I want you to be my friend. Concerns mostly spoken, and accent influenced by person’s mother tongue. This one is really disturbing though, I realized it last week I think.

7. Sometimes it’s quantity over quality. I wish to apply to study interaction design at some point. I talked with a couple of people about portfolios and such. Apparently what matters is variety of skills rather than great skills in one thing – something that I believed until now.

8. Continuing the last point, I realized that I have experience with variety of “artistic” expressions. I have never really been into drawing, what for me is the ultimate artistic expression. I’ve done some simple things such as scrapbooking-style cards for my friend. I can obviously do some images in Photoshop. I can design and code websites. I am doing some amateur photography, going with my Canon camera thinking I’m so pro, haha. At some point a couple years ago I even done some simple drawing in watercolors. I have also even wrote a story once, and I keep writing various blogs for many years now. Recently, I had a workshop in movie animation. Earlier I also had one course in putting together a movie. Although quality of many things was questionable, I have experienced them and in a way it goes into my portfolio, at least the one that could make me qualify for interaction design. Most of all, I LOVE trying new forms of expression.

9. My wasting time on the Internet is not entirely pointless. I see a lot of images. I collect my inspiration designs, pictures, awesome stuff. I learn about some technologies or just awesome things that exist. As a result, I can come up with ideas in brainstorming more easily than as I thought. I can usually come up with some idea fairly quickly, maybe it’s not a great idea , but often good enough for a starter one. I always thought I’m terrible in imagining solutions, but maybe not so much after all.

10. I started a course at the Institute of Design recently, and I learned that what they mean by sketching is not the artistic sketching I have in my mind, and that interaction design does not require a degree-in-arts-level drawing skills. And as this entire list says – many things I thought were certain way or meant certain things are not that. In the end, all that made me realize that I have some substantial skills and abilities, however, unfortunately, unproven in the real world. Still, they seem like skills that could be useful in real world, at some point, hopefully.

10 points for less than a year, that’s pretty fair amount actually. So even if I haven’t learned much on the courses here, I learned a lot about myself and my surrounding, in a certain sense. Definitely worth coming. Staying back home I would probably still not be aware of many of those possibilities, reasons, etc.