I’ve been having a really productive week at work so far, and it made me reflect on why I love what I do…
When I was younger, I worked a minimum wage job at a pita shop. I felt, at the time, that my life was decent. I had some good friends, I had a decent apartment, life was stable. That’s all I wanted. I used to tell people I was ok staying where I was for the rest of my life. I’d reached a minimum level of comfort, now all I wanted to do was maintain. My friends and family, rightly, called me on my bullshit. They said it was a cop-out. I was too afraid of failing to even try. So instead I was trying to get comfortable at bare minimum. Thankfully I eventually outgrew that outlook on life.
Now that I’m in Design I find my job even more rewarding more often. Even the bad days.
At first I wasn’t sure exactly what it was I loved. I figured it was just “I make video games, that’s objectively awesome!” But I knew that wasn’t it. Sometimes games get cancelled, sometimes you work on games that aren’t a game you’d play on your own time, sometimes you have to work a lot of overtime, etc.
Then I figured it must be the creativity. When I was at BioWare, I worked on games I felt were striving to be art. I know a lot of the Designers there, and know they find immense creative satisfaction with their jobs. Even when I was in QA Design there, when my feedback would lead to a design change it was incredibly rewarding to have an impact on something I considered a step forward for gaming. I don’t work on AAA hard-core games anymore though. I’m a Game Designer at a studio that makes casual games. Don’t get me wrong, I think casual games can be fun, high quality and satisfying. But generally speaking they don’t strive to be art. I get to be creative on these projects, but the limitations are often strict. So I was left with the conclusion it wasn’t creative satisfaction that was the main driving force behind the love of my job.
And that was the eureka moment. “Problem solved!” This is why I love my job. Every day, every single day, presents a brand new problem to solve. I’ve always sought out mental challenges, things to devote my mental faculties to. Now I get paid to do it.
In my short career I’ve had the pleasure of meeting many people much more experienced than I, some with experience dating back to the “beginning” of the industry itself. And the one thing I’ve been able to gather is that the challenge never fades. Nothing is ever a given. Like most jobs dealing with technology, the advancing tech means new challenges. And Design is a fuzzy, subjective field. Yesterday’s “right” answer, may be “wrong” tomorrow, depending on trends in gaming. And if you’re ahead of the curve, you may even have a part in starting that next trend.
No two days are ever the same. One day you’re trying to implement branching paths in a level, the next you’re learning a new scripting language for the new game engine, another day you’re working with Programmers to find a low-cost solution to a Design request, then the day after that you’re working with the Art Department trying to decide how to convey danger zones in the level. And the answers are never the same.
The younger me, the kid working at a pita shop, was afraid of change. Afraid to try in case he failed. He preferred a safe routine. Thankfully eventually change did come. Now every day brings a new challenge, new limitations, and new solutions. Every day I get to apply my mind to a new puzzle. I get to work with intelligent, creative, passionate problem solvers. I get to watch something eventually rise from nothing. I get to have a growing body of work, evidence of countless problems solved.
That’s why I love my job.