Identity Crisis: Game Developer

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I am a father to an awesome son, who inspires me. I am a husband to an amazing woman who makes me a better person every day. So why is it that I don’t lead with these defining features when asked to talk about myself? Instead, I default to talking about my profession.

The answer is quite scary, Game Development Culture.

Recently, I was introducing myself to someone, where it suddenly dawned on me that I was programmed incorrectly. My response focused on my career first and family second. The more I looked at this oddity, the more I started to find similar outcomes. Disclaimer time; as always this is my stated opinion. Some people may not agree that this represents either a personal or an industry problem.

Twitter Profile

As I stared at my twitter headline I had written only a few days before, it further demonstrated my problem. I hopped around to a few other developers profiles and found they also suffered from the same prioritization.

Before
After

I can understand a certain level of professionalism on specific platforms and documents, such as LinkedIn or a cover letter on a job application. It wouldn’t be appropriate to include personal details in that capacity. However, the developer identity crisis is a real thing.

I used to put such a high value on my job, that it defined who I was.

Polling more game developers about this issue lead to an immediate trend where of the 28 in the sample group, 27 identified themselves first by the industry proficiencies — scary stuff.

Crunch

Currently, there is a lot of positive work being to improve crunch in the industry. To create work environments where crunch isn’t necessary. This whole topic makes me wonder if we, as game developers are not somewhat responsible. We all live and die by our last project, so we naturally want it to be great.

Even as recent as my latest project, I can remember putting in countless hours without even thinking about putting in for the extra hours. My boss had told me an hourly cap for the week. Yet, I wanted to work more to get even more done. Messed up, right?

Added to this idea is the notion that the game development industry is one of the hardest to break into and find a job. A little voice in my head is screaming, “you have one of the coolest jobs in the world, you make video games!” It’s a recipe for creating work-a-holics like me.

Posers and Fakes

This industry identification is almost a borderline obsession. It explains to me why so many individuals fall into the trap of getting overly agitated when someone says they’re part of the industry when they are not. We all know the poser type; the people that have never released a game, yet speak like they have been in the trenches before.

I’d wager if the game developer identity didn’t have such strong feelings surrounding it, some of the conflict situations could be avoided. Humanizing the problem also makes me feel bad at times for people who are faking it. I find myself trying to figure out why is it so important to them that they get seen as a game developer.

Taking A Step Back

It’s good to get some perspective on an issue. I think I’ll be happier knowing that I have this problem of identity; so I can work on stopping that way of thought. I still love my job, but I must remember that it is just a job.

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