I envy the absorption in a creative activity and also the growth they experience in terms of their skills. Think about it - at this point this guy isn't just a great programmer, he is also an accomplished designer, artist, writer and musician. A true renaissance person.
I'm quite focused compared to many people and I don't waste a lot of time with social media, television, etc., but I'm nowhere near like this guy.
About four years ago I decided I wanted to learn a second language and I poured a lot of effort into learning Spanish over a three year period. I got to the point where I could carry on a conversation with a Spanish-speaking person quite naturally, read the news in Spanish, etc., but I never felt entirely fluent. Then things got busy and my attention shifted and now, a year after I was last really actively learning, I know my skills have deteriorated.
I want to get back into it but I'm struggling to find the motivation. It feels like work and I already work hard. And truthfully, it always felt like work, it's just that I really wanted the experience of understanding and being able to speak another language. I got to that point, but I don't feel like I took it far enough - and this seems true of so many things in my life. Pretty good programmer (at one point), decent enough entrepreneur, not a bad father, solid writer, crappy musician but having fun with it, kind of fit but not terribly so, etc. In short, jack of all trades, master of none.
I realize I'm rambling a bit, but to tie it back to where I began, obsession seems like a bit of a cognitive shortcut to me, a path to excellence that feels less like work and more like addiction. Is that true or am I just intellectually lazy? I want to dive into something, to find something that holds my attention raptly for the long term and generates true personal growth along the way, but I don't know what that would be, and in four decades of living on this planet I don't think I've ever come across anything that fits that bill.
My goal was to figure out what parts of me added up to being a coherent whole as a person, at least w/r to career. (With other aspects, too, but mostly "what should I spend my time on, really?")
And this kind of thing is never wholly about skills, interests and talent - they are starting places, but personality and natural tendencies were a much bigger factor in my judgment.
And it helped. I found some insights about what I could/wanted to do, my personal principles, and how I might put these things together in the form of a career - like, ah, yes, I like teaching things and advising, but no, I don't want to do it in the form of formal education. And so on, probing different aspects of the process and teasing out what was most and least painful and working towards "mostly painless so that I can really focus on perfecting it".
Then over the summer I tested out some of these ambitions and found where I was and wasn't limited - like, if I wanted to teach, could I do it by streaming? After working through the logistics I realized that I had something more like lectures in mind, which would communicate better as video. Then looked into video editing and polishing up my voice work and realized that I needed more than one format to do everything I wanted. So I decided that I would have a "multimedia blog" with writing coming first, but lots of images and supplementary content.
So I started on that, and have posted a few articles and shared them(mostly with friends). I don't post at a high rate but it is proving to be a good way of directing my writing energy away from comments like this one(hmm...)
Since the season has changed, I'm probably due to try evaluating myself again and looking for another way to inch forward and focus on what topics and techniques I'm meshing well with.
This is precisely why I avoid checklists and reminders, unless it's for collaboration purposes, events, or managing tasks for team based projects
If I need a checklist for a personal project, this means I haven't built an obsession over something I really want to do.
The fastest way to build an obsession is just to rapidly explore as many topics as possible, and document things at a shallow level continously. Eventually you'll come across bits of metadata you left behind, realizing that you had already looked into this once before, maybe you should consider deep diving. This could be forked github repos, likes on videos, buying electronic parts and building shitty DIY projects lying around, music you've learned, etc
I realise this is a difficult thing for most people to tap into. But I’ve thought about this, and I think that most of my “obsessions” have come about after seeing someone else doing something poorly, and thinking to myself “I bet I could do better than that.” If I follow that initial curiosity through, it often turns into a full-blown obsession.
For me it's when I can provide help to someone. I'll easily not get anything done for a week, hear someone struggle with something that I could solve with a bit of code (often gluing various API's together), and I'll get right at it.
I'm also triggered/motivated by 'optimizing' stuff in my life. If something in my life strikes me as suboptimal and some code might be able to fix it, I'll happily try to find the least effective but most educational or fun way to solve the problem (XKCD be damned). My life is filled with the coding equivalent of rube goldberg devices, and it's almost a shame that nobody can actually see them.
I guess it has to do with education too. If at some moment in your formative years you were taught that obsessing about anything is bad, then that idea can be still lingering below.
Keep looking! But also, it's possible at 40+ that you may have already found it. Perhaps you've not given that thing the chance it needed for you to fall in love with it — the days and weeks of exploration and the obsessive iteration mentioned in the GQ article that it takes to grok something and absorb it until it feels like it's yours.
I'm almost your age and now rewinding my career path. I kept chasing different tech career paths hoping to find something that “fit the bill”, which only showed me that nothing was as interesting to me than what I started my career doing (game design/animation). It took a couple of changes to realise that:
- Reflecting on how I spend my free time and time on social media, and the speakers and personalities I'm fascinated by and naturally drawn to. (They are mostly game designers and devs.)
- Looking back at the work in the past that has made me happiest and most fulfilled.
From there it was a case of having the discipline to commit to it — I spend most mornings and evenings skilling up and having fun with game design and development, although my day job is still in front-end right now.
On the motivation side of things you mentioned, I don't think it's a case of “find the right thing and you'll find your motivation.” It's more a case of discipline, projecting your self now to your future self, and knowing a few psychological techniques. A couple of things have helped me with that, and they're at opposite ends of the “mind trick” spectrum:
1. Jonathan Blow (designer of Braid, The Witness, owner of Thekla, Inc) has several videos about dealing with lack of motivation that are worth watching:
The pace is slow because it was delivered as a live stream and not a rehearsed talk, but stick with it — he has some great tips about becoming self-aware in order to recognise and reverse the more moderate feelings of malaise that are commonly experienced with any creative work.
2. Jocko Willink (retired Navy SEAL) has a good podcast dealing with motivation, discipline, and committing to your thing:
- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yoEv5PxrDvs (a compilation of “best of” clips from his podcast).
With Jocko, I had to fight the urge to close the tab — it can be hard to stomach “just do it” pep-talks that feel like an audio embodiment of those motivational posters at first. But several things kept me listening to that, and I became hooked on his other podcasts:
- The idea that motivation can be summoned by cultivating the discipline to commit to a thing; motivation is not some external thing that you have to seek out and capture.
- The concept of procrastinating your procrastination — you might not feel like doing something from your routine today (be it exercise or hacking on a project or learning a language), but do it anyway; you can always not do it tomorrow if you feel the same.
- This was pretty hard-hitting for me: “That second that just went by. That counted. And so did that second. And in those precious seconds, you are either building, or you are decaying. You are either gaining ground or you are losing ground. In that second. And in every second.”
The interesting thing about the Valley Forged article for me was that Eric seemed to fall into it — he didn't set out on a path to find something to dedicate 5+ years of his life to, like those game developers in Indie Game The Movie who wanted to make games since childhood. He wanted to make a game to get better at programming, and that evolved into an obsession almost out of happenstance. I think there's a lesson there that throwing yourself into things that seem fun wholeheartedly and with discipline can yield better results than skimming topics at a shallower depth.
This is classic survivorship bias.
There are countless stories of one person obsessing over some project, making progress, sometimes even shipping the project yet not getting the recognition/fame/money.
Meanwhile they are losing relationships and health in the process.
The great novel is a common culprit, but the great app is a fast rising contender.
The main thing to remember is "building/shipping is not enough".
In fact the one intriguing thing glossed over in the article is how he managed to get a distributorship deal.
It's a one-person project as well, and a truly amazing work of art.
Played it with my partner to get all the endings and achievements; it's been an amazing experience.
Although I wouldn't call the game depressing - I found the satire funny as hell.
It's still pretty successful worldwide, with major fan conventions and contents being released in PS4, Steam, etc. Quite an interesting phenomenon.
> But throughout the four and a half years, he never once reached out online by asking questions or speaking to another developer for advice. He hates asking for help.
Perhaps he did some searches but it sounds like he never interacted with a site like StackOverflow.
I think many of us can relate to the obsession with detail, but hearing how the publisher discovered him and their impressions of his work would have been a nice pay-off.
For example, when I read "working 12 hours a day, 7 days a week, for 4 years", that's just impossible.
And a Kotaku interview confirms this (http://www.kotaku.co.uk/2016/03/21/the-past-present-and-futu...):
Kotaku: How did you avoid burning out? How did you avoid coming to hate Stardew Valley?
Eric Barone: There were periods where I had an idea or something that I was really passionate about, and in that moment I would work like crazy. I actually just literally wanted to see that thing come to life as quick as possible because it was fresh in my mind. I had this fire to create that.
Then there would be other periods where I just kind of didn’t feel like working, so while I would sit there and attempt to work I probably did a lot of alt tabbing and just browsing Reddit and stuff like that. I would waste time, and I would be a lot less productive.
So he's human like all of us, but it's still really impressive what he was able to pull of, no question about that. He's an inspiration for all lone game developers.
I'm just saying, take all these articles with a grain of salt. It's journalists doing their journalist thing.
The moment I read "12 hrs a day, 7 days a week" I felt very disappointed with my own style of working. I usually work at max around 1/2 to 1 hour a day, even though I spend 3 - 4 hours on the PC. But during binges of feverish thoughts, I lose track of time in work, and can easily not notice 4 - 5 hours consumed.
You can be disciplined at staring at the screen, but you still need that genetative tide. That comes from what's yielded by not being obsessed by the immrdiate. So, again, in my experiencr, spending time present in the real world is beneficial for your ventures.
“Amethyst” and “piston” are the two engine projects. I’m not sure if studios are using them or I’d they're building something in-house.
While I agree that it's uncool to ignore your partner to an abusive degree, it sounds to me like they communicated about it and she was consciously and proactively supportive. (I would support her owning a significant cut of the profits, even if they ever split up. She sounds incredible to me.)
The main reason that I hit reply, however, is that when it comes to having a passion project that consumes you, it doesn't feel like work. Some of the happiest moments of my life have been when I've been able to shut out the world and focus 100% of my energy on something I am deeply committed to. I think that it is pure, noble and for people like me, the way in which we are most fulfilled. It's not a job but a calling. I 100% get it. I also appreciate that it's not for everyone.
However, just because you don't understand it does not mean that it's somehow less than the ways you choose to spend your time. What you see as sick, I see as privileged.
I'm very surprised you feel that way. It's actually the other way around in my experience. I personally am and know many 30 something couples where one partner has a steady mid to high income job and the other partner is going for a moonshot starting up. It you can afford to support your partner taking a shot like that, why wouldn't you?
But this is about marriages or similar commitment, not "before being broken up with", and also not "unconditional", you need to think it's good for your partner too.
2. Great book and I can wholeheartedly recommend it; on one hand it's stories on video game industry and its characters - on the other hand it's a primer on complex project management as well.
Money is probably a prerequisite to being able to do that at all, but it’s not the entire deal.
Concerning the financial side of this, I think "must have" is a bit of an overstatement. A family with one or more children is often supported by a single income (and, from my recollection of reading "Blood, Sweat and Pixels", I don't think it mentions them having children, though I could be wrong).
Not at all trying to diminish what she did, however!
"Eric’s duties as partner had slipped drastically behind his personal ambition to perfect the game. He guiltily recognizes Amber felt lonelier and lonelier as he pushed on, but he did little to address it—he still worked 12 hours a day on the game, often going straight from his desk to the theater for an evening shift."
This is an entirely different level than a stay at home spouse. The article mentions he worked part time during this period, and that his girlfriend is currently attending college. So this is not a situation of a sole income earner, but rather a man so obsessively dedicated to a project that it consumed nearly all aspects of his life.
You will support your spouse directly via alimony, usually for a period half the length of your marriage, but if you were married 10 years or longer, this does not apply and there may be no set end to alimony. Mine was $1800 per month for 4 years.
I have 40% shared custody of my kids (they actually spend more non-school hours with me, but I digress) and still have to pay $1700 per month in child support, because (at least in CA) you are required to maintain the same standard of living as the children had during the marriage.
It may not be about income and finances during the marriage, but if it goes wrong, and you are the one that has been providing the support, prepare to swallow some very bitter pills.
> four-and-a-half-year journey from a college graduate being supported by his girlfriend to a sudden multi-millionaire
Yeah. Just like the real victims of war are women and children. /s
forgive me, but gender norms have changed even in eastern europe. Is america that left behind?
Labor force participation rate for women, by country:
US 56%, Lithuania 56%, Estonia 56%, Germany 55%, Finland 55%, Latvia 55%, Austria 55%, Portugal 53%, Ireland 53%, Spain 52%, Luxembourg 52%, Slovenia 52%, Czech 52%, Slovakia 52%, Armenia 51%, France 51%, Hungary 48%, Bulgaria 48%, Belgium 48%, Albania 47%, Ukraine 47%, Serbia 46%, Greece 46%, Croatia 45%, Romania 44%, Macedonia 42%, Italy 40%, Moldova 39%, Bosnia 35%, Turkey 32%
Iceland 73%, Norway 61%, Sweden 61%, Denmark 59%, Netherlands 58%, Belarus 58%, Russia 57%, United Kingdom 57%
In most developed countries the rate is slowly but surely reaching equal levels.
By the way, he had more support - started the game in 2011, published it to greenlight on Sep 2012, got a publisher in 2013... (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stardew_Valley#Development)
No hidden tricks, no freemium, no download manager or account logins. Just good software as an executable. Pay the money, download the standalone exe and enjoy.
Do you think no one but Wada Yasuhiro should make farm RPGs? That seems like a shabby thing to wish on a genre you claim to love.
I noticed it a few years back when Minecraft was taking off. Any voxel-based building game was immediately labeled a "Minecraft ripoff" by the same people who praised polished, unambitious platformers and shooters and RPGs. Usually they'd never heard of Minecraft's inspiration Infiniminer, just like you apparently haven't heard of Harvest Moon...
> The game received praise for its gameplay, graphics, and story, while being criticized for familiar open-world tropes and lack of innovation.
( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spider-Man_(2018_video_game)#R... )
Some might argue that if you nailed the gameplay, the graphics, and the story, it shouldn't really matter how much "innovation" you have. By hypothesis, the game looks and feels great. What's left to criticize?
Map size seems to be shrinking back down, or at least not be the main selling point for open world games nowadays, and there has been significant criticism of the objective style missions that seem to have become the "fetch quest" of the genre.
I'm very curious what you mean by this. Are you talking about all the "craft this" etc. achievements in Minecraft?
This style of side mission just pervades open world games nowadays. Spider Man is no different with its towers, street crimes, environmental cleanups etc. but the world is a joy to get around in so I enjoy it a lot more than other similar games.
To use another example of an open world game, take Breath of the Wild which has a huge world but with a lot less of these typical trappings of modern open world games, apart from the korok seed hunting.
You could say the same thing about every side-scrolling fighting game.
For those of us who know exactly what they would do with the opportunity to spend thousands of hours on a calling, this guy is an inspiration.
It would be interesting to know what he actually thinks but I know because I have actually been in that situation (unf, more than once). It isn't fun, it is soul-destroying to pour your being into something you love with no reward. Even if you are "successful", that initial experience of feeling trapped taints it (indeed, the whole point is that you are immune to notions of success/failure and the experience changes your notion of success...if you come into thinking about success then you will get washed out in a few months).
And he was successful despite it. He would have done okay whatever he did. It is just a little unfortunate that he had go down that path, imo.
He was a huge fan of Harvest Moon and he wanted to make a spiritual successor. Paragraph 3: “I think it makes sense that I worked entirely alone,” Eric says. “I wanted to do all the music, the art.”
The article does talk about how he was not getting hired for the jobs he wanted, and he knew he'd have to level up his skillset. However, it's also self-evident that within a year he'd secured a publisher and taken an advance... so his job search became an educational pursuit which became an opportunity to build something that by any sane definition is a labour of love.
I'm not weirded out that you're not inspired, because it doesn't sound like you're the sort of person that would become inspired to create something like what's described. And that is fine, right?
Many of us, however, are inspired by stories like this. It's not just video games, either... but Braid comes to mind as an example of something that could never have come from Electronic Arts. It's also the only game that Roger Ebert conceded constitutes art.
For what it's worth, I'm sorry that your projects didn't work out. Arguably, if doing something you love isn't its own reward, then you might be doing the wrong thing.