The true test

Having started the first proper week back in university, two facts are made abundantly clear. The first is that there’s going to be plenty I have to do in order to get through to the end of the course. I’m not kidding around, sometimes it feels like they’ve brought back homework and given it a different name and context. Second, I pretty much have to do everything on my own. I can’t make a game on my own, because that is fucking impossible for me to do within the time I have to complete the course and my current skill set, but everything else I have to do on my own. This is largely going to consist of written proposals for the first part of the year, but going forward I expect my pathway to be much more research oriented.

To me, this is the onset of a new challenge. In the past, I did do things on my own, but there was a lot of teamwork, for all the good it did for my cynical soul anyway. But now, I see myself having to devote myself to independent study and research. This is where the true test comes in. If I can succeed in this effort, then I can prove that I’m more than capable of researching and thinking independent to a wider world in which I hope to gain employment. If I succeed, particularly if I get a 1st, it will be proof, not simply to myself, it will proof of my intellect. And if I can find the path to using that intellect to get me a sustainable income, and hopefully allow me to spend my days in America, it will be a great source of pride and happiness.

I have an awful habit of underestimating myself that I haven’t really shaken off, and I feel like even with my academic successes (by which I mean my written work being highly marked) that thought tends to be reinforced by my actual design work, which I don’t rate very highly myself. I keep being reassured by others that this is actually the sign that you’re better than you think, as in Dunning-Kruger effect, but I compare my own work to the others and I’m convinced that it’s objectively worse, even if it’s not that bad. If I can get a job anywhere in the games industry off the back of exceptional independent research, which my lecturers think is possible for me to produce (and they wouldn’t have reason to doubt me based on results), then I hope it will help to put this shit to rest.

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Done with my third year at university

This next post is just a quick update on my part in what’s going on for me personally, as I have some relatively important news. As of June 9th, I am officially done with my third year at university. And by officially, I mean that we’re done with the game showcase we were doing and my program director flat out told me that there’s nothing more to do and there’s no real point in sticking around after that point until the next academic year. For me this means there is nothing to do other than prepare for my fourth year, wherein I undertake the Masters course. Because I’ve signed on to an integrated Masters degree continuing directly from third year, I don’t actually have a graduation ceremony until next year.

So what does this mean for me? Well, I’m probably going to be looking for a part-time job for the next few months and find some activities for myself so I don’t get bored. A summer break can be very long for me, and the last two breaks I didn’t get up to much. I will definitely need to spend some time planning my next project for university, particularly as one of the tutors wants me to submit a few ideas to him.

The program director has offered me an interesting avenue of exploration for the coming year: he identifies one of my greatest strengths on the course as my written work – that is reports, dissertation, any kind of written academic analysis – to the point that he considers me more of an academic than a designer. It’s an interesting if slightly disappointing assessment, considering that being a good designer is what I’ve wanted to be the whole time. But, I do believe him all the same. He told me that I should consider working towards being a game design academic within the fourth year, because that would meaning working towards my strengths, which he says will be more practical and successful for me in the long run than spending the fourth year trying to build up skills that I have struggled with before. I am still considering what I want to do, but I may well take that offer.

All in all, I’m not sure if it’s been a good third year or not: I like to think I’ve done well and I have improved in some regard, but I also think some of my efforts have been wasted, and I feel like I have fallen into some counter-productive habits. I took the project I was working on very seriously, and the fact that we were all supposed to be working as an organized team effort. When the other team members weren’t living up to expectations or they were acting like idiots, I always resented it, and over time that resentment built more and more especially when those kinds of fools were telling I was in the wrong, even if they were right. And eventually this, coupled with the project becoming more and more like, made me feel bitter and detached from the project, whilst at the same time there were still the attachments that developed towards the conduct of others because it had affected my morale. I don’t think I was all in. That’s why I decided to something new, separate from my old team. I’ve wanted to do it for months now, and I think I will be free of the attachments and the bitterness. I’ll hopefully be refreshed, all in, and pushing what I do further than before. For now though, let’s just make the best of a good summer.

A hard lesson

One of the longest abiding struggles I have had in university was the struggle with my colleagues. Not only have I frequently disagreed with them, but I have also actively resented some of my colleagues a lot for various reasons. Particularly in the team for the game I am working on. My colleagues either attend university infrequently or are frequently late, when they are supposed to show up regularly and in fact they are supposed be there between 9am and 5pm each week day, while I’m the only one who shows up at 9am (in fact I usually show up slightly earlier than 9am). And they have a habit of leaving other responsibilities related to the course until late into the project cycle, like necessary recording for development trailers. Coupled with the impression that most of them are into all sorts of bullshit from social media. Because of that I have come to detest half the people I work with.

And I think this may have actually influenced some bad things on the course. What frequently occurred was that I would set about the work we talked about and I was expected to do, but when I did it I felt perturbed by one of the colleagues. And I’m the kind of person that hates being perturbed. Basically he would look at my work as I was still working on it and tell me how it should be done and I wasn’t prepared to show him anything because it was still being worked on. But the biggest source of my contempt was by far the fact that he convinced us to essentially turn what was , and he used my poor marketing strategy (namely my choice of demographic) to justify it. It went from a supernatural-based beat ’em up involving a half-demon protagonist, to a fantasy-based version of that with some of my intended themes intact, to pretty much the same thing without the narrative that drove it and the design direction changed to suit a shortened experience that we would have to make. And because of that, while I was willing enough to work with them and typically kept to what I had to do, sure of what I was doing, and hated the idea of taking cues from someone who I see as having molded my project in his own image. But I would learn that this was actually the cause of a potential problem.

Yesterday I briefly attempted to design a logo for the game, or rather for the game show. I was convinced that I was finished with the task I did beforehand but was unsure of what to next so decided to wait for my colleagues to show up and make the logo while time flew by. One of them showed up and noticed what I was doing, and proceeded to complain that I was doing the logo without having the discussion for it. We then had a long talk about the problem of just going off and doing work on your own, which thinking about it now seems weird given they sometimes tell me that they stayed at home rather than go to university just to work on their own, but it was a pretty deep conservation all the same. We talked about the problems of the other group, who have a much worse problem with communication than we do, and how one of their group members doesn’t actually like the project that he’s doing but just gets on with it and does work on his own and the others aren’t happy because it’s out of sync with the art style (they’re doing a cartoon-style platformer, and he doesn’t like platformers and doesn’t usually draw in a cartoon style). It very much made me think I was having the same problem. At one point, the program director for the animation course interjected in our conversation in order to give us some advice. He felt that the discussion we were having was a step in the right direction, and pointed out that a problem with development projects in the games industry is when the team members are always against each other and don’t care about the project in the end, and so don’t communicate with the rest of the team and just get on with the work. According to him, the result is that not only does the game fail, but that failure becomes attached to you in that other companies know you made that terrible game and don’t want anything to do with you.

After that, I took on a new perspective of the team dynamics. I didn’t realize until know that they were actually interested in helping them, because I thought too little of them to think that they were actually interested in helping me. I was jaded and resentful because their antics eroded my morale, but as much as I often hate what I see as a lack of commitment, they aren’t complete shitheads. Now I see two sides to this whole thing. I still think my colleagues’ lacking in attendance is the sign of a lack of commitment and there is good reason to resent such behavior, and the program director for my course has expressed similar and more vociferous sentiment on the matter. But I may well have created a problem that, for at least the other group on my course, was worse: a lack of communication. And I’m not sure I’ve completely cultivated the balance between individualism and the spirit of collaboration.

Time for an update

So here’s an update for the blog that I kind of feel like putting out on a number of subjects.

First, and foremost, of all, I have less than a month before the end of my second term for this year at university. That means I have quite a lot to do and increasingly less time to do it in. The deadline for my major project is March 27th, right before my birthday, and both of the reports that I have to write are due on March 31st. So I might be busy. Maybe not busy enough that it’ll stop me from slacking off during weekends, but busy enough that it might make the rest of my schedule pretty stringent, to the point that I will likely put things off in order to emphasize my coursework, because that has to come first. I may, however, plan for some posts to be written in the meantime, because there are still things I’d like write about.

Second, I plan to talk about current events and politics significantly less than I do now, so that I can detach myself from those things. There’s going to some rants that I have waiting in the wings to be released pretty soon, and obviously there are soon-to-be-current events that I think ought to be covered (for instance, given that it is now March, we’re waiting on the Netherlands and later France to cast their votes in general elections), but other than that I want to begin to distance myself from such subject matter beyond the rants I have coming up this month unless a really pressing or important development catches my attention. The reason why I want to do this is because I am sensing that there is the danger that I’m going to become entirely too focused on such subject matter. And I know that we’re living in some wild times right now, so there’s probably a lot of developments that might show up ripe for analysis, deconstruction or just plain savagery or mockery on my part. But I am beginning to think I’m getting caught up, and that’s bad.

Third, once I have enough free time after the end of my current term, or ideally before that, I’d like very much to revisit the drawing board, and return with a post or two about some reflections on Satanism and other philosophies, as well as what probably be a long post about what I consider to authentic Satanic philosophy (particularly on account of the fact that I’ve criticized The Satanic Temple for not observing). Part of me is thinking that I’ve got my eyes off the ball. I mean I’ve got my eye on the ball regarding my coursework, I believe, but sort of away from the ball in other areas. Maybe it’s laziness in some respects if I think about it, but then that’s surely the sign of another malady in itself. I hope I correct it sooner or later if that’s the case.

Calming down…

After that rant about what the woes I’ve been feeling about my academic life, I have been talking with people about the matter in order to get some advice and counsel on the matter. After a while, I kind of realized that I had been a little harsh on myself, and my extreme dissatisfaction combined with my impatience with the others that I work with made me feel the way I did and it wasn’t actually necessary for me to do that. It was a very emotional reaction let’s say. I suppose in my own defense, for a rant on my personal blog it was acceptable to vent such an emotional reaction, but for my own sake I ought to pursue a correction and make things straight.

The reason I often get mad with my colleagues is not just because of what I perceive to be them shutting me down, but because of the fact that they blow off the course when it suits them – whether it’s not showing up on 9am when they’re supposed to, or leaving early if they can get away with it when they’re supposed to stick around until 5pm. This is supposed to be treated like you’re actually in a job, and for me I see it as a matter of upholding a contract. I signed up for the course, and I’ve obviously put some money into it, therefore I am expected to actually do what is expected of me and be punctual. This has been my mentality for all of my student life, and I believe there was even a time where this was considered…what’s the word again? Work ethic! Or as I call it, virtuous and honorable conduct. I think that this is expected of all us, and since I work in a team, and we’ve been told in the past that we have to operate as a team in order to do well. The fact that my colleagues do not observe the same standards hurts my morale, especially when we’re at a point where we can just be in the studio for hours and use that time to discuss what we’re doing at pretty much any time outside of lectures. Maybe I should detach my sense of morale from the lackluster standards of my colleagues, but it’s hard for me to because, aside from me having to deal with them on a regular basis, the mere idea that I’m the only one who actively pursues work ethic and actually tries to uphold the implicit contract. That said, the program director is kind of with me on this in that he thinks that my colleagues are pretty much lazy, and he seems to notice that I don’t always get along with my colleagues because of it. In general I’m the kind of guy who, if you made me a producer or a boss, I’ll take an artist or an artisan who isn’t half as good as whoever the most talented artists are at that time but who commits to his work, shows up on time when he’s supposed and all that stuff over a genius who doesn’t care about any of those things and is just a total punk-ass (for lack of a better word). In short, I value conscientiousness.

One thing I didn’t talk about last month, despite having then returned to university after the winter holidays, was how I did in the last semester. The big reason for this is because I never received any formal marks on paper other than for my dissertation. Eventually I stopped waiting for my marks and looked them up on my student Moodle account. I found out that my marks for this semester alone are higher now than they’ve been in previous years. The average mark I got for this semester was 75. The average mark for last year was 62, and for the year before that it was 58. To me, this means I have clearly progressed as a student and am getting better and doing what I do, and I hadn’t realized that yet. Now that I have, I think “I don’t have the right to feel beat down about anything”. I know that what I am doing is, ultimately, getting me good results. And now that I’ve seen that, I feel better and I can carry on doing what I’m doing. To me, even if I’m not doing as good as I’d like to, I think I’m seeing the results of the way I do things pay off. The only thing that remains is just taking what I do and doing it better, putting more effort into it.

I will carry remembering the principle of pride in worldly accomplishments, and I won’t allow myself to be dragged down by other people for no reason or by any emotions that become inflated in the process.

Starting to get tired….

This is a rant that I saved for when I finished the previous post about an experience I had in university, or rather a rising feeling of exhaustion and disillusionment.

Let me explain: over the past week we were supposed to be designing what’s called an art target, which is a basically a visual representation of what we’re supposed to be design, with all our design work proper being based around that general representation. Towards the end I had received a message from one of my colleagues explaining what we needed in an itemized form, and I run with it thinking “OK, let’s do this”. The next day, we got shitcanned by the program director because the art targets we generated appeared to be bland, flat and uninspired. I wasn’t fully sure what I did wrong at the time, but I didn’t say anything. All the while I just had this feeling of resentment – I followed the advice of my colleague, and we got shitcanned for doing so in my mind, and all I want to do is try and fix that, but every time I come up with something it’s always wrong, apparently, and when I try to help it feels. In addition to this I spent the opportunity, doing almost nothing but drawing some quick sketches on paper in one night, and one Photoshop the morning after, each time trying to perfect my skill at trying to convey something artistically and then I get told it’s not about how well you draw.

So as I designer I’m starting to think I’m always doing the wrong thing, or doing something the wrong way. All the while, when I got told “you’re a gamer, you’ve played games, what is it that you like about them?”, I just didn’t know what to say. And after that, I just felt like such a fraud, and that filled me with a sadness that was difficult to contain. I know everyone else got told the same thing, and it wasn’t just aimed at me, but that didn’t make me feel any better. It didn’t change the fact that I don’t know why I’m even here. My written work is great, I can analyze what I do, and I’m competent in areas such as character rigging and creating environmental assets as well, but I feel like in terms of basic design I feel like I’m just not cut out. Worse, I feel like I’m just taking cues and following instructions! And why? Because other people always project this sense of confidence and knowing what they’re doing, so, logically, it just felt like a matter taking the word of people who I assumed knew better than me. But the people I work with frequently come across such a non-committal bunch non-committal trollops with a blase attitude to the course. I’m there every morning, showing up at exactly the time I’m supposed to show up, while they usually show up later than me and one of them always has a reason not to show up, and they only buckle down and change this as of this week and even then I’m still convinced at least one of them has dedication issues. And when they’re gathering “research” for their designs, it feels like all they do is get from random work that someone did on Deviantart or some shit, while I try to go from real-world sources and recognized fictional media, sometimes including other games if I have to. I try to go out of my way to avoid quoting other games that are like what I’m working on unless I have to because it’s the best way to explain what we’re trying to do. In my mind that’s called, oh I don’t know, fucking originality! As I write this I feel like I’m letting myself get played and I’m thinking “why the fuck am I doing this?”.

But I already know why. Aside from what I said earlier about them projecting a sense of confidence and the appearance that they’re better artists than me (which judging from their actual work seems to be grounded in reality), the game I worked on used to be my project, and then they joined and convinced me that doing things their way might actually make a better game. I submitted a design document back in April 2016 and the next month we had our documents marked and my document was one of two that were judged by the lecturers to be the one being worked with. I was surprised that that happened, because by my money I had done a shoddy job of the document, and I think the target demographic I set for the game may have been a major weakness, having limited a potential audience. In a free market in the actual games industry I probably wouldn’t give a fuck, but in university we have to have a public exhibition for our games and we have to worry about people being repelled by what I might create. So anyways, we then formed groups of three for each project corresponding to each document, and we discussed how we were going to do this. They convinced me to turn the game from a supernatural-oriented beat ’em up into a fantasy oriented beat ’em up, because they thought that would be more accessible. For a while, after discussions, I thought I could still make this kind of unique, preserve some elements from the original idea I had, and make this into something I could get behind. But as time went on and we made it into a simplistic game for virtual reality, that became less and less, until now I’m convinced that this isn’t my game anymore, not since the others joined me in creating it. Now, in terms of design, it feels like their opportunity to do some World of Warcraft wankery.

Because of all that I’m hating the people I work with more than I did before, and from the looks of it I have to work with them until May. I can’t help but wonder if we’ll get into a situation where I say “I hate you”, and one of them says “well I hate you too”, and I say “well I hate you more” and all that bullshit. But then I also remember that part of it is still my fault. My fault for not writing a better design document, my fault for being convinced by them that their way of doing things had merit, my fault for not taking more control. Because of that, I felt less justifiably angry and more like the sense that I was kind of a screw-up who had no business in game design. But I can’t quit now. It’s the second half of third year. What’d be the point? All I can be certain of is once the third year is over and I continue into the Masters portion of the course, I never have to work with them again, even if it means working with only one other person. If I have to work with the same people again, I would resent the prospect. If I have to work on the same game again, which is being talked about, I would resent the prospect. And the main reason I’m continuing is for my own advancement as a technical artist, because the better I do on those terms the better my prospects will be later in life if I get into the industry. I wonder if maybe, just maybe, I’ve discovered the errors tied to pursuing something for your own advancement? Because it’s not as though I’m all in regarding the project I’m working on, particularly if I’m convinced it’s more akin to the project of someone else who hijacked my original idea to make it their own, whilst quoting other games in the process moreso than I could have done, and on purpose no less! And particularly not if I hate the people I have to work with. This is for my own advancement now, and even though being a Satanist I shouldn’t be bothered by that, I am worried that by the end of the project I will wind up being poorer, not richer, for it.

Time for a happy Winter “Mass”

Today is the end of the first part of my third year of university. I break up for three weeks of winter holidays after having finished a VIVA presentation and having to hand in two written assignments, including a dissertation (or about as close as a 6000 word document gets to a dissertation on my course). It’s been a lot of work, and I think I’ve been progressively busier as the months went by until I opted to just get my shit together with the written assignments.

Now I honestly just want to begin the winter holidays and get into the spirit of the Winter Mass – my own name for the Christmas holiday season, or rather the time between the start of the winter solstice and New Year’s Day. Basically this means I start doing nothing other than try to have as much fun as possible, especially given that this has been quite a year for me. Yes, I ask not much more of 2016 than playing video games, playing my guitar, and some reading I didn’t do, interspersed with a lot of movies. There’s still plenty of time for future blog posts between now and the time when I have to get back to work again, which will of course be some time in January 2017. Essentially, I’m going into festive mode as it were, and I plan to enjoy the fruits of a long fucking year.