Forces of evil
Apr 14, 2013
5 minute read

Creating something is an insane enterprise. Really. It’s like the whole world has decided to gang against you and just do everything in its power to prevent you from getting anything done at all.

Inertia

Inertia is the fact that things take time and effort to get rolling. Many envy the ones with a large following, or tons of released works that they look up to, but they forget it wasn’t done in a day.

Everything takes time and effort. Stuff like #1GAM, and other challenges you set for yourself are useful to overcome that, because you set up things in a way that no matter whether you’re happy or not with the result, you still have to do stuff regularly - and that makes you better at it.

Of course, inertia can work for you as well - after years of effort building up a fan base, you’d really have to do something silly to lose them all at once. It’ll slowly decay if you don’t do anything new, but there is momentum that is conserved for some time at least.

Entropy

Entropy is, simply put, the fact that the universe loves chaos. By default, everything is shit, everything is disorganized, nothing works, nothing is beautiful. Nothing is smart.

To get anything consistent, or pretty, or smart, you have to work your ass off because the forces of nature are working against you, making everything go to hell. As a human with a creative itch, you’re betting against all odds that later down the road, all the work you’re putting in will eventually end up making a coherent whole that has positive properties somehow.

Even if you do succeed in making anything “good” by any criteria, time will call back what’s his (or hers?): “bit rot” is the well-documented phenomenon that code, when aging, will tend to look like it has more bugs, or stop compiling, or some library will get updated and your code won’t, so incompatibilities will appear - in short, if you don’t glance over your code regularly, you’re fucked. It’s all going to hell one way or the over.

Experience

Experience is a terrible thing. When you lack it, you lack the basic capacity to even evaluate how much work something will take. Even seasoned developers routinely underestimate the time it’ll take to implement something.

When you do have experience, you underestimate the amount of work it’ll take someone else to accomplish something that you can do quickly. For example, I have a tendency to think that programming is really easy! All it takes is some logic, the ability to walk through code in your head, organization, a keen sense of where bugs are hiding, good architectural thinking to design you code in such a way that it can’t possibly fail, and.. wait, that’s several years of training right there.

Character traits

As if that wasn’t enough, there are tons of character traits that will hinder your quest even more.

Self-censorship will prevent you from working on what you really want to achieve. You might think it’s not going to be received well - and who could prove you wrong, in a world where everyone is quick to judge anything and plaster all sorts of defects on it that it doesn’t necessarily have.

Even when something has, objectively, room for improvement, the mere fact of reading criticism on something you have done is disheartening and will easily discourage you from doing anything more.

Impatience will drive you mad when you can’t get the results you want quickly. It takes a whole lot of courage to work on something for a long time and not see results as it grows - that’s especially true with code. With art, it cuts the other way sometimes: you can see or hear something very early on, but if you can’t project yourself in the future where that something is awesome, it’s easy to lose motivation, because what you have right now, frankly, is shit.

Culture of mediocrity

But perhaps you’re unaffected by all that, happily trodding your way through gigantic volumes of creative endeavors, blissfully unaware of all these problems that, I’m sure, plague many of us.

There’s something, especially in the US, that I call the “culture of mediocrity”. Of course it’s tasteful to encourage someone, especially if they’re facing all the evils (and more!) that I listed above, but as all creatives know, getting honest feedback on a piece is really, really hard.

In the indie scene, there are few people willing to hurt your feelings and tell you that, frankly, no, your game doesn’t look that hot, that the controls are terrible, and that for Agatha Christie’s sake, stop doing yet another 2D pixellated zombie survival remake of whatever triple A game tickles your fancy, please!

It’s a fragile balance - encourage too much and people won’t set the bar high enough. Be too harsh and you’ll kill some promising careers in the egg.

Conclusion

Considering the above are just reflections of what I personally go through (and ruthlessly assume everybody else does, too), I think it’s not an overstatement to say that I’m thoroughly fucked.

These days it’s hard to do anything at all. Thousands of voices in my head tell me how wrong it is on so many levels, how bad an idea that is, how terrible I am at drawing (from scratch), how little people care, how badly anything could be interpreted, how I’m basically spending a useless life in the quinary sector…

When you think about it, it kinda sucks.