Today is the day I start trying to promote the Problem Machine, to spread awareness of it beyond my immediate circle of friends and family. I’m basically terrified.
Some things come easily to me. I’ve always been creatively inclined, probably in large part because I tend to distance myself so much from others. Isolation has allowed me the luxury of focusing on my work for long periods of time, a gift which I have frequently squandered. At the same time, one of the hitherto unstated purposes of this work is to make the emotional connections with people that I have a hard time making through the normal personal interactions that most people rely on. However, I find it terrifyingly difficult to make the first step, that of saying “here’s something I made, it would mean a lot to me if you looked at it.”
I’ve written hours of music. It’s been listened to by perhaps tens of people. This kills me inside, sometimes, but I never do anything about it. I never reach out to share my work, to share my mind. In the end, because of this, I end up working less because it feels like no one cares. Of course no one cares, no one knows.
Today I strike back. Against loneliness, against frustration. I’m finding my courage on a keyboard.
I tell you all of this partially as a pep-talk to myself, but also to finally say something that I’ve always had a difficult time saying: Help me. Help me to promote my work, to find an audience that’s ready to care, if only slightly, about what I’m doing here. Help me to be a real person who communicates with other real people in the real world.
This is so outside of my comfort zone. I’m terrified that I’ll let you all down someday, that this will become another in the internet’s vast graveyard of ghost-blogs. But if I don’t commit to this now then this project is dead before it ever even lived.
In the end, we’re all in this together. We’re all creating art in order to share something which we don’t know how to share any other way. My disability has the potential to be my greatest strength; I can’t share much of anything normally, so the channel of my artistic expression is by necessity widened to express the pieces of discontent content lodged in my mind.
How terribly self-indulgent of me, to show my emotions. The internet must be so ashamed of me. Cynicism is contagious and pandemic, and it’s so hard to be sincere. Sometimes, though, you just have to pass the metaphorical kidney stone before the words will flow.
Frankly, this is not made any easier by the fact that I’ve observed countless well-meaning and sincere individuals torn to shreds by angry comments for stating their perspectives on game design. Time and time again, I see an article stating that designer X holds opinion Y and immediately the comments section overflows with bile. How dare he, they ask. Why, he’s only made these one or two games which I didn’t like and are therefore terrible! Or he’s made lots of games but I didn’t like the most recent one so obviously he’s out of touch! In particular, I’ve noticed that pretty much any time Jon Blow (designer of Braid and the upcoming The Witness) has an opinion on anything the internet instantly shits itself in incoherent rage.
I find this response a bit bewildering, honestly, and the anger involved somewhat misplaced. The publication they’re reading seeks out interviewees who they believe people are interested in hearing from and then interviews them. Surely these people can’t be blamed for merely responding honestly to the questions asked of them. If anything, it should be the publications fault if they’re publishing opinions which you consider irrelevant. Or is what’s offensive to these people the idea that someone would hold this opinion in the first place? If so, why would the qualifications behind that opinion be relevant at all?
Of course, I can recognize that it’s all just a knee-jerk reaction to what they perceive as an attack on something they love. I can certainly sympathize with that, but a little bit of self-awareness would go a long way here.
Anyway. All of these digressions are a verbose way of saying that the terror of being torn apart by internet-hate-monsters has so far superseded the disappointment of not having an audience. Or, far far worse, the terror of simply being ignored, of trying to make a connection and share something and simply being told, implicitly, that there’s nothing worthwhile about what I can create. I have dedicated far to much of my life to developing my capacity for creation for that not to sting like a wasp nest full of sriracha.
I feel like such a hypocrite. I can’t count how many times I’ve seen someone link a personal project and refrained from looking at it because I didn’t think it would be the sort of thing I was interested in. How can I turn around and ask people to care about what I’m doing after dismissing others so brusquely? Isn’t that just terribly self-centered?
Perhaps. I wish I could say I’ll be more open from now on, that any time someone, anyone, endeavors to show me what they’re working on I will look at it, enjoy it as best as I’m able, and then provide the best feedback and encouragement to them that I can. I would be lying, though. I can only dedicate so much of my time to looking at the creative output of others, and I have to prioritize that based on what I believe will be worthwhile. I’ll try to help my peers out when I can, I’ll try to be open to what the world has to offer, but in the end my first obligation is to my own work.
All I can ask, in the end, is that if you somehow find your way here, and if after you get here you like what you see, remember, and say something. Tell people about the thing you found that you liked. Communicate, and share. Not just my work either, share anything you find that you think is amazing. connect with people in the ways that I have so much trouble doing.
The more we share, the more we have.