"When people ask me if I went to film school, I tell them, ‘No, I went to films.’” - Quentin Tarantino
This quote sums up something very important: If you want to work in a certain field, it’s pretty important that you participate in it.
If you’re a chef, you’re probably interested in trying out new foods.
If you’re an author, you’re probably reading plenty of books.
If you’re a game developer, you’re probably playing gam-
Oh… Wait… No...
Unfortunately, many game developers take great pride in saying “Oh god, I’m so busy. I haven’t had any time to play any games this week/month/year/decade."
We’re typically so overworked that we view any time that could be construed as “fun” to be a total waste.
THIS ISN’T A GOOD THING.
If you’re so busy that you can’t enjoy the very thing you’re creating, then something needs to change.
LEARNING FROM TOP PERFORMERS
When chess prodigy Josh Waitzkin was 8 years old, he was already on track to become one of the best chess players in the world.
At his first national tournament however, he lost and was completely devastated.
What did he do then? Did he double down and practice harder than any of the other kids? Did he wallow in self-pity? Did he have a slick 80s montage featuring deft maneuvering of pawns, queens, and rooks?
No. He and his family went fishing.
When he came back from this vacation - one where he barely played any chess at all, he won his next championship and became a national chess champion at the age of 9.
In Josh's book (The Art of Learning) he attributes this leisure time heavily toward his success as both an International Chess Champion as well as a Tai Chi World Champion:
“I have come to understand that these little breaks from the competitive intensity of my life have been and still are an integral part of my success.” — Josh Waitzkin
If top-performers like Josh (among many others) attribute their success to having periods of downtime, then isn’t there something to be learned here?
In the past, I was certainly guilty of thinking of downtime as wasteful and unproductive.
This type of thinking has lead me to burnout and eventually lead to me hating my work.
If you’ve been working in this field for any length of time, I’m sure you can relate.
Taking some downtime, playing some games, and (most importantly) not feeling guilty about it can make a huge difference in your daily productivity.
It can completely revitalize you, not to mention give you some inspiration for your current projects.
IT’S NOT A HUGE TIME COMMITMENT
And before you give me the common responses of “Well games are long so who has time?!” or my favorite “I’M ALWAYS ANGRY AND YOU WILL BE HEARING FROM ME ON TWITTER” (an increasingly common reaction) please note that you don’t need to play games for 60 hours at a time to get any value out of them.
Just a little bit here and there will go a long way.
Maybe you only have time to play 1 hour a week. Great.
Taking the time to enjoy other people’s creations can make the difference between peak productivity and feeling like you want to want to boil your computer in a vat of oil.
YOU OWE IT TO YOUR BRAIN
So what am I playing?
At the time of this writing, I just finished Life is Strange as well as Contradiction: Spot the Liar! (pictured below).
Every time I play a game, I come back to work with greater gusto and can get tons more work done in a short period of time. It’s pretty easy to get inspired with all of the great stuff that’s out there.
So go, be free, and play some games once in a while. You owe it to your brain.