One of the biggest problems within the game development industry at the moment for a lot of people is awful work hours and high dedication to getting things done by sacrificing basic employee rights so that the project reaches its milestones. It's awful and it happens with nearly no recognition for it. Burn out is a very big problem and if we keep ignoring it's just going to exacerbate even worse as projects grow larger and more in scale as time passes.

I had my own experience of burnout and general overwork this past year and I thought it would be useful going into it


Background

Leisure is only possible when we are at one with ourselves. We tend to overwork as a means of self-escape, as a way of trying to justify our existence.
— Josef Pieper, Leisure: The Basis Of Culture

For all of 2015 I had been working, way to much. This included sleepless nights where for almost of April during a story assignment I got a maximum of 18 hours sleep for the whole week because I was inexperienced in modelling and was trying to make a three storey mansion as part of the assignment constantly making n-gones in the geometry of the environment and screwing up countless times just so I could have it done.

Then from June - late in the year I was doing a lot of preproduction work that I don't really need to get into as it was just prep but that in itself was stressful, as projects were entirely resting on me making sure I had A LOT of shit together that just ended up being meaningless. While I could take it as experience it still hit me hard as I spent months stressing out and losing sleep only for it to return nothing. As well as another project I was apart of that had very little production schedule behind it made me feel uneasy, and that I was going to fail my assignment had threw on me unrealistic expectations for that were going to be impossible for me complete had been making me mentally unwell in a lot of scary ways; I wasn't good

Come late November I was at my near wits end, I wasn't at the breaking point but I knew if I continued the way I was going I wasn't going to be make it. I tend to be a really selfish person to myself and not care  about myself very much when it comes to caring about me; it took family and friends to say that I needed to get better.

The problem and it's effect on the soul

Sometimes I get so caught up in my own problems that I forget how amazing the world is.
— Wendelin Van Draanen, Runaway

 

Now that there is some background into what I experienced (mind you a lot of people have it way worse then me so don't use me as a benchmark for optimal crunching) I'll now go into my particular issues and how I was feeling at the time.

Someone put it to me really well, athletes have physically demanding jobs, eventually even they can burn out and need to recover. The same thing applies to mentally demanding jobs which require someone to be thinking really intensely for long amounts of time.

For me it was a case of "okay I spend Monday - Wednesday waking up at 6am just so I can make it to College which involves most of the time 9am to 5pm staring at a monitor. Then when I get home I spend even more time on my personal computer mostly trying to hone and increase my skill set and by that time I go to bed at 12 only to actually fall asleep at about 1 because my brain is too active. Then on Thursday I spend that whole day working on personal projects as much as I can with my team with the same type of conditions as the Monday - Wednesday College. Then Friday I get up and have a chill morning and start teaching myself from 11 am to 3pm. Then I go to work as a cleaner at a butcher shop for about 3 hrs because I need what ever money I can get, go home afterwards and collapse. Then Saturday and Sunday I wake up at 10 am to run to my other job and work 12 hrs. Then that's my week entirely, during assignment time I would limit my sleep even more but that's an average week for me.

Honestly it didn't hit me how badly I was treating myself until family, friends and people I knew told me that I was unwell. I don't like whining despite what some people think of me but for the most part I never do anything for myself personally to make me happy or healthy and that definitely contributed to the overall mental burnout for me.

It's hard to describe how I was feeling in a lot of detail but if I could compare it to anything...it's almost as if everything in your life be it a good or bad influence was stepping on me, slowly stomping my body into sludge where I couldn't move, think or care. I know it sounds over the top but I generally fell that imagery matches me at the time.

I knew it was a problem because I would wake up and question if what I was doing was worth all the time and sleepless nights.

Solution

If only there could be another way to do this, cause it feels like murder to put your heart through this
— Tame Impala's "Eventually"

I decided and many others advised that I have a lockout of all work and all social media for a while to recuperate, I took it to heart and decided to venture out to Forster for 10 days with only a book, pen and camera while seeing some family and new born cousin once removed.

It was hard separating from my schedule and work, I was always so connected to it and it took me a while to truly sink and just forget about it.

But I found doing something creative while I was gone be it writing or photography, made me realise why I loved what I did but also how important I am myself. I have never given myself importance, care or love before and this retreat I took which was essentially me in a forest near some beaches for 10 days taught me how insignificant everything I worried about was in comparison to the things that flew by me.


Final note:

Care, love and dedication to ones soul, mind and body should be just as important as your work and I've never had that mindset before. I don't know if it was the people I was with that made me that way but I know for sure now the way I'm going to live and work now

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