Almost a year in the making, I’ve finally done it. I start working in the game industry on Monday.
Everyone I’ve told has been jumping for joy and acting like I cured cancer. The sentiment is appreciated, and I’m definitely not ungrateful for the job or rolling my eyes or anything, but it’s sort of mystifying for me. Sadly, this position isn’t in creative development or quest design. It’s a very important stepping stone to get there, and I’m thrilled to finally be able to work in my own industry, but as a kid, I never celebrated second place or almost or close, not when I knew right on the money or champion would be within reach. I’d acknowledge the fact that I made it as far as I did, but I wouldn’t kick my heels up and say “WELP, this is it, close enough, I’m done.”
This is also why the mod I’m working on for Civilization V is taking forever and a day.
More importantly, what no one tells you about accomplishing a life dream (and do not misunderstand me, just getting into the industry is one of them) is that it is terrifying as shit once you actually achieve it. Before, it was an abstract concept, a “yeah, I’d like to do that someday” where you always had the thought in the back of your mind that not everyone gets to be an astronaut or a ballerina and that somebody’s got to be around to make the sandwiches at Subway, so all you can really do is work hard and never stop until you a.) get there or b.) die. Now you’re sitting there with an itinerary for your first day in front of you realizing that this is it. This is where you find out whether or not you’re actually good at it.
Getting the job is one thing. Being able to deliver is another thing altogether. It has nothing to do with being confident in your own abilities — I know I’m good, but am I good enough? Did the interviewer misjudge me and make a bogus recommendation that I have no way of living up to? Am I going to finally get into a studio only to look like a total moron by the end of my first week? I’ve devoted all of my resources and most of my life to this, even going so far as to put the game industry ahead of myself and my relationships. To go down in flames now would mean that I sacrificed a good 90% of my life and all of my financial stability for nothing, not to mention that I don’t want to let anyone down. I hate letting people down. Every rejection letter I received up until this point, I felt like it was a slap in the face to every friend and family member who believed in me. When I notoriously screwed up my phone interview, I was too embarrassed to ever follow up with the recruiter I’d been working with, even just to say “thanks for trying,” because I felt like my failure made him look bad in the eyes of his colleagues — “you think THIS loser would be able to do the job? Hahahaha, go back to recruiter school.”
Not to mention my battles with PTSD and a complex mood disorder. I think I’ve got them pretty well vanquished for now. Despite no longer taking the medication that ended up incapacitating me, I can still do things that were once completely unimaginable, including leaving the house and talking on the phone. Where once I was so agoraphobic that I couldn’t even handle being on a high-population server in World of Warcraft, I’m doing my grocery shopping with my head held high, even splitting up with The Fiance when we get there so that we can grab what we need from opposite ends of the store. I’m chatting with the cashiers. I order my own food in restaurants instead of hiding behind the menu and wishing that everyone else in the building would just evaporate. But there’s always the lingering fear that I’m going to relapse, that one day I’ll wake up and be unable to make it into work because the world outside my window is just too terrifying. There’s the worry that I may randomly burst into tears at the office or that someone will sneak up on me as a friendly prank and I’ll end up flipping them down onto the floor with my foot pressing down on their neck until somebody manages to snap me out of it (it’s happened before). I’m terrified that even if I’ve made it this far and I can actually kick ass at the job, the Sha of Mental Illness is going to show up out of nowhere and ruin everything.
And then, of course, there’s the normal “new job” jitters — am I going to like my boss, is my boss going to like me, is this job actually going to be as great as it sounds, that sort of thing. The game industry has its own set of “what ifs” to contend with, things like “what if the entire office is made up of dudebros who aren’t going to ever take me seriously or give me a chance in CDev because I’m a chick” or “what if I fuck something up so badly that the entire game is a failure and it’s all my fault and I ruined everything?” I’m agonizing over what to wear on Monday. The dress code is Standard Game Industry, i.e. the unofficial uniform of jeans and a hoodie, but do I want to go that route and blend in? Do I maybe want to wear something a little cuter and more feminine, or will that make me seem prissy and unreachable? How much makeup do I wear? Should I just skip makeup altogether? Will black eyeliner prevent them from taking me seriously as a colleague? Oh God, is too much grey showing in my hair right now?
The reasonable part of me points out that as long as I don’t sashay into the office wearing a cocktail dress and Jessica Rabbit hair and makeup, I’m probably okay and nobody will even pay me any mind, but those “what ifs,” man, they’re brutal. I can only imagine what a wreck I’m going to be after I get into the specialization I’m aiming for (hell, just thinking about it, my brain is screaming “WHAT IF YOU CAN’T COME UP WITH ANY GOOD IDEAS BECAUSE YOU USED EVERY BRILLIANT THOUGHT YOU WILL EVER HAVE IN YOUR DEMO PORTFOLIO?!”).
To answer your next question, yes, it is extremely exhausting to be me.
But I’m not going to run away and hide, because I’ve worked too hard and struggled too much to get to this point. My foot is in the door, and I keep reminding myself that I am extremely good at what I’ll be doing and will probably be fine. Everyone I’ve spoken to at this studio has been a great human being so there’s absolutely zero reason to expect anything different when I get there on Monday. And if someone has a problem with my eyeliner, they can go fuck themselves. I am the Bunny Overlord. Let’s do this shit.