I've been doing lots of pondering, as I'm often prone to. As of late my pondering's been centered on a pretty specific facet of my life that's relevant to this blog. It's something I think I only really began to be cognizant of at some point midway through the development of Dubloon, and since then has only ballooned, particularly as I've gotten farther into my work on Phantasmaburbia.
In considering the general path of my life, a particular trend has been very visible in the last handful of years. There was a point in my life when I was a pretty socially active person. I always had semi-artistic leanings, sure. I drew comics and came up with card games and ran a website or two, maybe, but these were all expressions of various interests which I might have introduced to strangers as factoids alongside my favorite color or my favorite Pokemon. And then I started to get into making computer games.
I think the first really visible signs actually came when I was finishing Assassin Blue. I was running a website at the time (which is still online) where I posted scans of doodles in my notebooks. It wasn't anything great or special, but it was one of the things I did for fun and I was still in the process of cultivating a steady stream of visitors. And then one day I stopped. You can even see now that on my last update to the site I reassured that I was going to update on a regular schedule that week, and never did. I never even came back to correct myself or to apologize. I completely and honestly forgot about it entirely, and spent that entire week focusing on Assassin Blue stuff. And then the next week, and the next. Whoops!
The trend from there gets only more predictable, and largely already known to this blog's readership. I went on to work on more games. Slowly I stopped actively drawing apart from compulsion. I had a promising start as a writer of fiction that quickly faded. I definitely stopped maintaining any sites that weren't directly related to my games, let alone maintaining a presence on communities that had at most a tangential relation to my growing interest.
All of this is probably well and normal, really. I found my passion! I should be more than happy, and indeed satisfied with the gentle removal of the more nonessential parts of my day and life. But it started to become a very recognizable issue when I started to ebb away from friends as well.
The root of this isn't that hard to trace. When I want to make a focused effort on my games, I fairly feel the need to distance myself from people. Such is the nature of focused work! But more and more this starts to express itself in a very literal decision of if on a given night I'm going to go see some pals and party or if I'm going to stay in and fine tune that level or finally get to doing that boss fight I've been planning out for the last week. And then that decision starts to create an impact in wider circles, an example being my sleep schedule. Too often nowadays do I find myself awake and restless when the rest of humanity is sound asleep, even when maybe I'm not quite feeling the game stuff at the moment! (This is the part where I check the clock and realize it's close to 6 in the morning.)
I'm not complaining. I'm not pointing any fingers or calling any fouls here. This is actually what I chose for myself, sometimes through aloof persistence to my work but often through conscious choice. All of this begins to illustrate a very essential question of personal philosophy which I haven't yet definitively answered for myself.
I see very clearly that there are two ideals at play which are at ends with each other. On one hand there is the social life in which one draws energy from the people around them and expresses themselves through their relationships with others, their lasting impact being the impression left on their peers. On the other is the working man who shuts himself in his study and works tirelessly to produce work(s) that epitomize their knowledge and skill, a perfect brainchild which serves to immortalize these people long after they and the people who knew them have left this Earth. We all know of a lot of great figures like this in history, and it seems true with little to no exception that all the great artists and thinkers who produced the most thoughtful, emotionally significant pieces lived a lifestyle like this latter one.
At this point I might once have stopped to say that these dual pursuits of intro and extroversion were not diametrically opposed and that one could, with desire and practice, be master of both. But more and more lately I'm second guessing this. They're opposed in more ways than just literal time investment--when you choose whether to work or to socialize, you assign a value to those actions which is either greater or less than the other. You might like your friends very very much, but the more you let yourself be convinced that the most important things in your life are your achievements and productions, the more your friends become by definition distractions and less worthwhile investments. And even if that doesn't reflect your sentiments, it's the message that's sent when you essentially ignore them for extended periods of time. Conversely, once you get up from your work and go see your friends it's hard to pull away and come back, both in the span of that evening and in the long term as you're seeing them more and more. There are plenty of people who don't claim to have any particular hobby or talent or interest besides hanging out with their friends (and being a consumer of something, like listening to music or playing games)--and those people are perfectly interesting dudes with perfectly interesting lives!
I don't think I've yet fallen totally completely into either territory, but I do ride that line frequently and for me it's very easy to slip too far one way or the other for a long time. It was only really with Phantasmaburbia when I considered this balance in my life and decided to really let myself slide into that introverted zone and see how my production was affected. And now I'm facing the ramifications of that, and it's made me thoughtful. I'm seeing how my friendships become more strained, and I'm also seeing how my gradual detachment from people gives the actual product a very different energy from the perspective of me, the creator. I'm starting to question what is indeed optimal for me, while I fear actually experimentally pulling back from my project in fear that I'll somehow lose it. Which is pretty ridiculous to consider.
Obviously the "answer" is different for everybody and in all cases lies somewhere paradoxically between the two absolute extremes of introversion and extroversion. I didn't really write this with the purpose of coming out with a conclusion, and indeed I haven't yet even really reached one for myself yet. Just something that's been on my mind, that maybe you might be interested in pondering as well.