January 29, 2023

You Don’t NEED To Be Passionate To Finish Games

The concept of being some completely passionate person who is 150% committed at all times to their project is wrong. I have seen this sentiment pervade a ton of different indie development blogs, vlogs, and even social media posts. It is something that I completely, 100% unequivocally, disagree with. I would rather be considered a disciplined person, and work with others who identify as disciplined, than someone who considers themselves to just be passionate.

Don’t throw your passion away by burning out

You need to be disciplined, not passionate

Let me expand on this point. I think that passion is a great thing. Being passionate on a topic gives you the initial drive to learn more about it. For me, I love creating and sharing things, and I found that video games are the perfect medium for transporting people into the worlds that otherwise would be stuck in your head. I consider myself passionate for creating things, but I don’t actually think this helps me finish projects. At all. Passion can be fleeting, transient, and fickle. Passion can help get you started, but it can’t always help you finish. I’m a huge believer that identifying yourself as disciplined individual is a lot more valuable to actually finishing the things that you are passionate about.

Passion gets you “started”, discipline gets you to “finished”. I can’t even count the number of times that I thought that I wasn’t as impassioned as other people when I would start things and not finish them completely. I thought it must not be the right things for me, or I wasn’t competent enough in the discipline if I couldn’t grind out projects for yours solely on my passion alone.

The turning point for me is when I realized that passion doesn’t carry anyone through an entire project. They may think that it’s their passion, but really it is a commitment to discipline that drives success. Discipline is something that will keep you committed through the late nights of fixing bugs that seem keep cropping up. It keeps you adding polish on your menus, accessibility, and user interactions. Discipline is what allows you to go back through and make another pass on all of your art elements so that they have the same level of polish, detail, and consistent art direction.

Being a “workhorse” vs Being Passionate

Now I don’t advocate for being all work and no play. Work and life balance is important for your mental health, well being, and I don’t think that any work is worth sacrificing either. When you are working though, I do think that you should aim to be the workhorse of the team that you are on. For me, being a workhorse means that people are comfortable relying on you for mission critical tasks. You are considered as someone who can not “Get things done” but also “Gets things done right, consistently, and can keep going for the long haul “.

This is where discipline helps one millionfold compared to passion. Being able to work on a task that you said you would work on is key component of being seen as a person of integrity and grit. Grinding out the parts of the project that may not be glamorous, fun, or flashy is necessary for any project, in any discipline, but it isn’t something that relies on passion. There will be parts of a project that you aren’t passionate about that still need to get done.

This is part of the product lifecycle, and if you never finish projects I personally believe you are missing out on a huge part of the satisfaction of working on them. The journey is important, but getting to the destination is still a part of the ride. Building games that ship, completing internal or personal projects and tools feels a lot different than working on something that “never sees the light of day” or sits in a pile of unfinished work.