Getting Time Away from it All
Through my time at RIT, I’ve accumulated a variety of titles. I’m an IGM Ambassador, Teaching Assistant, Grader, Lab Worker, Tech Worker, Tutor, and most recently Graduate Student. With that number, it’s a safe bet that I enjoy IGM and staying involved in the program. However, the more time I have spent with games, the more I realize that it’s amazing to have places to go outside of the major. This isn’t a “it’s college, try everything!” type post, but more of a “it helps to have various things you do throughout a week.” A few blog posts in the past have mentioned outside clubs, and one of my prior posts mentioned having thirty minutes a day to do non-work related elements. Yet, I’d like to emphasize in this post how having outside work or interests actually make your core work better.
One element of the creative process that can often paralyze people is the early stage. Whenever we implement an idea, we have inherent restrictions. Often, each of us think we know what a “game” feels like, and what we can do in a genre. And that’s awesome - knowing what goes into, say, an FPS can often open room for us to think of how to improve and polish it. However, it also stifles what we are able to do. By intentionally exposing yourself to non-game media or hobbies, you can come back with different ideas and experiences, and combine those with group members. For example, someone who scuba dives might have insights that hadn’t occurred to anyone else, which can then help make a game or project feel fresh and new. But you can’t get that insight if you only stay in the familiar realms of work.
These experiences don’t have to just be exotic trips or hobbies. But working to do things outside of work and your general focuses can give a wealth of new ideas, tips, and just fun stories that may become useful later. In addition, these shouldn’t be things you do just because you want more game ideas, but because you enjoy them. The idea is that the breaks are just that, anything else is a bonus. Stepping away from work to do something you find fun or learn in a new way is incredibly refreshing, and can help manage stress and help you come back stronger on projects or classwork. For example, I’ve picked up running, cooking, and have a weekly get together with friends. Two of those serve to get me away from screens. The third is a place where I don’t have to worry about due dates and can catch up with people, including friends in other majors. It helps to have people who I don’t see everyday, and relax without thinking of work. But all three of those have helped me in some way. Cooking has changed how I think about instructions for players, and I’ve come up with a few minigames from these tasks that I’ve implemented in projects. Running helps make me healthier of course, but also lets my mind relax from projects and papers, and I often return more excited and with fresh eyes. Finally, the meetup not only is a break, but also gives me different perspectives on problems people face, new stories, and allows mental engagement outside of work.
Over the last year, I’ve been able to really see these elements improve my project and overall mental health. Work is less stressful because I know I have breaks from it, and my assignments are more interesting because I have different ways of approaching them (and they aren’t all I do). My thinking has shifted from “this is how it’s always been done” to “well, there’s a cool difference in how real life does this, let’s try it,” which has been immensely refreshing. Rather than distract me from my work, my hobbies and extra activities have helped give me a more varied experience. In turn, this has helped me come back to work with new eyes, and help come up with new ways of solving problems that help make me stand out. IGM is amazing, and I love my major and coursework, but I can’t say enough times that being more than games and computers helps make the whole experience, and eventual time in industry, better.