What determines your identity when you’re a game developer? Some might say its in how much money you make, others might say it’s about success in other terms – such as how many players or fellow developers like what you make. I think it’s something different, though.

Lots of people know many of the big-time, legendary sort of developers such as John Romero, Shigeru Miyamoto, or Notch. Is it because of the games they make that determines their identity? Maybe in some ways, but not all. The things I like about John Romero have only little to do with Doom. The things I like about Miyamoto have little to do with Mario. Likewise, Notch is admirable to me for much more than just Minecraft.

If we want to determine someone’s identity by what they make, then it’s very subjective, and I’m not sure if identity is something that’s subjective. In some ways, I’m sure it is, but in terms of the worth of a person, I think it hardly suits for it to be subjective. Perhaps identity isn’t about worth, though.

I’ve personally been a sort of low self-esteem person for most of my life. The only time I can remember really acting like I had an ego purposefully was in middle school when Mario Kart DS had just come out. I would just talk about going home and beating people online. Other than that, most of my life I’ve generally thought little of myself and have been kind of sickened by many people I come across flaunting qualities that, to me, are only visible because of the fact that they’re flaunting them.

I read an interesting quote once about putting yourself out there in the public as an entrepreneur. It went something like this: “Put yourself out there, even if doing so is uncomfortable, for the sake of yourself and your business, otherwise those who are willing to do that will leave you in the dust.”

…After reading that, I’ve made some attempts to be more in the view of people, despite it being a bit uncomfortable for myself. Every day as an entrepreneur, a lot of uncomfortable tasks are undertaken, so it’s no big deal. Still, I honestly have the same obstacle everywhere I go. It’s as if the quote I just mentioned is following me around saying, “See? I told you.”

So coming back to my original question of this post: What determines your identity when you’re a game developer? I definitely don’t think it has to do with the individual’s own worth, and certainly not their own personal sense of worth. I also don’t think it has only to do with the games they create. Sure, it’s how we can really see what they can do, what their abilities are, and it’s a great form of expression, but seeing people in that way is like saying “Steve Jobs is a nice guy because… the iPhone.”

Everyone is unique; the more unique the better in many circumstances. Where does that uniqueness come from? I really think one’s unique identity has a lot more to do with their experiences and perspective than it does with things they’ve made. It also has to do with their personal interactions; that’s part of how they express their experiences.

Think about artists in other mediums: music, for example. Is it always the better music that wins in subjective situations? Turn on the radio and you already learn: clearly no; that’s why it’s called subjective. What affects that subjectivity? Experience. That affects how people both express and feel music.

It’s too often that people allow others’ experiences to largely affect their own interpretation of things. I mean that in many ways. What I ask of people right now is to look at the artists you see everywhere and evaluate them on something about them individually other than just what other people think. Who is qualified to decide if someone is good at something? Think about it. It’s like, who decided what kind of ripped pants are cool? It’s just a stupid thing to consider. Craftsmanship does exist, but it’s not the only thing that qualifies people to be able to create things for other people to like.

Being a unique person, and understanding what makes you unique makes you qualified to create things. In other words, everyone has their own right to create, and everyone in my opinion has a potential audience. I’m sick of the world being so driven only by those that think ridiculously highly of themselves and talk constantly about how great they are.

…I digress…

Clearly there’s some emotional tension in me regarding this subject. 🙂

I suppose it’s just because it’s something I’m dealing with personally right now, albeit slowly. As time goes on, I hope to have myself “out there” more, as I know people take an interest in my experiences and perspective. I may struggle with my image of myself, but I do know there’s something one-of-a-kind there. That’s how I see my identity, anyway.

Until next time,

~David Klingler