I have made my living in the video game industry for over 10 years now. In many ways, it's been a wonderful job, and I've progressed in ways that I didn't expect. I've done art, level design, programming, music composing, and have been exposed to a large number of areas in the game industry and beyond. I am thankful for that. However, choosing to turn my hobbies into my job has come at a price.
I don't make art just for me any more.
When I create something, it's for someone else. Usually, it's for work, sometimes it's for friends or close family, but it's almost never just for me. I get paid for my work, either with money, attention, or words of praise. Whenever I create something, it goes through this filter of "would anyone else like it?"
I hate that.
I used to do things just for me. I used to doodle on homework, not caring if anyone would see it. I would compose songs that no one would hear. I would bring ideas to life and then hide them away. And then there was the big one...
Teenagers was my comic strip. I started it the day I turned 13, and stopped when I was 16. I tried to make it daily, and while I fell short of that goal, by the time I decided to stop making them, I had over 700 comics.
700 of these things. Granted, most of them weren't funny, and the writing was less than stellar, but a great deal of my childhood was in these.
The thing is, I can count on one hand the number of people who have read them all. A few of the better comics were in a high school art show, and some of the punchlines ended up getting repurposed for Club Penguin's comics page, but generally I kept them to myself.
I didn't do it for them. I didn't do it for you. I did it for me. And it was good.
Maybe I should blame it on the fact that I turned my hobby into a job. When I started doing art all day as my actual work, coming home and doing more of that didn't have the thrill it used to. Maybe I should blame it on our culture – so obsessed with social networking and being dependent on others for validation. Am I still good enough at this? Let's ask the 7000 Twitter followers!
I don't know. I don't regret my career decision, but I also know that if I'd chosen a completely different direction and kept art as my hobby, I'd have kept a joy in it that I seem to have lost.
Oddly enough, this is one of the things for which I love Super Mario Maker. I've made levels that no one might ever see, and I've enjoyed it. And that proves to me that the spark isn't completely lost at all.