kestrel

kestrel, walking
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2019-03-19 02:08:24 (UTC)

Prompt 017: Seizing the Moment

17. Think back to a time that you really seized the moment in a given situation. How did your actions make you feel? What would your life be like if you lived like that all of the time and why?

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I wanted to write about my first-ever solo bike trek, and how I basically had a panic attack when I was about an hour out of town. I had to talk myself out of it, focusing my attention on a single pedal stroke at a time, simply repeating to myself the word, "Go... Go... Go..." I didn't want to turn around, so I gave myself no alternative than to keep moving forward. At the same time, I was petrified about whatever the hell it was I was doing.

But I've already written about that. If not in this journal, then elsewhere. That was over 10 years ago, anyway. Personally, I'd prefer to reflect on a more recent effort.

I've been doing videogame "game jams" frequently for the past year. Over 2018, I'd created maybe three dozen small video games, each in the space of about an hour (this is in addition to other, larger-scale projects). I use software that does a lot of the heavy-lifting for me, so I don't have to code from scratch or whatever. I don't even know a programming language. I just tinker with the software, scribble together some art assets, and then find or generate sound effects and music from open sources.

The last major project I had completed was for the Global Game Jam, the last weekend of January 2019. The way a typical game jam works is that a theme or set of constraints is announced at the start of the game jam, and then the participants have a certain amount of time to complete a finished project. This game jam is a 48-hour event, starting Friday evening and ending Sunday evening.

This year's theme was, "What Home Means To You." I was inspired the night I heard the prompt to create a kind of game I'd never made before. It was much closer to what some would call an "art game" than I'd ever attempted, much less completed. I also used some of the "diversifiers," which were extra "challenges" identified by the organizers of the Global Game Jam.

I'm not interested in recounting the game here, but I will recount the process. To say it was the most emotional game development process I'd ever experienced would be an understatement. I had recently crossed paths with a digital music composer and requested the use of one of his pieces for the game, and ended up building the game around the music itself.

I "slept on it" over Friday night into Saturday, only setting to work that first morning after a good night's rest and reflection on the theme. Even so, I had developed images I wanted to experiment with before I had even walked in the door. One of the diversifiers was to start an end a game within the length of a given piece of music, so that's what I did. Another diversifier was to make a game that was completely dichromatic: only black and white. So that's what I did. The game seemed "right" to proceed at a slower, more methodical and deliberate pace, so I kept it that way.

I flew by the seat of my pants through most of the process, and the end result was personally satisfying and gratifying. It's visually striking, and the music and game work so well together. During the development process, while testing, I routinely became teary-eyed and overcome with emotion: everything was working out, I was solving problems, and I was authentically communicating the way the music made me feel through the gameplay and images I'd developed.

At the end of the game jam, there's a "showcase" where the developers and teams all give brief presentations on their works to all those in attendance. As I was working on the project, I was anxious that I'd break down and cry in front of all those people during my presentation, but fortunately, I pulled through by the time I went up there.

The benefits of "living in the moment" are as follows:
- unrestrained creativity
- intense motivation
- personal investment

The drawbacks of this process are as follows:
- planning is frequently ignored
- work-arounds and settling for less than perfection are required
- it's flat-out exhausting

While I can say that this game ended up being one of my proudest achievements in terms of game design, I found the process intimidating and draining. I doubt I could live life "in the moment all the time," as the prompt suggests. I would have died young, if that was the case.


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