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Making games and keeping calm, 5 tips!

It’s down to the wire on a major deadline, and you’re in the middle of all the mayhem. You’re rushing about, trying to get everything on your list finished (which never ends) just so you can be done and remember what sleep feels like. Then Debbie forgets to send you the files Bob needs, now Bob is mad at you and you’re mad at Debbie. Even though you’re supposed to be a team, you’re blaming one another just to take the blame off yourselves! This is a taste of what every crunch time has felt like on each video game project I have been on. It doesn’t matter how organized you’ve been, or how focused the team is-crunch time provides a level of insanity that tears down every defense you have prepared for it. So here are some tips that I picked up while working on these teams to stay as level headed as possible!

1. Remember that you’re a team; so, it’s not about you…

Now when most people say, “It’s not about you.” It’s not to be cruel or malicious but rather to ground your emotions before they get so caught up that you stop working, or refuse to be a part of the project anymore. You must take a second to remove yourself from the equation to see the larger picture again. Which is the video game. It needs to get done and you all have work that is stressful but important to reach that goal. Please remember that you are on this project because you believed in it, you were passionate about it in some form or another. Sometimes it’s hard to think of that when we are at our peak of stress and have no energy. But that is when it is the most important to remember this tip. At this moment, you’re not the only one feeling a little sensitive on the project! Trust me, everyone is feeling cranky and neglected at this moment and you know what you should do? Go compliment someone on their hard work. Walk up to Vicky and say, “Work is looking solid, thank you for being badass!” anything that is appropriate and uplifting to hear. Except Debbie-she is the one who still hasn’t given you that file you need…

2. It’s ok to step away to breathe!

Make a list of the top three things that need to get done in the next week-get them done and take a day off. Step away from the project and spend a day to recharge your batteries. There is a constant pressure that we put on ourselves and others to get a game done. Video Game projects have a well-known extremely nasty tendency to place a lot of pressure on making a video game as fast as possible, often ignoring health risks or mental state of the people working on it. The project is pointless if you don’t like it anymore or can’t see why you’re even on it. Or being exhausted and making continuous mistakes that need constant corrections. Then you’re not benefiting the game, but rather hinders it. So, by taking care of you and your mental health, you’re doing a big favor to everyone! Allowing people on your team to take a moment to breath will help your project finish faster, then forcing a constant crunch time.

3. Get a stone bracelet and essential oils

This is a tip I picked up from one of my friends when I noticed them using it as a calming technique. Get a good-looking stone bracelet, with natural stones so they cool down and feel nice. Then get a small bottle of essential oil, usually lavender, or sage, and put the oil on the bracelet. Make sure to rub the oil into your hands as well– the scent will help your mind focus and keep you in a calmer state. Any time you begin to feel stressed or anxious, play with the bracelet, the scent will spread again, allowing you to relax and calm down.

  1. Treat yourselfWhen you are on your break, get your favorite drink! Or even a piece of candy, some ice cream, something that you absolutely love and relax for a moment with it. Whenever I began to feel the most stress on my teams I would go to Starbucks and get a Green Tea Frappe, or even when I am feeling extra I would get a yoo-hoo and sit in bean bag away from people, watch a stupid video on YouTube. Anything that will give your mind a minivacation from the stress you’re dealing with. Don’t take this back to the team, or the same environment; because then visually you can see the stress and it will take away from the treat. This includes playing video games! GASP! I KNOW! It’s true if you are working on a video game project, and then try to play a game as a relaxer, it is not allowing your brain to take a break from that form of mentality. Separate yourself from the project completely. This should only be about an hour.

  2. Be honest!If you’re feeling stressed and have way too much on your plate; BE HONEST WITH YOUR TEAM! Let them know that the amount you are dealing with is a tad bit too much, there is no shame in that. Once you explain this to them, you most likely will be offered a break or someone else can link their work with yours and help take some pressure off your shoulders. Plus, it can also allow others to come forward about their stress as well, allowing empathy among the team. Please keep this in mind if someone else approaches you about their stress; be sympathetic and understanding. We all know how demanding it can be to work on a video game, arrogance should not be in the equation of that.

    Aren’t video games supposed to be fun?! YES! Keeping these in mind I have been able to stay calm through any video game project and provide the best that I can during even the most chaotic of crunch times. Best part, most of these are common sense practices that are easy to remember. Sometimes we just need a little reminder! Practice these and video games will stay fun!

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Amanda Hamrick

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