How does it feel to release a successful video game? Exciting, sure. Relieving? Probably. Validating? It certainly ought to, but that isn’t always the case.
Writing for Polygon, Richard Moss spoke to developers of successful indies and triple-A titles alike, and found that they had something in common: the feeling that they didn’t deserve their success, or even their place in the industry. Imposter Syndrome, as it’s commonly known, inspires feelings of inadequacy, self-doubt, and a fear of being exposed as a fraud.
Imposter syndrome isn’t something all game developers suffer from, but it hits genuinely successful, talented people across every industry. Games are no exception.
One of the people Polygon spoke with was sound designer and composer Stephan Schütze. Schütze described the experience of talking about imposter syndrome with a handpicked team of some of the best audio designers in the industry.
To explain, he points to something that happened to him earlier this year while working with a team that he describes as superheroes — a team that’s working to create audio technology and content for augmented reality startup Magic Leap. “I mentioned impostor syndrome to my boss, just as an offhand remark,” says Schütze. His boss hadn’t heard of it, so Schütze gave a quick, two-minute explanation. “Then [my boss] turned to the team, which at that stage was around eight people,” Schütze continues, “and he said, ‘Does anybody else here suffer that?’ Without looking away from my boss, every single person on the team put their hand up.”
“It is like being in a room with the Avengers and having them all put up their hand going, ‘Yeah, look, I’m a fraud. I’m not really very good at what I do. And I feel like a bit of a phony.’ These are people like the guy who was in charge of audio for the original Xbox [and] the guy that designed the first ever software sampler, which evolved into the first software synthesizer.”
Feeling like a fraud can be a huge problem. It can keep you from seeking out new opportunities, sure that you aren’t qualified. It can keep you from networking within your industry, fearing rejection. It can even keep you from working on the projects you love, lest you release them and everyone learns how much of an imposter you really (think you) are.
But there are ways to deal with those feelings. GoodTherapy has compiled a list of seven methods for overcoming imposter syndrome, including owning your own successes, talking about your insecurities, and, yes, talking with a therapist. If you ever feel like your accomplishments aren’t worth what others seem to think they are, be sure to take a look.
We all deserve to celebrate our successes, big or small.