I won't mince words: I was expecting Stanley Parable to be a finalist in the 2013 Independent Games Festival. Certainly what I felt was more than a hopeful optimism. My reality was: I was going to be in the IGF.
But life for me hasn't been particularly real the last year or so. The first game I ever make becomes a wild success, I receive fan emails from all around the world, the game is taught in classrooms and shown in museums, I win a major award. I don't think this kind of success so early in one's career can breed the same humility and (fearful?) respect for the art as with someone who's been working at it for much longer. It's safe to say that by and large I've been living in a sort of success bubble.
And the result of that bubble is me thinking that Stanley is definitely going to make it into IGF. That, realistically, it will probably win an award, and everyone will know my game and love it, and it will be crowned "Best of 2013" and I'll be championed as a hero of advancing the medium of video games. Or whatever. Again, it is very very easy to slip into this mindset from time to time when the only thing you've ever released has been super successful. It's certainly fun, but I can safely say it isn't reality.
I know that because today reality took me aside and said "Hey Davey, look: you have a lot of work left to do. No one owes you anything, and even when you get some external validation like an award, that shit's all subjective. No one on this planet ever really knows how anything will ever go."
And I'm starting to think the best thing that could have happened is for Stanley not to be nominated.
I was operating from a mindset of pleasing people, of getting on so-and-so's Best Of list, or making it into this or that festival. Imagine if I'd gone another year (or 5) with that kind of ego, what if I'd changed my game because I thought it needed to meet someone else's standard, what if I released it before it was ready because I thought players wanted it now, what if I took on a new project that didn't make me happy because I thought it's what "fans" would want. I'm glad I got this needle to the ego bubble, I needed some deflating. And let me tell you, I feel a thousand times better. It's stressful constantly worrying about what people will think of you!
It's strange to say this now, since yesterday I thought if I didn't get nominated my world would collapse. But today I feel pretty good. I'm making a game that I love, I've got so many developer friends with whom every moment I spend is magical, and who are making games that I adore, I'm still going to conferences, I'm speaking at GDC, and holy shit I'm young! That's a pretty awesome place to be! If I'd been nominated I might have gone on to stressing about whether or not I'll win rather than getting this reality check.
Yeah, I'm thinking this is the best thing that could have happened. Today has been a pretty fantastic day.