Life Purpose

I often think about my “life purpose” and whether the work I’m doing is aligning with that purpose. I still don’t think I’m doing what I really should be doing, but at least it’s pretty good where I am and I can keep moving towards my purpose.

Birth of my First Son

Not long after my first son was born I realised that I needed to see more of him because he was growing up so fast. That’s when I stopped full-time office work making/selling business software and did contract work at home instead (this was 3 years before I turned into an independent game developer). This was a good time period for me as I saw lots of both my boys, but I still think I could have spent more time with them, which is something I regret because I can never get that time back.

After a few years of being indie I got invited to move to Canada to work at Big Fish Games as a full-time employee and I took them up on the offer. Working at Big Fish was tough because it meant I wasn’t around enough for my kids and so when I quit after 2 years, one of my main focuses was to improve the “culture” at home and make up for my absence. Basically I aimed to be a decent dad for my boys by setting an example, teaching them ways to behave, and just being with them. It’s an ongoing process but we are getting there after me working at home now for 16 months.

So it’s clear to me that my main life purpose is to be a good dad and husband. All other life purposes have to come second to that because there’s no point me succeeding at something great if I let my family down. That’s the way I feel anyway. I remember mentioning to some co-workers at one point that my family came before work and they looked shocked :-) Perhaps they’ll understand one day, perhaps they won’t. Each to their own.

Teaching and Community Building

Also teaching Aikido has allowed me to help many people (including children) find inner strength, cultivate peace, and become more self-confident. I enjoy teaching very much and aim to continue with this.

I also hope that running Full Indie in Vancouver (a meetup group for independent game developers) has helped out members of the community here in many ways. I know for a fact that new teams have formed because of people becoming friends via the group, and that the speakers have helped to inspire many people. Also the sheer amount of useful information exchanged at meetups is amazing.

Kick up the Backside

My father died in 2010 and this of course made me ponder my own relationship with my children. My wife because very ill last year (she is now fully recovered) and of course that made me think about things some more. This year more relatives have become sick, and also I recently passed a kidney stone then got an infection and was out of action for a couple of weeks.

Each of these events has helped me gain clarity on what the important things (to me) are in life. As I mentioned before I do think about my purpose and what is important to me a lot but major events can certainly act as a catalyst!

Some people have life-changing epiphanies when they are on vacation from work. Apparently this only tends to happen to most people in the SECOND week of vacation. In North America most employees only get two weeks of vacation a year and rarely take them consecutively, so they may not get a chance to have a sudden realisation about their lives! This is why I would encourage you to make time to think about your life purpose and what is important to you if you are not already doing this.

Being Creative

So for me the sort of things that are important are: Family, Teaching, and being creative. I’ve always been creative and I find the creative urge to be ever-present. It comes out via making games, playing music, writing blogs posts etc. Oh and running a business! I also used to do a lot of artwork when I was younger but that has fallen to the wayside for now.

I imagine that many people also feel they are creative but are not spending as much time creating things as they want to . I know for sure that even if you can squeeze a few extra hours per week doing something creative that you love, you’ll feel so much happier. So have a think about how you could do that…

Life Purpose and Work

I feel I should also add something about “work”. I’ve always taken pride in my work and aimed to deliver quality. When I made business software for bookshops I knew how radically it could transform bookshop owners’ businesses as well as make life easier for the employees – thus it was very easy for me to do the sales pitches for the software because I believed in the product. I used to have a high conversion rate as a result.

Games are different because it’s harder for me to point at a direct benefit to the players of my games. Although I have received emails from casual gamers who’ve said things like Fairway Solitaire has enabled then to get into playing casual games with their dads or husbands etc. which is pretty cool. Also some disabled/ill people have explained how my games distract them from their pain. I’ve also always been careful to add untimed modes to my recent games after I got an email from a girl who wears a kind of head-mounted devices to interact with the computer.

However, although games might be cool due to the above reasons, and because they are a creative outlet for me as well as a way to practice discipline and skill, I ultimately don’t feel that they add enough to the world to be important in the same way as the non-work things I do (family, teaching, running a group etc). But they are one of the most fun ways I can generate income to allow me to do my other things, so that feels OK for now. Mind you some self-help gurus would tell me stop making games and immediately begin on the stuff I find most important even if it’s tough at first – and they are probably right… It’s just tough when you have a family to support of course, but that’s the classic excuse!

I’m not saying that NO games add to the world in an important way. Some probably do and I’d like to hear more about such games (let me know in the comments), but certainly most don’t seem to bring anything particularly positive except for things like employing people and providing escapism etc. The obvious exception being educational games or games donating money to charity.

Telling My Story

One cool side-effect of making games and running a business is being able to talk to others about it in order to help them or be an example, and I’ve found that to be very rewarding over the years. I have communicated my story via this blog, by doing speeches at universities and trade shows, and just by chatting to people. I would say that this is one of the most positive parts of making games for me, and of course I couldn’t communicate my story if I didn’t have one to tell. Anyway, stay tuned because as my story unfolds I’m going to keep talking about it of course!

Ultimately if I could just make games for fun as a hobby (which is how I started when I was a kid) and keep my finances buoyant by helping other people, I think I’d rather do that that having to make games for money. So over the years I’ve been giving more thought about how to achieve that but not reached any firm conclusions yet. It will certainly be interesting to read this in 10 years’ time and see what I actually did ;-)

OK that’s enough for now. I hope this post helped you gain an insight into the way I value things and has made you think about your own life purpose.

Please let me know your own thoughts about your life purpose in the comments. Thanks!

3 Responses to “Life Purpose”

  1. Alexei Says:

    Thanks for sharing your story, Jake.

    My life purpose is fully realizing my creative potential. I don’t have a family of my own right now, and I don’t know whether my purspose will change when I have one but I think it may well do.

  2. Simon Says:

    some how i got on here from looking at buying an old school subaru from your youtube page, interesting work and story, i will be sure to follow your progress.

    Good luck from the UK :)

  3. Grey Alien Games Says:

    Thanks Simon. I’m selling my Subaru over in Canada and moving back to the UK soon. May get another one, they are such great cars!