I was so ashamed of my business when I first started out that I told my best friend for the first time about it after already twelve months in. He was wondering why I was always tired and looked like shit, but I was too afraid to tell him. I thought it was not good enough and he might find it stupid. I guess I just wanted to look cool for once. I don’t know.
This week I am at the Gamescom in Cologne playing video games, posing with booth babes and stormtroopers and eating way too much candy for calling it a “cheat day”. I somehow got lucky enough to get invited to the official Gamescom after-show party at the Tanzbrunnen Köln. So I joined with my friends and went there.
I have to admit, arriving at the venus and entering the huge area, I immediately felt a little bit overwhelmed by the huge amounts of efforts they have put into making this party stand out. Everybody was dressed up so nicely and there was literally everything you could have asked for: dancers, flippers, games, free food, free drinks, music, dance floors, ice cream, and even a huge terrace with an amazing view across the Rhine right at the Cologne Cathedral.
Additionally everybody who is relevant to the gaming industry might have been there as well. “Important people” and people you should know and network with when you try to get ahead in the game industry.
I am not good at networking though. And I also don’t like it. It feels fake more than often.
At the party I met my old program director of my master studies. We did some smalltalk. I am not even sure he remembered me, although he pretended he does. I barely recognised him as well to be honest because he lost a lot of weight since our last meeting. Kinda blown away by his new appearance I immediately embarrassed myself by making inappropriate comments on him not being “so chubby” anymore. I thought it would be funny, but it was not. He gave me a strange look and I tried to smooth it out a little bit. I told him that he is “looking really good now” but it might have been come across a little bit off as well. Throwing in a random “#NoHomo” didn’t help either. Well looks like I am not so good at doing smalltalk it seems. His assistant politely dragged him away right afterwards. I don’t know if she saved him or me. But I was thankful for that.
Later on I talked to two sound composers from Berlin. We had a nice little talk about their business and what they do (I held back with the weird comments this time). But maybe 10 minutes into the conversation they asked me about what I do. I was immediately shoved into my head. I hate talking about what I do. I guess it’s because I am not quite “proud” about it. It’s like I tell myself: “Well I JUST do this, and I also JUST do this, and yes, also THIS. But it’s not so cool anyways. And it should be way better too. Also, what you guys do sounds so much more fun!”
I decided to tell them about my app business anyways (instead of pretending to be unemployed and just “taking a time off for a while”, which is my default response). I told them about me outsourcing work to freelancers, about my methods and how I work. They really liked what I do (to my surprise). They seemed pretty curious about how I do all that stuff and they asked a lot of questions. It was a stretch for me though, because this is not something I feel really comfortable talking about.
“Name some of the apps you did, maybe I know them”, one of them asked me. “Well, these are just some small apps, you will not know…”, I responded trying to avoid the question and maybe skipping it altogether. “You never know. Let me know. Whats the name? Or give me your ID I might look it up by myself.” – “Well yes sure, I don’t have my business cards with me, but if you are interested I can email you my publisher ID later, no problem!”, I boiled out (I didn’t want to admit that I don’t even have any so I just pretended I did). – “Yes, sure thing, I will have a look!”, he said while handing me over his business card. I put it into my pocket and assured him to let him know as soon as I arrive home.
But I already knew that I will not write him.
I am ashamed of my business.
It just never feels like being good enough.
(But will it ever be good enough?)
The next day I spend way too much time thinking about what happened at that party. I thought about how I somehow feel uncomfortable at social gatherings (especially when I feel like I don’t belong there). I also thought about how I then start to talk complete bullshit just to compensate for it. And I thought about how I couldn’t even tell some interested people a little bit about what I do without feeling like a complete loser.
I don’t know why I don’t like “networking parties”. It just feels like a waste of time for me. Everybody tries to show off and present himself in a good light. It’s just like normal parties but the bragging is oftentimes even worse. I don’t feel like I belong there. When I go to parties I want to shut down my brain (no alcohol though), recover from my work and do stupid stuff. I want to relax. At these kind of parties though everybody puts so much energy and effort into “looking good” they can’t honestly tell me they feel recharged afterwards.
Also people love to boast and brag. Everybody loves to hear their own voice (I am guilty for that as well). And when this voice even says nice and awesome stuff about oneself it might be even cooler. You can easily become addicted to that stuff.
The problem is when somebody tells me something I usually believe them. Maybe I am a bit too naive, I don’t know. But then I always feel small and weak by comparison. I don’t have all these things they said they have for themselves. My business isn’t making thousands of dollars of revenue each months. Ever since I quit my job I am actually forced each month to make enough sales to barely make ends meet. The stuff I do just doesn’t sound as cool as the things these other people seem to have going on for themselves.
The sound composer I met at the party for example told me that they get 300 Euro for each minute of sound they compose (“it’s the common hourly rate in the business”). And sometimes composing one minute of new music might take them as little as 15 minutes of work. That sounds way better than the stuff I am currently earning. A guy I met in Barcelona told me he is earning five-figure revenue with his new startup after only two months in. I was sceptical. But I also had to compare this “magical” number with the revenue my startup generates. And my number is far away from 5 figures even though I am 14 months in. No wonder I feel like a complete loser and insecure about the stuff I do when I begin to compare myself to what other people say. I then feel like I do something completely wrong.
My mother always said you should always half any numbers given to you by other people (especially when it comes to money). But I think this tip is unpractical and outdated. I guess to divide it by four is way more accurate. Maybe I should listen to my mother’s advice more. Maybe I should just start to be more thankful for what I DO have going on in my life. Because usually – when you really think about it – you will find out that you have WAY MORE going on in your life than you will admit to yourself in the first place.