Mental illness / depression in the games industry – Karin (Ozma Games)

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As the front figure for indie studio Ozma Games, Karin Ryding understands more than most the importance of balancing the rigours of work with her private life to stave off stress and ultimate depression. She shares her thoughts below.

Was the idea of running and managing your own studio ever an ambition and if so has it met your expectations?
Yes, I guess it became an ambition from when I was a student. There simply were no game studio around that I wanted to work in, and there were also something about taking control and being able to do what ever I wanted.

The merits and perks of overseeing a successful studio are well documented, however would you list as some of the challenges you’ve faced apart from financial and creative stability and autonomy?
There is definitely a stress you have to handle which is to do with always making sure there is money coming in. This is especially pressing when you have employees. We worked a lot with customers and that can be very rewarding but also challenging at times, for example when they have little knowledge of the game development process.

How do you cope with the pressures associated with your role?
I have always tried to make sure that the work is not all my life, to keep a healthy balance of other hobbies, social life etc. When the pressure is really on, then it becomes even more important to go dancing, do some yoga, exercise or just take the weekend off and go to the countryside. I also have good friends in similar situations that I talk to a lot.

How do you balance taking care of yourself and running your studio?
I make sure not to work too much. For example I usually don’t work on weekends or too late at night. I talk a lot to other entrepreneurs and especially women in that role, because the pressure on us can be even worse and the experiences of discrimination takes its toll on you.

Do you believe there is a stigma against mental illness in the game development community and if so how do you deal with it?
There is definitely a stigma about being an entrepreneur and suffer from mental illness. You are supposed to represent your company at all times and tell everyone how great things are going. But when it comes the games industry and the indie scene especially, it seems so common that people get depressed because of the extreme pressures of their situation, so I haven’t experienced a stigma there. It’s nice though when someone like Alexander Bruce goes public and talks about it.

To the best of your knowledge have you ever met an industry colleague suffering depression and if so, what sort of advice or support did you provide?
Yes, I have met game devs with depression. I try to remind them of other parts of life. I usually also say that to my experience it can be good to let go of some things and move on, and then new opportunities suddenly appear.

What do you believe can be done to help address the issue of mental health and depression within the industry?
Well, the whole situation of the industry is really the problem, that people work to fulfill their dreams but under such difficult conditions. But a more open discussion about the situation and the consequences it has would be good.

Finally, what tips and feedback would you pass on to new entrants to the industry looking to manage studios and teams of their own?
Well, I would tell them that it’s a great adventure to run a studio, but that it is also very important to remember that you don’t live or die with the studio. To keep a healthy balance in your life becomes even more important when your work is full of pressure and also close to your own identity.

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