Mental illness / depression in the games industry – Theodor (Skygoblin)

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Stress which acts as a trigger to depression and subsequently mental illness may be indicative of a deeper underlying problem for some. However for others the trust and support of colleagues coupled with a clearly defined work/home balance goes a long way. Theodor, a third of independent outfit Skygoblin chimes in.

Was the idea of running and managing your own studio ever an ambition and if so has it met your expectations?
Absolutely an ambition! Well, we always expected it to be tough but fun, which it indeed has been!

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?
I’d say the biggest challenge aside from the financial one, is not letting the business eat up your entire personal life. It can easily happen, since we do what we do for a reason, we love it. But too much of one single thing is never good, right?

How do you cope with the pressures associated with your role?
I generally don’t feel very much pressure, but when I do I make sure to compensate with plenty of time where work-related things simply aren’t allowed. Force myself into simply doing something completely different.

How do you balance taking care of yourself and running a startup?
Fortunately I’m in a company where we’ve learned to trust each other well enough to understand that when one of us needs time off for whatever reason, it will always be for the best of the company. So, getting time for oneself when you need it is generally quite easy.

Do you believe there is a stigma against mental illness in the game development community and if so how do you deal with it?
No, I haven’t really witnessed any such stigma, but I’ll admit I’m probably poorly informed.

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?
I’d say don’t be afraid of looking for help.

What do you believe can be done to help address the issue of mental health and depression within the industry?
Sharing problems and being open about them is always a good idea. Less stigma and more understanding.

Finally, what tips and feedback would you pass on to new entrants to the industry looking to manage studios and teams of their own?
Be aware that building a team that can work together without friction takes a long long time and that there will be tough times to begin with. Be diplomatic but honest and you’ll find that your colleagues will be your friends, and your friends will support you.

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