I understand and feel your sense of loss. Putting so much of yourself into a project that died on the vine can feel heartbreaking because it is. You are deeply emotionally invested in it and it was taken from you without warning. What you’re going through is grief. It is ok to mourn for your loss.
That said, it does get easier as you gain more experience and work on more projects. Even if your project had been completed and released, you would still have had to say goodbye to it and moved on to a new project eventually. It is extremely unlikely that you would stay with the same project and team for the rest of your career. I know that I have more I want to do and learn with my career than what I’ve already done. I find it better to set aside the things which are behind when I am ready and focus on the things which are before. It’s great to have done a good job, but there will always be more work to do. I try to focus on what’s next - what I need to do at present and how I can improve my own skills so that I can level up and do even more in the future.
I would also caution you against putting so much of your self into work. I completely understand the desire to make the game the best it can be because I did it too. However, I beseech you to take my advice. You really should take a mental step back, set some boundaries, and keep some emotional distance because you’re putting in a lot more loyalty and emotional investment to the project than you’ll ever get out from the work or the company. It is your emotions, your heart, your free time, your thinking, and your health that you are offering here. Neither the project, the game’s fans, nor the company will ever be able to offer you anything remotely close to that in exchange. The company will not hesitate to cut your job if they decide they need to. The company will always choose its own best interests over yours. The fans will turn on you at a moment’s notice if you do something they dislike. The project will continue on its path, whether or not you’re there to help it along. Keeping a healthy emotional distance from your work is important for your own long-term mental health.
This isn’t to say you can’t feel engaged or passionate about what you do - heaven knows I still do my best to make the game I’m working on the best it can be. However, I change the framing - it isn’t all about the project I’m working on, but about me and my work. I’m doing what I do because I’m really good at it. I’m doing this because it’s helping me level up my own skills. I look back at my path here and see how I have grown into a better designer, better programmer, better game developer over time, which means I will have even more to bring to the next project I get to work on. I encourage you to find a framing that puts your focus on you and your career. Work through your grief and take all the time you need to. Everyone grieves at a different pace. Once you’re ready, find something to motivate you on your current project. If you can’t, that’s ok - maybe it’s time to look elsewhere for a new project to work on. Just remember - the project has a whole hierarchy of executives, leads, and developers to advocate for it. If you don’t advocate for yourself and your career, no one will.
I wish you the best of luck and encourage you to check in with me later. I hope things work out for you.
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