Like a lot of people, I was part of a band when I was younger. Did the bar scene, and even scored a few gigs that were significantly more important. Every time I had to step on that stage and grab that mic, those dang butterflies would start playing a football match in my stomach. And it didn't matter how many times we performed, that stage fright would always be there. But fortunately, for me at least, getting the first note out was the hardest. The minute I would sing that first line, the stress would drop and then I would just roll with it. That is when the public enjoyed the show. But when they didn't respond well, that was a whole different story...
Then I grew older and decided I didn't fit the "starving artist" profile. So I moved on behind the scene and watched others perform. As a Stage Manager for nearly 10 years for the Montreal Drum Fest (among others), I got to meet a lot of pretty big names in the showbiz and it always blew my mind to see how nervous some of those really seasoned artists would still get before getting on stage.
And then I became a game designer for a MMO and it feels like I've gone right back to those band days. Back then, I was one of the main composers of the group, did vocals and keys. So every time we performed, I was putting myself out there to be judged both for creativity (song & lyrics) but also as a performer. And it was nerve-wracking because any way you cut it, your creation is a part of you. When it gets rejected, even though you know better, it's hard not to take it to heart. Sometimes it was good material but bad timing. Sometimes it was downright poor material. The hard part is knowing the difference and learning from the mistakes.
When I was working on console games, I compared the profession more to that of a writer, a novelist. You create your fiction, your characters, the world they evolve in with all its rules, however wacky they may be, at your own pace. And once you're ready and you believe you got it right (or marketing puts their foot down!), you bring your "masterpiece" into the world and hope critics will kindly welcome it.
But with a MMO, it's more like being that stand up comedian that must come up with new material on a regular basis, because you just can't keep feeding them the same joke week after week. And every time, you look for that inspiration, that stroke of genius that will make your public go ooooh! aaaaah!! And while you're dreaming of the stand up ovation, all you really think about before you step out on that stage is "please, let it not be boos!"
When I ran player events, I would get nearly sick with nerves in the minutes that preceded it. It's incredible things that you can tell yourself when it's too late to back down: "What the heck was I thinking? This thing sucks!! They will laugh at me! They will say it's lame and retarded! They will (insert other random self-depreciating comment here)". And I would wonder why do I put myself through this? And the answer would always be the same: I just need to create, I need to write, I need to do this. And then the event would take place and it would be well received for the most part (there will always be the disgruntled few), and it made it all worth it.
And now that I do this on a much larger scale, with significantly more people to judge my work, it's all the more terrifying, but at the same time, all the more exciting. And to continue the comparison with a comedian, while my goal is to get them all rolling on the floor laughing themselves to tears, if I can at least get the majority to give me that grin, that giggle and better yet that laughter outburst, then I will have had a good performance.
But regardless of the outcome, I will be right back at my drawing board because, just like the musician, the comedian or the dancer, the "artist" within just need to express himself. (You can translate that as "we're suckers for punishment!")