For decades, the brooding creativity of poets and writers has run hand in hand with mania and depression. As David Dobbs points out in a reading of Jonah Lehrer’s Imagine, prominient British novelists and poets faced psychological illness:
Nearly 40 percent of the successful creative people [researcher Nancy Andreasen] investigated had the disorder, a rate that’s approximately twenty times higher than it is in the general population. (More recently, the psychiatrist Hagop Akiskal found that nearly two-thirds of a sample of influential European artists were bipolar. )
Could game designers face a similar fate? Perhaps one protection is the large team environment that larger console titles require for completion, but the advent of small indie teams of one or two may open pathways to madness. Dobbs points out that the creative process iteself (or the iterative one in games) lends itself to highs of discovery followed by the lows of frustration:
The extravagant high descends into a profound low. While this volatility is horribly painful, it can also enable creativity, since the exuberant ideas of the manic period are refined during the depression.
In other words, the emotional extremes of the illness reflect the extremes of the creative process: there is the ecstatic generation phase, full of divergent thoughts, and the attentive editing phase, in which all those ideas are made to converge. This doesn’t take away, of course, from the agony of the mental illness, and it doesn’t mean that people can create only when they’re horribly sad or manic. But it does begin to explain the significant correlations that have been repeatedly observed between depressive syndromes and artistic achievement.
[Via Wired News]