Routine Feat – By Alexandre Ignatov aka sad3d

(content warning, Routine Feat and the games alongside it have a tendency to deal with heavy themes such as depression and the resultant emotions that come with that.)

A gorgeous summer day, but nobody’s outside. The winters are harsh in this country- you think they’d make the time to enjoy the day in the courtyard, perhaps they’re at the stores, or off at the lake?

Routine feat is about exploring isolation, and not in the ways that most try to tackle it. There’s no monsters here, no violent conflict, nothing to contend with except your own inability to focus on the task you set time aside to perform. It’s the kind of isolation, specifically, that arises from forced exile in creative endeavors, the kind that is a direct result of procrastination. Hammering away at the pages, half of it turns into a diary.. what sort of story is this anyway? Why would anyone want to read the frustrated writings of yet another grumbling person looking to vent?

Routine Feat may look familiar, it’s snowy counter-part, “It’s Winter” was also made by Ignatov, famous primarily for it’s “cozy” re-creation of a russian apartment complex, Winter was an exploration of the malaise that comes from seasonal depression. Unlike “It’s Winter“, however, here there is no external force confining you within doors, you are free now to step into the outside world, yet you are somehow just as stuck inside yourself with the same apartment, the same sights, the same food, the same nightmares, the same anxieties. You’ve fallen into the routine of the piece’s name sake, and while It may no longer be winter, it seems you are still frozen in place.

I personally have spent the majority of my life in the company of other people. Spending time with myself in an apartment seems like an enticing idea that’s liberating on paper, yet in practice brings deep unease- there is nobody to catch you if you start to fall into destructive personal habits or to provide external stimuli to fill in the idle gaps in your day, leftovers from creative fatigue. You could watch TV, perhaps read, but in time those things blur together like static or white noise- an impenetrable wall of text that makes even less sense than your own writing, it’s the sort of routine that would plunge many down a road of negative feelings instead of providing the respite for to finally accomplish important achievements hoped for. Music is really the only thing that comes through with any real clarity, protruding weakly through the radio like a ray of light through a hazy window.

The issue with spending most of your time responding to the whims of others, is that you lose how to respond to your own. It’s a double edged sword, and if the pen is mightier.. then so it follows that the risks of the pen are higher as well. Sure, now there’s so much time to get things done, but will it be possible to manage that time? Many may bemoan how busy their days are, preventing them from embodying their true self, but for those who find themselves in this position, especially those who have experienced it for most of their lives, it can easily turn into a heavy burden that disrupts one’s self-image just the same. Without distraction, there is nothing to keep you from endless reflection, and if those reflections turn self-destructive, it becomes easier than ever to find yourself lost within your most haunting thoughts. Stepping outside for fresh air, having a smoke, taking the bus into town to acquire a new purchase, none of these things truly soothe the conflicted mind on their own, they are merely tools to redirect energy and if done so aimlessly will result only in empty outcomes.

Routine Feat reminds the viewer that without internal peace, calm external circumstances will only go so far. Time to step outside your self-imposed exile, and go do something else. Only through finding inspiration in the beauty of the smallest things can you resolve to rejuvenate yourself, and make up for the time you’ve lost staring out the window and at procrastinating at your desk. It isn’t mindfulness, and it isn’t bootstrapping- like anything else, it is a matter of discipline and the determination to transform oneself. If you try hard enough, any space is a liminal space, and perhaps it is this knowledge that will finally provide you the emotional absolution necessary to finally succeed at your goal.

Emily Rose is an indie developer who writes for and resides in the pacific northwest. She’s often seen in the local VR arcade and developer community participating in pushing the medium’s horizons. You can find her on twitter @caravanmalice