Looking back on my summer of Sweden as part of the inaugural indie accelerator, Stugan.
Sweden, where do I even begin?
These past two months have exceeded every expectation, and even though I’m leaving, my heart is still somewhere in the Swedish countryside, midway between Borlänge and Falun, swimming in a lake next to the woods.
Stugan was of course phenomenal for all the cliche reasons you would imagine. Taking a break from life and all its anxieties is not surprisingly a boon for creativity — I have a feeling the decisions made about (my game) Cadence will in time become turning points in the story of Cadence.
But somewhere along the line it started to become much less about Cadence and more about Peter. The isolated stretch of time allowed me to put a microscope on my self awareness helped me separate myself from my environment. There were small things: checking my cellphone once a day made me realize how almost all of its notifications are nothing more than static. Or realizing just how much decision fatigue deciding what to wear and what to eat actually engenders.
Exercising everyday and not drinking were other experiments showing signs of what I’m starting to value in life. Both were undoubtedly beneficial, but there was a limit beyond which I felt that the absolute position was too severe, and I had to dial it back a little bit. Deciding to drink my first beer was mostly a case of self preservation when I was too tightly wound to sleep.
Of course this was by no means a holiday — a lot of serious graft happened. Being in such an optimal environment allowed me to get ambitious and push myself far beyond my regular limits. But as is my way, if you push hard enough those limits eventually push back. I often find myself sitting as close to the fire as possible, hoping I didn’t get burnt.
If there is one thing I’ve realized it’s that right now my identity is absolutely, 100%, tied to the success of Cadence. I know better, of course — my value is not defined by a video game. But knowing that and living it are two different matters. The prospect of releasing Cadence vacillates by the minute between excitement and sheer terror. There were times when the anxiety became unbearably intense. At those times I liked to think of a steel beam being bent and twisted until the molecules simply can’t hold their bonds anymore.
Thanks to a great deal of meditation I didn’t come apart, but it became clear me how this was less about video games and more about my human condition. About isolation, about craving validation and connection, about belonging, about believing in yourself. About being a somebody instead of a nobody. About yearning for love and intimacy. About having a life worth living.
Those are some big things some people spend a lifetime figuring out. I’m not sure I’ll be any different — but the real specialness of Stugan, the thing I’ll remember most, are of course my fellow Stuganeers. It wasn’t about grand gestures, or about the stories or adventures, but simply the fact they were there. All that mattered was that we were a lovable band of losers and I was a part of it.
It was all those small moments, sharing a laugh, going for a swim, getting addicted to fish spawn paste on hard boiled eggs together, exploring the art of the naked sauna, playing new board games, leveling up at Rocket League for the first time, or simply having someone to tell your story to. This is how we human and something modern life seems so misconstrued to provide.
During the final week of Stugan there was a real sadness at the thought of having to leave our little haven. But I say now to myself, it was the best it could be — I’m so grateful and the experience will be with me forever. Watching the final presentations, realizing how many others had travelled the same exact same journey as me, I could not help but let out some tears. And of course, I was not alone in my tears.
Thank you, Stugan.