There's another problem with passion, too. Because it's raw, unreasoning emotion, it doesn't necessarily play well with others. If my passion tells me to make the game one way, and my producer's passion tells her to make it another way, there are bound to be fireworks. Games aren't movies; we don't hand total creative authority to a single director and let his passion rule the project. Games are collaborative efforts, and that requires compromise and diplomacy.
So how do you keep up that burning enthusiasm when your job requires a lot of tedious, repetitive work, and a lot of compromises to your vision? The truth is, you don't have to. When passion fails, what gets you through the day is professionalism.
Professionalism is a combination of factors. One is desire to do a good job for your company -- if your employer treats you well, you want to give them your best.
Another is desire to do a good job for your customers, the players -- they are the ones who will use your products, enjoy them, pass judgment on them, and in the long run they are who really pays your salary. Still another -- and perhaps the most important -- is a desire to do a good job just for yourself, simply because you take pride in doing it.
Professionalism is about knowing your job, doing it well, and being proud of it even if you wouldn't buy the resulting product. As the markets for games expand, fewer and fewer of our customers will have the same demographics, and interests, as game developers.
Few of us are old ladies, and fewer still are little girls, but a good many of our customers are, and we owe it to them to do just as good a job for them as we do for Gears of War fans.
Recently I consulted on an important serious game in development in the Netherlands. It's intended to train surgeons in a way that's much more entertaining than the usual surgery simulators; it will keep them engaged for longer and improve their hand-eye coordination. We're working to make it accessible to the general public, too. I'm not really the intended audience, but that doesn't matter; the developers have hired me to give it my best and that's what I'm doing.
I hear a lot of people say, "I wouldn't want to work on any project I didn't feel passionate about." That's lovely as a statement of artistic integrity, but as projects get bigger and bigger, fewer and fewer developers have the benefit of that luxury. Instead, you do it out of professionalism.