On imposter syndrome, education, and Mad Max: Fury Road

Hello, my name is Jason Imms and I am an idiot.

I do, say, and think silly things all the time. My feelings and thoughts on, well, any subject at all are very much my own and founded by my experience of the world and the people around me. I am a human person, much like any other. I am a thirty-something straight white male, who enjoys spending time with his family and friends, and plays a lot of video games. I didn’t finish my university degree, and as such generally assume that I mustn’t be particularly intelligent.

I am powerfully, overwhelmingly average.

These are the noises my brain makes at me on a regular basis. They are the sort of noises that many people’s brains make at them whenever they consider doing anything remotely creative or risky. They are the anchors that keep us in place, stagnant. They breed comfortable complacency, ultimately leading to the discontent and regret of a life unseasoned by – to quote Ms. Frizzle – taking chances and making mistakes.

When I was 16 I attended Elizabeth College. I studied things that I thought I could pass, as opposed to things that would challenge me or take me out of my comfort zone. I would look forward to free periods and skiving off into the city for cheap pizza. I would do the bare minimum on assignments, and just generally not live up to my potential. In my downtime, I would consume films, TV shows, books, and video games and discard them without learning from them.

If time travel were possible, I would love to go back and tell my 16 year-old self that one day he would get to play video games for a living. That one day he would get to write about one of the things he’s most passionate about. That he would be passionate about something! That in 2016, he would return to that place as a guest lecturer, speaking to around 50 students from a newly-minted game development course about the Australian games industry, critical analysis, and the importance of learning to truly appreciate creative works.

One of my favourite things about working as a games journalist is the fact that I get to dive deep into the games I’m playing to find interesting ways of writing about them. I learned to do this as a function of necessity – if I didn’t find interesting and different ways to respond to games, I wouldn’t get commissions to cover them. The result is I’ve learned that the critical analysis of content is not only interesting, it has allowed me to glean more enjoyment from the content I consume. Subsequently, I spent a significant portion of time during my second lecture talking about Mad Max: Fury Road and how it is The Citizen Kane of Movies.

Speaking at Elizabeth College was thoroughly enjoyable. I have previously spoken to high school students about video games, and it was interesting to note the differences. During my first lecture, it was quite difficult to get the college-age students to respond to open questions, or to ask questions of their own. I put this down to normal teenage anxieties about ridicule and standing out, but I still decided to spend some time planning ways to make my second talk more approachable.

The first lecture was very much about delivering information. I was asked to brief the students on the current state of the Australian games industry, and on the mobile market. My second lecture was to be about my job as a games journalist, critical analysis, and media appreciation. For the second talk, I incorporated some discussions that would allow us to argue with one another about objectivity and subjectivity, how games should be reviewed, whether or not the people that want reviews to have numeric scores are idiots, and we played two rousing rounds of the wonderful Push Me Pull You. By the end of the lecture, students were quite happily raising their hands to engage, and a few came up afterwards to ask further questions and seek advice.

Bullet Farmer

The slide on Mad Max: Fury Road, aside from being an excuse for me to talk about one of my favourite films, was a chance to show the students that there is more to a creative work than you may realise at first glance. At the superficial level, Fury Road is just one big post-apocalyptic car chase, with explosions, a flamethrower/guitar combo, and some rad cars. But, with just a little bit of thinking you can start to see that there’s a lot more to experience. Did you ever think about the fact that Max isn’t the main character of the film? That he’s actually just a lens through which the audience can experience the stories of the characters around him? Did you notice that the entire Mad Max series plays with the concept of fluid identities? That characters in that universe create for themselves entire personas based purely on their function in the world? Did you observe the Bullet Farmer (y’know, the guy that farms bullets and has bullets for teeth, a bullet crown, and a car with tank tracks) completely changing character – everything from name to appearance – when his situation changed and altered his function in the world?

Some students noticed some of that stuff, some of them hadn’t. Some of them decided that watching the film again might be a good idea. Some had observations that I’d never considered, precipitating my next viewing of the film.

This was a hugely rewarding and educational experience for me. Finally, something I am doing or have done has felt right. It felt like it fit. I didn’t feel like a fraud, or that luck must have directed me into a fortuitous circumstance. I felt that the work I was doing was of value, over and above the part where it earned some money to put food on the table. Maybe the stuff we discussed would help someone to find a way into the games industry? Maybe it would help another to decide for sure that the games industry wasn’t for them, and they could move with confidence into another field of study? Maybe they could see a future for themselves doing something they love without the normally assumed requirement to flee to larger cities in other states?

Or maybe none of those things happened? Maybe no-one was affected by what I had to say, and maybe nothing has changed. But y’know what? For the first time, I don’t care. I know for sure that striving to help young people find a creative career path is something that I want to continue doing. I want Young Me and kids like him to hear every once in awhile that you can take risks, that you don’t always have to take that next logical step in education or career, and that there is more to life than maximising your earning potential.

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