We’re all stuck at home. To many, this has been a prison sentence that seemingly has no end in sight. Stay at home orders, businesses closed, online shops being overloaded with orders and now that the curve is finally starting to flatten, it seems that we have people hellbent on keeping ourselves in by going out and convincing themselves it’s business as usual.
Well, it looks like we’re going to be here awhile…
Ever since I was a child it’s been abundantly obvious that I’d end up obsessed with things like high fantasy, video games, storytelling, and artistic expressions of any kind. When my family moved to Ridgewood when I was five, I was removed from my old set of friends and introduced into a completely new territory where I was an outlier. Everyone had friends they’d made through preschool or kindergarden, and I was the strange new kid on the block. In my play time in class, I sat to myself and played with puzzles and other solitary games and found that my imagination was able to keep me entertained enough to forget the fact that I was invisible. My parents worked late as database engineers, so after school I was taken by bus to an ASP stationed out of a church in the center of town. For awhile I sequestered myself to the outskirts of gatherings to simply enjoy myself and imagine the endless dreamscapes only a child can conjure, until I became friends with a nerdy bunch of outcasts called “The Group”. A band of outliers we were, and I can still distinctly remember when Niles and Lewis pulled out massive blocky off-white blocks from their backpacks, adorned with tiny olive screens and an array of charcoal and maroon buttons. I asked what it was, and they laughed that I’d never seen a gameboy before.
From there, it was an expedition into the fantasy worlds of Nintendo and Sega, saving quarters up to journey to Sportsworld and leave my mark on the arcade cabinets, rotating sleepovers so everyone could play the massive collection of video games we acquired. At the time we played these games they were considered completely brainless outlets containing no true artistic merit, but to me they were the complete opposite. Through video games, my ideals and dreams were a real and manifested thing. Through the black and off green screen, I saw a wonderful Mushroom Kingdom. Through my living room TV I felt my actions ripple across time in Hyrule. Through my oldest brothers PS1 I saw a Midgar flower girl’s sacrifice save the world.
My dreams became reality, and I wanted to tell my own stories.
In my classes I feverishly scribbled characters on the margins of my quizzes. I would take graph paper and mark out Super Mario levels of my own creation, create new enemies with behavior and abilities, and create secret routes with even more secretive power ups. I would draw and draw and draw until the ripe age of 13 where it became so disruptive of my work that I was officially diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder. While the Adderall did help from unleashing a torrent of unwanted concept art on my poor Latin teacher, it honed my focus into the deconstruction of video games to truly understand them. Like the computers I’d disassemble and reassemble, I played with scripts and freebie game engines that ran quite awfully. As the tech matured into something more accessible, I learned about rendering, spritework, level design conceptualization, how the flow of a level works, and the list goes on. Then came the penultimate challenge: programming. And boy, I was AWFUL at that. My dream, so close, now lost to my inability to understand logic.
Trying to tell your parents that you want to make video games as a career is a massively unsettling experience, doubly so when they themselves work in the tech field and have keen awareness of how the skills required could be put to a much more lucrative career as a programmer or engineer. My parents were loving and supportive, but at the time I did not have the understanding of what it took to actually create a program and had far more promise as a traditional artist. After all, it seemed that video games were only considered art by me.
Ten years later, I had graduated with a degree in English, found work as a salesman in various businesses, and never once stepped foot inside a workplace with a genuine love for my career. I went through the motions, collected the paycheck, and lied to my superiors that I wanted to be here. My heart and my soul were still very much where they were as a kid, and as I grew older and shouldered the responsibilities of adulthood, I longed to be lost in that childlike wonder I had before. I felt the bleak fog of an unending loss of passion sweeping over my creativity. I felt like I was losing who I was. It was at the turning point of being terminated from another job where I asked myself: why not try again? What do you really have to lose that you already haven’t lost? If you fail you are right where you started, but if you succeed you’ll be exactly where you belong. It doesn’t matter where you start, and it doesn’t matter how small a step, just start.
So I took the leap.