I finally got the call today that I've been waiting my whole post-kindergarten life for.
I remember the early days of that life tediously typing up QBASIC programs from my 3-2-1 Contact! subscription so that my hand formed around the anvil of game creation. I remember ostracization bouncing off my rebellious little hide as I spent my grade-school recesses drawing intricate Megaman levels on paper, and then taking a childhood friend through them with my dirty pencil, asking him what actions he'd want to perform, or killing him and taking his life, or granting him weapons and powers with a quick sketch. Then I'd scribble over enemies as he killed them, or flicked the graphite on paper to simulate random shots in our wild tank battles.
I programmed. I learned level editors. I learned Maya, animation, modeling, and all other forms of CG baggage. I wrote, promiscuously. After college, I was paid way too well to work on reknowned projects. I experienced big productions, met bigger talent, people who go on to win Oscars and start companies and pump out innovations. I was never happy.
Am I spoiled to say those opportunities were, to me, sacrifices? Am I a brat? When I spoke about my involvements, people would say "wow, that's awesome!" I tried very hard to agree. But in my mind, the whole time, my heart was still set on being a game designer. And it wasn't even because of my incredible love for games. Nor my idolization of the industry.
For a time, I wanted to be an inspiring schoolteacher… fancy that! But that wish belies my desire, my insatiable pleasure, in getting people to change their perspectives, and defend the underdogs. To challenge assumptions, smash stereotypes, twist prejudices. In education, you can do that. In game design, you can do that to anyone in the world, and done well, they'll enjoy it. Sometimes I feel typecast myself, and the momentum of being a constant contrarian overwhelms me. But there is no better platform for constructive skepticism than games.
It was genetically imprinted into me to spend my waking moments and sleepless nights deconstructing the games I play, and constructing the games I want to play. It's not ambition anymore, it's an extension. Sometimes I am fearful, especially when I play a game and can't see it anymore. I only see the code, the art being drawn from the reservoirs of memory to be displayed for my manipulation. I see statistics rumbling with calculations to keep me maximally addicted. How games are still fun for me is a question I'm afraid to tackle.
Today I got a call from Page 44 Studios, and will be starting as a junior game designer there after the wedding. I am ecstatic. I feel as if the sacrifices were vindicated, even as I feel ashamed for calling them sacrifices. But sometimes it's just not about money, fame, or success. It is about following your calling, or risking your sanity ignoring it. I can't wait to work harder than I've ever had, because Confucius reminds us that choosing a job you love means not having to work a day in your life.