28 December, 2016
It’s almost the new year. Time for a bit of introspection and a different approach to life.
To not bury the lead here: I’ve started a Patreon for my creative work. Click the new banner on my site, or visit my Patreon page to support me.
Let me go into a bit more about why I’m doing this, and why this has been a hard thing for me to do.
So, how are you doing, Brian?
Like a lot of people, 2016 was not a great year for me. It was full of the death of celebrity icons, although I those didn’t affect me as much as others, but also personal disappointment. I fell into a black pit of depression for a while for various reasons I don’t want to get into. Don’t worry, I’m fine and I’m just now starting to crawl back out to take control of my life again. But, it’s been a difficult process getting to the point of even being able to write that.
And, I realize I’m only to this point because some very special people in my life: both old friends and new friends made this year. You know who you are; thank you very much for your support.
I know I’ve been a bit absent from social media. I’m hoping to turn this around soon.
Talking about myself
I feel uncomfortable sharing too much of myself online. Part of this is my Midwestern U.S. upbringing, where the “strong silent” archetype is admired. Speaking too much about yourself is seen as a bad thing in the areas I grew up in. That makes things like self-promotion harder for me.
Plus, we live in the age of no privacy. To deal with this, I have my public persona and my private side. “Psychochild” is the part you see that talks boldly about game design and high concepts, but “Brian” is the quiet, introverted guy who suffers from the same anxiety, fear, and self-doubt that nearly everyone else does. But, you only really see a part of me on here.
The real bitch about depression is that once you’re in it, it’s hard to see your way out. I’m lucky that I don’t suffer from chronic depression like some of my good friends do, but depression takes the self-doubts and self-esteem problems most people experience and turn them into giant weights holding you back. And, if you’re reluctant to ask for help, it feels even more alienating.
The Art of Asking
Many of you probably know of Amanda Fucking Palmer. She is known for her philosophy, summed up in a great TED talk about “The Art of Asking”. Here the video of that talk about being a creative person willing to ask for help with your work.
I watched this a while ago, but I never really took the message to heart. It’s easy to write off the message. She was talented enough to get signed with a major label in the first place, even if the Dresden Dolls didn’t sell a lot of CDs. She brushes shoulders with famous people, married to Neil Gaiman when she gave this talk. It’s easy to see her as the exception rather than the rule.
But, this is mostly self doubt talking. This is me not valuing myself, and not letting you show appreciation for the work I do. This is me making excuses for not pursuing my creative work the way I want.
“Asking makes you vulnerable.”
I think this line is the most important quote from the video. It ties back to that quiet guy here behind the keyboard who has trouble talking about himself. I have a hard time putting myself out there. And asking for direct support is uncomfortable for me. But, I’m finding my courage and asking.
The love of money
I’ve spent a lot of my career searching for interesting things to do. Running Meridian 59 was not a profitable venture in an economic sense. It gave me a lot of experience and contacts, but it didn’t cover my living expenses while I was focused on it. As I had mentioned at the time, I accumulated a lot of credit card debt from living expenses while working on the game, in addition to the credit card debt used to buy the game in the first place.
But, there’s a strong drive in the U.S. society to take care of yourself. As Amanda Palmer says about her first job as a living statue, people would yell “get a job!” to her and make her feel like was doing something wrong and not job like. But, she was making art in her own way and making connections with people; something we should value more than we do. So, I soldiered on and found work and paid off my debt.
Then I got involved with startups. They do exciting things, but they don’t offer financial security. Storybricks was an amazing thing, but there were several months, particularly at the end, where I was making no money. I didn’t pay off credit cards, I borrowed money from friends, and I did what I could to just hang on. Then I got what seemed like a great opportunity that would give some financial security, but required me to move across the country with not enough money to ship all my stuff. I borrowed again from friends and family. I experienced sticker shock at the rents in the area. I made game industry wages not exactly commensurate to my experience with the promise of future rewards which may never come. In the end, the opportunity turned out not to be so great, though.
So, here I am. I looked for work, but frankly the game industry isn’t excited by someone who isn’t eager to live like a college student. My focus on MMOs is almost a liability at this point given that nobody is building MMOs. Those who are aren’t calling them MMOs, or they want me for my engineering background rather than for my much more deep experience in MMO design.
Right now I’m working on The Humanity Hypothesis, an indie game I feel passionate about, but I’m not sure about the financial success of it. I take what time I think I can afford to write on my blog and participate on other blogs and social media. And I’m wondering how rent will be paid in a few months.
Where you come in
This where I stand on a crate and put the hat down in front of me. You come up, you look at me through my writing, my game development, my creativity and maybe drop a bit of cash into the hat. But, this is online and I’ll keep creating new content while you keep contributing to my Patreon every month.
Maybe you can’t afford to drop money in the hat. Or, maybe it just makes you uncomfortable to do so. That’s fine. So, now I ask that you tell others you know. Tell them about the game developer you know who wants to create stuff independently. Who wants to get back up on his feet and live a comfortably from his creativity. And maybe they can throw a little into the hat.
At any rate, thank you for your support. Thank you to those of you who have visited through the many years I’ve been blogging. Thank you to the people who have started visiting recently. Thank you even if this is the only blog post you read. Your support on any dimension is appreciated.
Thank you, sincerely.