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Sunday, January 04, 2015

About five, six years ago I started to get into videogame writing. It seemed really fun — you get to play in much bigger sandboxes —  and video games were getting to have better and better stories, and Montreal's a big gaming hub. Oh, and, it's getting harder and harder to set up a feature film these days.

Lisa was very encouraging, pointing out that I have a degree in computer science, and that can't hurt. And I had a summer job for two summers programming for an educational computer game company on a 128K IBM. (Yes, that's "K." Some of the newer computers had as much as 256K of RAM, if you can imagine that!)

It wasn't until I'd been working in the business for a while that I put together just how much of my life I've been playing and even designing games. I was a D&D fan at 15, and drew lots of dungeons in my spare time, when I wasn't playing cardboard-chips-and-dice wargames. I was in a live-action role-playing group in LA in the '90's, and I even wrote a one-night LARP that came off pretty well, I thought. I just hadn't been writing or designing games on a computer

One of the nice things about being a writer is that you get to use all sorts of odd experiences — the odder the better, really. At the time, spending a month writing a LARP about the evening before the battle of Camlann seemed like a huge waste of time. Fun, yes, of course, but time I could have spent writing something useful. A novel, or something. It turns out to have been preparation for my narrative design career. 

In the game I'm writing now, moreover, I get to use all sorts of odd bits of history and cultural trivia that seemed kind of useless but fun at the time. ( The execution of Admiral Robert Byng pour encourager les autres! The expression, "Don't be a big girl's blouse"!) 

Point is, some of us have a voice in the back of our heads telling us not to waste time. Do useful stuff. Write, and if you're not writing, read or watch stuff that is relevant to your writing. (I certainly do. Your mileage may vary. Contents may have settled. Objects in the mirror are closer than they appear.) If you're a TV writer, there's no point in reading a history of the War of the Roses, unless you think you might one day get a gig writing on The Tudors. 

But over a long career, a lot of that wasted time becomes brain fodder. Grist for the mill. It comes back to haunt you, in useful ways. 

In other words, don't be afraid to do fun and useless things.

Which is why it's totally a good thing that I somehow spent 290 hours in the last two months playing Europa Universalis IV. Right, Lisa?


My Timex-Sinclair 1000 had 2 KB of RAM . . . until I got the big 64 KB upgrade!

By Blogger David, at 3:58 PM  

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