Back home (and gone for good)

Well… hello! You probably don’t know me. I tend to go by the name “schlaghund” around the interwebs. Truth is I’ve been on and off this here blogging thing for the last, oh, seven years or so – some “on,” but mostly definitely a lot of “off.” I used to write a little bit about games – playing them, analyzing them, enjoying them. That isn’t going to change now, mind you, but… let’s just say, I was a lot younger back then. I’ve since scrubbed that drivel from the servers I hosted it on – not to hide anything; I’m sure Google cached a lot of that content, anyway. I just can’t stand to dwell on the past. It was more a symbolic act. A new beginning. Tabula rasa. Life has changed a lot for me over the past seven years. Let me tell you a little bit about it.

I graduated from college with a cushy job offer at a major enterprise software company. I was a twenty-something geek with a lot of disposable income and (due to my indifference toward the job) a lot of time on my hands. I played a lot of videogames.

Miraculously, I also happened to land a girlfriend. She convinced me to apply to videogame companies in hopes of diverting my career path toward something more relevant to my interests. After exactly two years at my enterprise job, I began a four-year stint at my first game industry position as a tools (and, later, gameplay) programmer at a then-small PC MMO developer. I had to take a pay cut for it, but to this day, I don’t regret it one bit.

Then life started to accelerate. I married that girlfriend. A couple years later, we had a kid. The studio for which I worked grew fivefold. I felt stifled. Social games were the next frontier, but they were then as they sadly still are now – trash. I left my not-quite-AAA (AA?) company to join a social gaming startup that, like a few others at the time, had grand ambitions of bringing “gamers’ games” to Facebook.

So let’s see… it has been a good 18 months since I last blogged. Last I wrote, I had just been laid off along with the rest of the startup I had joined only a year before when the company went bankrupt. A certain megacorporation courted us with the possibility of an acquisition, which would have saved us from our approaching financial peril. They had done their due diligence. We had talented personnel. Things looked good (or so the execs told us). But in the end, our suitor let us bleed out. They held interviews at a nearby coffeeshop the day the lights went dark. Classy.

Luckily, I already had a job offer lined up for a game programming position at a location-based mobile-game developer. The offer was fortunately still on the table at the time of the bankruptcy. I started work the next day.

I won’t talk about that job just yet. Suffice it to say – it was pretty good. There were obvious issues, but I learned a lot there – enough to bring me to where I am now. I quit that job a little over two weeks ago to be a stay-at-home-dad and an independent game developer.

The dad part has been coming to me naturally. But the indie game dev part? That’s… a work in progress – one I hope to share a little more closely with the rest of you! It’s weird, you know – being suspiciously apprehensive about this nebulous, newfound freedom. After a decade of taking orders, I still have that phantom sense that I’m supposed to be doing something… for someone. I guess technically, my kid is that someone.

Still, it’s exhilarating coming to grips with the fact that I can do anything, make anything. No more riding back-seat. No more pitching novel game mechanics to a wall of clueless stares. No more compromising player experience for the sake of monetization. No more arguing day-after-day to justify a design I absolutely believe in. No more putting up with castrated idealists, loudmouthed sloths, arrogant morons, and all of those other bullshit archetypes (of which I am certainly one). I get to hold myself and only myself accountable, and while that’s frightening, it’s liberating. I will finally have the chance to make what I want to make and put it out there for the world to praise or deride. But at least whatever it is, it’ll be mine.  And I’ll be damned if I ever have it any other way.

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