So, the time is come for me to make my commitment. I have committed myself, I have dedicated myself to the pursuit of the Dragon. And having made that commitment, having decided that once and for all, now, all of a sudden, I can see him.
We all live in a fantasy world. It’s a fantasy that we make up for ourselves, but we don’t really realize it. We all battle monsters that we conjure up for ourselves – Skeletons in our closets, Demons in our heads – and we personify our issues with images of monsters that we wage battle with. We sum up the most trying times in our lives with the idea that we were battling a horrific monster. I hear about this stuff every day: So-and-so “beat” cancer, Such-and-such “escaped” the streets. These struggles – real world struggles – are reverse-LARP’d into a fantasy quest. That’s what it feels like, doesn’t it? We were forced into a bit of hardship, and reluctantly we set out to overcome the obstacle set forth. Once our quest is finished, we tell others of our doings and our deeds as if it was an adventure. What if it was, in retrospect? It may sound like a page out of Don Quixote (and it should, since I already referenced Chris Crawford), but what if those monsters and demons and dragons we were told of long ago are real, and they exist as illness and debt and mistreatment? What if the dragon is not a scaly fire-breathing beast, but some goal that lies before you, and you have to fight in other ways to achieve it?
I’ve been dealing with a number of issues lately that have been seen as insurmountable and tiring. I talk to people older than me, tell them stories of dealing with Student Loans, family deaths, and other hardships, and they find my experience with them unique and tough to relate to. It never used to be like this, you know? I’d tell people stories and they would say, “Oh, that’s just another life lesson you had to learn the hard way,” or, “That’s just another part of growing up!” I’m turning 30 this year (and, should this blog exist another 10 years from now, I’ll probably find this post hilarious), and I’m starting to think, now, maybe I am grown up. Maybe I finally reached that level of adulthood, and there’s nothing here! There’s no how-to guides, no “Basic Knowledge Ever Adult Should Know” book (though there’s probably a Buzzfeed article), and nothing that expects you to turn out a particular way. I’ve grown up as a kid-at-heart, and I still find the basic things from my childhood fun. But I also have to tackle the things that adults deal with in my own way. And I still have dreams and aspirations. And I look at these challenges and hardships as Demons and Dragons, and imagine myself fighting these beasts.
Because Don Quixote’s right. The world is ugly, and cruel, and it can really suck. So I don’t want to picture a small micro-organism attacking my respiratory system, where the medicine I need is too expensive to afford, because lobbyists paid off a politician to limit funding for medical insurance, and the loans I owe suck the last penny out of my bank account, the same bank that’s defrauding millions of its customers via some loop-hole in a tax-break bill, so I can’t afford the medicine that will treat the illness that’s killing me. (This isn’t actually happening to me, it’s just hypothetical) I want to picture a world where hardships are personified in a mythical creature, and that through hope, determination, and believing in my friends and myself, that I can overcome the odds.
I created Dragons for myself, not because they are terrifying and vicious, but because they are something that represent hardship, and I’ve read about them being overcome time and time again, and I want to overcome them too. In 2001-2002, when I was 13, I decided I wanted to become a Game Developer. I graduated in 2009 during the Recession, and jobs were hardly anywhere to be found. In 2016, I beat that Dragon by getting a game I worked on up on Steam (ironically, called Monsters!!!). I was paying out the ear for Student Loans for 7+ years without putting a dent in the full amount. Through legal action, I settled that Dragon. I worked for years at a job I hated, and going on interview after interview, I was weary of the battle. Finally, thanks to this blog, I escaped that Dragon’s maw and found a
job career in Virtual Reality and Simulation. A few years ago I found myself feeling ill, with terrible headaches, dizziness, and a myriad of other symptoms, and, after a year and a half, jumping doctor to doctor (and getting my chest shaved a few times), I realized that I was being tormented by the Dragon known as Anxiety.
These are the battles I fought. I could sings songs and regale tales in a local tavern, and tell other weary travelers about what I’ve done and how I came out on top. Because I live in a world of Dragons, and I will be my own hero to slay them. My co-workers call me “The Bog Wizard.” A fitting title. I’ve earned it. And I will own it. With my hands, I will write arcane runes onto enchanted tablets and create whole worlds with my vision. Isn’t that what a programmer does? Don’t trivialize what you do – your parents do that enough by saying “Oh, he works on computers! He can fix your printer!” Be what you are. You write the code that makes the world that exists solely in a box come alive and do your bidding. You have the power and the knowledge. So own it.
I mentioned Chris Crawford before, and he’s kinda been what stemmed this whole rant. If anyone is interested in Game Development in the 1980s, he posted up the source code and project files to quite a few of the games he’s written in the past. I highly recommend people check it out, especially Excalibur (1983). Not only is it the source code, and not only is it the documentation, but it also contains Chris Crawford’s personal notes during the development of the game. He talks about development, his interactions with employees and other companies, and his own personal insight into how he views the world and the game industry. He talks about designing the game in a very abstract conceptual way (“Mordred As Animus”), to his decision to leave the game industry (“I Am Not A Game Designer”), but also his personal inflection, like this from a document titled “Don Quixote”:
Don Quixote was not insane. He knew perfectly well that Dulcinea was a whore; he knew that the windmill was not a dragon. What he did was more complex than the popular perception realizes. Don Quixote realized that he lived in an ugly, sordid world, a world that he didn’t like and did not wish to be part of. And one day Don Quixote simply decided that he would no longer acknowledge the ugliness and filth around him. He decided that he was going to live in a world worth living in, a world in which there was some truth and beauty. He looked around him and saw what he chose to see. Dulcinea the whore became Dulcinea the chaste and noble lady. A dull mechanical windmill became a fierce dragon in need of vanquishing. These perceptions he imposed on reality because there was nothing else to live for. Was he insane to reject a reality that was unworthy of his continued participation? Was his shift in perception not a rational means of providing some meaning, however tenuous, to his existence?
Now, this example is… extreme. Very extreme. But there’s something profound inside it. Don Quixote wanted to change the world into something he wanted to see, because it was something tangible to him. What Quixote did, though, was try to beat the shit out of a windmill and harassed a bunch of people while calling himself a knight. In that respect, yes, Don Quixote was insane. But taking things in the world and putting them into perspectives that we can grasp, and challenges that we want to overcome, is that insane? I chose to see myself as a wizard, and the tasks and hardships I encountered as monsters and Dragons, because that became easier to swallow. They kinda became fun to endure, and rewarding to overcome! It meant something to me. It makes things like a terrible job and paying loans feel less mundane, and changes my outlook on life. I know it’s not a great adventure in the long run, but it’s my adventure, and, as God as my witness, I’m taking up arms and going in full force. The glory will be mine, that battle will be won, and, in the end, I’ll stand above with more than just a sheet of paper or some folded laundry, or a program that can calibrate blood samples, but with a mighty beast slain before my feet, and a wealth of treasure to be collected! I will keep fighting these Dragons in my life, because they hold sway over me. They come from the shadows and hit me when I’m most vulnerable. But I’ve conquered dragons in the past, and the ones in my future are no different. Send me your Dragons and your Skeletons, your Demons, and Robot Armies, and Wizards, and Balrogs. We shall see which one shall lay me low. Until then, I will keep seeking glory and overcome these beasts. That is my life. That is the life of the Bog Wizard!
Yes! Yes, you frighten me! You hurt me! I’ve felt your claws ripping through my soul! But I’m going to die someday! And before I can do that, I got to face you, eyeball to eyeball! I’ve got to look you right in the eye and see what’s inside! But I’m not good enough to do that yet! I’m not experienced enough! So I’m going to have to start learning. Today. Here. Now. Come, Dragon! I will fight you! Sancho Panza, my sword! For truth! For beauty! For Art! CHARGE!!!