Friday, 12 October 2012

A Calling?

I am the Warden!!

Fair warning: today's post is going to be a bit vague. I'd tell you how vague, but that's getting a bit specific. The point is on the impact these translucent events of the past week have had on me and the choices I've been making over the past couple of years.

This past Wednesday, I went in for a vocational assessment for my insurance company to basically determine what professions, if any, are suitable for my "new body." It's standard procedure when you reach the 2-year mark in your claim. Anyone who's read a number of my posts or is aware of my online life already knows what I'm working towards and I've been incredibly up front about it during my previous vocational assessments. (That's right, there's been more than one.)

I want to be a tabletop game designer.


And what did I bring with me? Why, both copies of Killshot (hardcover Director's Cut and softcover Assassin's Journal) plus the Executive Tracker. It's a similar tactic used during my first assessment almost a year ago, except I brought draft copies printed at Staples for reference.

Whipping out these tools immediately gains their attention and gives them good cause to stop talking and start listening. No sooner had I laid them on the table, the assessor picked up the Director's Cut, started flipping through, and asking questions.

Invariably, one of those questions was, "Is this the instruction manual for a video game?"

"Nope, that IS the game. It's a tabletop game, like Dungeons & Dragons."

His eyes lit up. Oh yeah, he knew D&D. This lead to a five minute recap of his gaming days in college and how it's been years since he's played. Then it took it down the hall to show it to a colleague. In all honesty, if he hadn't been a professional psychologist and had a timetable to keep (and if I had brought dice), we would have rolled some Killshot right then and there.

Regardless of his experience in dice rolling, pulling out those books caused a major shift in the assessment, just as they had a year ago in my previous meeting. They made it perfectly clear how serious I was about my preferred career choice. This established the rest of the assessment as how to best find a way to make this a reality.

The irony of these appointments is that the end result - a final report submitted to the insurance company - will not reflect the genuine enthusiasm these assessors expressed in person. Face-to-face, they love to see someone step into their office with dreams, goals, and passion. They got into this profession to help people like me achieve something bold despite the horror of our injuries and recovery. Their paperwork, however, reflects the reality of that passion and it's predictably slim when it comes to tabletop game design. Their report has to reflect sustainability, income, and other mathematical factors in whether or not the insurance company would be wise to invest in this career change to help get me back on my feet. And that's fine, I accept that. It's not an easy sell on paper and I know it will be turned down.

But I don't care. This is my calling. I can see it now more than ever. Not because of what will be on paper, but because of the enthusiasm on their faces when they opened my game.

Killshot is my first foray into independent game design (i.e. no OGL or system licensing) and it has sold as well as anything I've ever done during my Emerald Press/D&D days. I have people emailing/calling/testing me with requests on when we're going to play again and other commenting on their eager anticipation for Killshot: Reloaded. Enthusiasm.

On paper, I haven't pulled in a single penny from this game and it'll still be a while until I do, if ever. Just like the final assessment, this is not a feasible career choice.

So fuck paper.

That's not to say I can just sit here and get cracking. There is still loads for me to learn and numerous fields I can turn to for that extra boost (I am almost 40, for crying out loud, and stand at least ten years behind everyone else of my age in any field). Graphic design, for example, allows me to self publish my material and save credible amounts in layout costs, which is completely labour based. Other recommendations I've been given are business courses and writing classes, but graphic design is where I'm leaning. It provides a career similar to my previous employment (press operator), allows me to stay within my field (print production), and can potentially allow me to stay home for at least half of the work week. To help pay the bills and build a portfolio, graphic design is the best choice and will certain be essential to any future success in game design and publishing.

Getting to that point, however, has turned out to be a larger hurdle than simply making a choice. That's where I know game design to be a calling - it got me through these troubles and was there for me when everyone else scratched their heads figuring out what do to with me. Whenever there's been a negative in my life, the results of my game design always resulted a positive. When I find out a meeting or appointment has been cancelled for two months, I'm handed the final hardcover copy of Killshot at my front door. When the pain eats at me and makes me irritable, someone's posted a 5-star rating on my game. When I feel like I'm a weaker version of my former self, I create something dynamic and unexpected to bring me back up.

If anyone wonders how I made it through this ordeal with a hearty smile and good joke, I provide this as my answer. That's why it's a calling. Or perhaps an awakening.