I was watching TV with the Lovely Wife, Caroline, the other day when a commercial came on for some teen-oriented anti-perspirant or something. Aside from being appalled that someone was targeting teens with something like that (and note that I said “appalled” not “surprised”…) I was kind of weirded out by the commercial’s overuse of the acronym “OMG.”
Being an old fart, and not knowing, I assume that stands for “oh my god.” And, while I understand the need to abbreviate when texting (I do a LOT of texting myself…) it still got under my skin that, in commercials and everyday non-texting life, we couldn’t actually, you know, use our words.
But, despite what you may think, this isn’t a post about the corruption of our language and so on and so forth. In fact, kind of the opposite. I love the fact that language changes and that I can embrace that change. In fact in fact, I’m writing this because I just had my own genuine OMG moment — my first!:
I was awakened from a pretty sound sleep with a heartfelt “OMG” about to burst from my mouth (which I stifled when I realized such an outburst would wake up the aforementioned Lovely Wife — and that wouldn’t be good for anyone). Anyway, what was my OMG moment?
I realized that this month, September, was my 25th anniversary in the game business. Yow!
I remember vividly walking into Steve Jackson’s house for my interview back in September of 1983. (Heck, I remember exactly what I was wearing: a khaki shirt, green military-style pants, a green vest and some stupid brown suede-covered athletic shoes — Italian, which at the time I guess signified cool, to me, even if they did hurt like the dickens.) Anyway, I remember marching up to Steve’s house for an interview that felt like a fun conversation with a gaming buddy, and I remember him offering me a minimum wage job as an Assistant Editor, and I remember leaving feeling like the happiest guy on Earth.
Since then, I have learned a TON in the game business, and have wracked up debts I’ll never be able to repay. At risk of annoying all sorts of people, I have to thank in some semi-public way (which, I guess, this blog qualifies as) the folks who’ve made the last 25 years great and terrible and educational and absolutely, wouldn’t-trade-it-for-anything incredible:
Steve Jackson – for giving me a start and for providing me with a great education in game design. SJG was like a college course in game design.
Allen Varney – for being a fantastic collaborator for most of the last 25 years. In the world of tabletop games, I did my best work with Allen (though I hate to admit it!) and we’ve continued doing great work together this whole time. It’s weird working with a guy who’s so different from me and yet so much on the same wavelength — Allen’s the only person I’m not married to who routinely finishes my sentences. It’s freaky…
Richard Garriott – if Steve Jackson was Mentor #1 and gave me an undergrad eduction, Richard was Mentor #2 for me and represents my gaming Masters degree and PhD. He taught me the difference between electronic games and tabletop games. Working with him on the early design of Ultima VI was a revelation and a privilege. And let’s not forget that Ultima IV was the game that proved to me that games could be so much more than they were at the time. Utterly inspirational.
Paul Neurath – for teaching me how to flowchart, on Space Rogue, and for getting the Underworld project off the ground and for starting Blue Sky Productions (later Looking Glass Technologies) and for… oh, man, we don’t have space.
Doug Church – for being, probably, the best designer, programmer, project director, you-name-it I’ve ever met. Oh, and a great friend, too! It’s totally weird encountering someone who’s basically better than you are at everything you do. If I have to admit I did “my” best tabletop game work with Allen Varney, I have to do the same, looking back on my years in electronic gaming, and say Doug’s been there for all of “my” best videogames. Doug wins the Unsung Hero award in videogame history — we should all start singing…
There have certainly been others I ought to thank — Bruce Sterling and Walton “Bud” Simons for getting me into the whole gameplaying thing in the first place and without whom I wouldn’t even have known there was a game business to be in… Greg Costikyan, for writing the original manuscript that became TOON: The Cartoon Roleplaying Game… the amazingly talented writers and designers at Steve Jackson Games and TSR, all of whom I SHOULD single out and mention by name… Mike Dobson, for offering me a life-changing job at TSR… Chris Roberts, for showing me what it takes to manage the kind of large-scale projects that would come to dominate gaming, and for showing me the power of uncompromising commitment to a creative vision… John Romero, for making me the offer I couldn’t refuse to become a part of Ion Storm… The Deus Ex team, for being utterly inspired (and inspiring), if at times painfully dysfunctional! (DX team leads Harvey Smith, Chris Norden and Jay Lee, you deserve more credit!)… Art Min, Mike Grajeda and Stan Herndon for being terrific partners and friends… Bob Picunko, Mike Ryder, Mark Meyers and Graham Hopper for signing me up with Disney and allowing me to put a check by the “Work for Disney” box on my to-do list of life… Seamus Blackley, for being both friend and agent, and hooking me up with some truly amazing people and opportunities… the JPS team, especially the folks who’ve stuck with me from the start (no easy feat, given the roller coaster ride it’s been)… and, of course, all the non-game friends who’ve been there with me the last 25 years (with a special thanks to the Saturday Breakfast Bunch, with whom I’ve had breakfast, without fail, every Saturday since 1989 — without you guys anchoring my week I’d have gone crazy… okay, crazi-ER… long ago).
Most of all, though, I have to thank the Lovely Wife, Caroline, for putting up with my crazy hours, wild mood swings, days and weeks away from home on business, and all the other nonsense I’ve put her through. I’ve often described her as “the most understanding woman in the world” and that still stands. I don’t know how or why she’s put up with me, but I’m sure glad she continues to amaze me with her love and support.
Anyway, here’s to the next 25 years, and a bunch of new names on the “thank you” list I write up in September of 2023!