It’s been a long time. I’ve all but abandoned this blog, and myself for the past 6 months. If you’ve been with me for a while, you may have read about my depression before. I’m a very open and honest person and I have nothing to hide. It’s something I’ve struggled with since my early teens and for most of my adult life, I’ve had it under control. The past two years, not so much. This past winter… well, that was bad. Real bad.
But I’m still here!
I didn’t go anywhere except inside my head. Last year, I signed up for a legit Facebook so that I could have a place a little less public to talk about these things. My normal online persona is very much like me: kind, helpful, and genuinely generous. I didn’t want to burden anyone that didn’t want to read about my troubles. So, Facebook gave me a place to do that. I set my page to private, and I shared myself.
It helped, but not in the way you are thinking. No catharsis of the soul by airing my problems. No therapeutic discussions or emotional connections. Instead, this tool I was using for a purpose it was never intended, brought me something I never expected.
“How are you doing? Is there any way I can help you?
Your FB post looks like you are in rather bad mood lately.
Is there any way I can help? Are there any ways to get you out of ‘meh’ mood?”
“I dunno honestly. Sometimes it just goes away.
I think a lot of it has to do with not playing games lately.
My regular group hasn’t met in about a month.”
“If hard work help you with ‘meh’ mood, I can always put on you lot’s of work,
I always have something to help me with.”
This was, honestly, a surprise conversation for me. My favorite hobby is helping people. I can fix anything. I am an IT guy at work. Previously I was a professional mechanic. I am a woodworker. I can weld. I can build, plumb, and electrify a home… honestly, I can fix anything. And I love doing just that. I take care of my friends house troubles and perform routine maintenance on their vehicles. I don’t ask for anything in return… in fact, I hate being paid for my help. I just like helping people. It makes me feel good. Maybe that’s an ego thing? I don’t know honestly. I just know I enjoy it.
The weird part about this conversation is… rarely in my life has anyone ever offered to help me. I think most of my local friends are used to me being the stable one… the guy that fixes things. They guy they can turn too when something is broken or needs done. The idea that I would need help with anything would just never occur to them.
From a Distance
That’s the thing though, this person wasn’t local and I hadn’t known him all that long. In fact, I had just met him over the summer and immediately after, I wrote an article about him. This person is 4,500 miles away in Gliwice, Poland. Ignacy Trzewiczek is the founder, CEO, and chief designer of Portal Games… and one of the most genuinely awesome persons I’ve ever encountered in life.
I had already done a few things for Ignacy. In fact, I met him, because I decided to help out at his booth at Gen Con. Turned out, it was the best decision I’ve made in a very long time. As I detailed in my previous article, I had a feeling, leaving Gen Con, that this man would change my life. After reading his book, I was certain of it. There is so much to learn from him that it would be impossible for him not to at least change my perspective. Maybe he wouldn’t directly influence me, but at the very least, the way I approach things would change because of the lessons I can learn from his energy and approach.
As it turns out though, our friendship has very directly changed my life.
We kept up after Gen Con. Ignacy asked if I could help playtest some things. Maybe do some proofreading, and of course, I agreed. As the winter closed in around me, I grew more and more detached. The feeling of dread… of depression started to seep into me. I lost interest in my design projects and I started to dwell on that. This is never a good thing. I’m a much better person when I have something to focus on.
So, in December, when I received a surprise email to playtest the Imperial Settlers Campaign mode I had a brief moment of focus. A new project! Shortly after, there were a ton of questions from the other playtesters and it became apparent that, well… Ignacy’s rules just didn’t make sense. So, I took it upon myself to re-write them. I was driven. It was awesome. He didn’t ask for it and I didn’t volunteer. I just did it. It wasn’t exactly creative work, but it was exactly what I needed… a focus… and it was much appreciated by Ignacy and the Portal staff.
So, when asked shortly after if I was willing to help, “HELL YES” was my answer.
Where Exactly is This Headed?
This story doesn’t have an ending. That’s a good thing. In the past 4 months I’ve taken on more and more tasks as Ignacy has asked. I’ve written and edited rules, proofed cards, done some graphic design, playtested, ran contests, built websites, maintained websites, helped with Twitter… and soon… I’ll be going to shows. Representing the company. I’ve been asked many times if I’m an employee and my answer is, “Well, Ignacy has referred to me as an employee, but I don’t have a Portal email address.” I’ll just leave it at that.
This relationship has meant more for me than any amount of compensation could ever cover. It gave me focus during the time of the year when I needed it the most. It gave me something to look forward too and it helped me stop dwelling on the fact that I haven’t felt creative at all. As we approach con season, the one thing I kept thinking about was my pledge last year to make a new giveaway game each year… and how much I had failed so far to even have an idea.
Guess what. I have an idea… and it’s a good one.
So, that’s coming soon. This year, I’m going to let everyone in on the secret. Chevee is giving another game away. It’s going to be another light card game. Something slightly more silly than Me Booty!, but just as accessible and fun. This year, I’m going to write some design documents around it and let people playtest early versions. Last year I kept it a secret and it was fun to do that, but it goes against everything I believe in.
I like telling you about what I’m doing… even when what I’m doing isn’t exactly about games, or even particularly happy. I like writing, and damnit, this year, I’m going to write. Time to get over myself and have fun with this new inspiration behind me. Thank you to everyone that reads and responds, you make it all worthwhile.