I came out of my mother via c-section ass-first, and in the process, the obstetrician nicked one of my cheeks with his scalpel. So I've got a cool butt scar I've never seen. (Let's not talk about mirrors.) That's my story. Or at least, that's how my mother tells it. Not quite as epic as Copperfield, I'll grant you, but certainly more authentic. Doubt anyone reading this needs to sift through all the banalities of my middle-class white suburban upbringing, though, so let's focus on the only childhood story that matters here—the one that made me know I wanted to be a writer.
Already an avid gamer by five, it wasn’t until the fourth grade that I got my first taste of role-playing games, when a friend showed me Final Fantasy VI. And while disinclined to loan it (as I recall, he had only just gotten the game himself), he was kind enough to send me home with a busted copy of Shining Force II. Having no clue that RPGs clocked in at 30 or more hours on average, I didn’t think the cartridge’s inability to hold a save state would be a hindrance.
Were I more tech savvy at nine, I would’ve realized I could swap out the internal battery and the game would operate right as rain. Instead, my brother, Jason, and I took alternating shifts throughout the day for days on end in an effort to beat it from start to finish in one sitting.
This, of course, never happened—there are more hours in Shining Force II’s story than there are in a day. We mostly just became exceptionally skilled at getting to Creed’s Manor.
The upside to this self-induced grind was that it grew to become an obsession with games that had a story to tell, and that in turn sparked a love for storytelling in general.
Based on the small sampling of Final Fantasy VI my friend showed me, I wrote a short story in which, having not yet played the game, I made up what I thought Espers were and where I thought the story was going. Wound up reading the half-plagiarized work in front of the whole class as part of an assignment. Surprisingly enough, the other kids dug it—a great deal. And since that’s the first time I can recall ever feeling any good at anything, well, the interest stuck.
Twenty-some years on, video games and storytelling remain the most consistent passions of my life. In that time, my interest in Japanese role-playing games gave way to Western ones, and my tastes expanded to include a wider scope of influences—shooters and action games of all kinds. I pursued a career among the gaming games press thinking I'd find a profession that lived at the intersection of video games and writing, but a few years spent trying to keep magazines alive reminded me what I really wanted was to tell stories through games—help make them, not just talk about them.
And so I here I am, the accumulation of a lifetime spent absorbing stories and immersed in video games. And what do I have to show for it? I don't know. I'd like to think that it's a good eye for the mechanics of storytelling. I'd like to say it's a keen grasp of and insight into the human condition, and an understanding that the effective interrogation of said human condition is what constitutes great fiction. Or, if you'd prefer less pretentious wording, that characters matter most. (Okay, gameplay matters most—but characters are a close second!) No clever concept or slick premise can ever carry the weight an engaging character, and that's what I aim to deliver. h+