My wife has multiple sclerosis and it’s quite advanced.
Since I live in a city where I don’t know many people (I just moved here in 2011) and since it’s my experience that precious few acquaintances turn out to be the kind of friend that will help you move a body (even when that’s helping move a woman with no control of her legs up the stairs to the bathroom), my time is very much dominated by taking care of her. I work full time, though they have been extremely good about letting me work from home as needed and take time as needed and avoid travel as needed. But that means my hours are pretty precious.
So doing all the things that are involved in producing a game are my release, my personal space away from these extremely pressing obligations. I love my wife dearly, but it would be foolish to pretend these aren’t obligations or that they don’t press. Anyway, game production is not escape in the sense of a frivolity. I don’t believe in that kind of escape, really. They are an obligation that is solely, entirely of my own choosing.
Having a choice is incredibly important. Feeling like you are in control of something lets you press forward. Being out of control, only responding, is a kind of helplessness. It’s too hard to live like that so I choose not to.
So you’ll have to forgive me if I sometimes show a disdain for frivolity. Now, it might be that choosing frivolity is a kind of self-determination, a kind of expression of power in the face of other pressures. But there’s just not that much time in the middle of the pressures. I feel like I need to be doing something, actualizing, creating — doing something to externalize myself — with that precious time.
You might (reasonably!) say that game design is a frivolity. Well, playing the game might be a frivolity for you, but producing it — inventing it, writing it, drawing for it, laying it out, and guiding it to sale and beyond — is not a frivolity. And as I wonder about this I realize that I don’t play very much just for fun. I almost entirely play to develop. Certainly I find that fun, but it’s fun in pursuit of a goal that I need.
And of course there are plenty of people who have it much worse. I’m white and male and any subtle variation in my sexuality from the norm is invisible to others. People who have to deal with everyday pressures and the pressures that come from being a minority, especially in a world that seems increasingly hostile, have even less time to fuck around.
I don’t resent you your frivolity. I envy it. And if I’m successful in design, I may even be enabling it, and any joy you get that’s even a little my fault lifts weights off my shoulders. So go forth and play and have a good time. But do so knowing that it arrives after a meandering course through great stress, through times of quiet which only means I am listening for an alarm, and that it has to reflect that. The game may occasionally unsettle you as a side effect of the path it took to get to you.
If it unsettles you and gives you joy, that’s two weights off my shoulders. I made you happy and I shared a burden, hopefully on the sly so you didn’t know I did that.