I’ll admit, I was caught by surprise and increasingly upset by the number of people I’ve encountered on the internet who couldn’t possibly conceive of a scenario whereby you own a computer, you own all the development software and you make videogames but you can’t possibly have $100, closely followed by the “if you’re serious, you’ll have $100 dollars” crowd. I know it’s not said with any sort of malice and I know that a lot of it comes out of a genuine inability to understand how that’s even possible. Jonas has touched upon the broader scope of things but as I touched on, angrily, on Twitter earlier I’ve learned exactly how it’s possible. I’m not going to go too in depth but the past 2 years of my existence are how it’s really, really, not inconceivable that such a scenario should arise.
You see, two years on the run, close to Christmas, my body decided to pack itself in somehow. First year, my appendix decided it was pretty much time to go pop. Turns out, it’d decided a while before but hey, I’d never had an appendix about to go before, how was I to know? I got rushed into hospital and rushed into an emergency operation with a great surgeon who fixed me up in no time. I got out of hospital a few days before Christmas. I don’t exactly live the highlife and the fares required for Mrs B to come and see me in the weeks I was in hospital drained our Christmas fund. It happens.
A year later and I get “something like pneumonia”. Fuck knows what that was but it befuddled the Docs all the same. It befuddled me too because it was fucking horrible. I still don’t know quite how bad I was but I’ve seen the photos of when I came out and I’ve got a vague memory of it being pretty bad. I know I was gaunt and I know my hair fell out in clumps for months afterwards. A few weeks out of hospital and I rolled up to give a talk in London whilst whacked off my tits on painkillers. That was weird. I drew a dick. It was fun. But anyway, at the end of the fortnight of me being in hospital, we’re bone fucking dry and out of money again. For the second year running I’d managed to go into hospital and Mrs B had to spend the Christmas money on coming to see me. But y’know, loads of people know this bit because loads of people saved our Christmas.
I’m grateful for that still and it’s one of the reasons why, even though some of the talk I’ve heard over the past few days upsets me greatly, I still know that people are for the most part actually really good people who genuinely want to and will help. So y’know, I hope this doesn’t come across as me attacking anyone, it’s not that. It really is just me saying that it’s not inconceivable and you’d be really fucking surprised how easily you can get kicked down.
So yeah, shit happens and I’m not well for quite a while afterwards though and that’s time I’d have normally spent making videogames. Instead, I’m stuck on the sofa for way too long having realised that maybe, just maybe, I’m going to have to rest this one out a bit and not go gallivanting off everywhere. After a bit I start to pick myself up and start working on games again, inbetween getting some exercise and stuff and doing general housey-things.
Let’s go back a few months, a few moments before I was due to go on stage in Nottingham for a talk at Game City, Mrs B had a pain in her stomach that seemed to kick her down really hard. Amazing timing, obviously, but we thought maybe it’s just something a bit wonky and to be honest, didn’t really think that much of it. So off I go, slag off Sonic 4 and we get back to tootling around Nottingham with pals and having a few larks.
Sometime after I’m out of hospital and trying to get myself back on my feet the kicking pain starts becoming a regular feature. And it’s getting worse. So doctors, hospitals, scans and all that shit and nothing. Fuck knows what this thing is. But here’s what it ends up doing, it ends up hospitalising Mrs B on a fairly regular basis. Eventually the pain becomes a very regular feature. All day, every day. And it’s so bad, painkillers don’t work and Mrs B ends up on the sort of thing they give late stage cancer sufferers. And it still doesn’t kill the pain. And we still haven’t found out what it is but it’s clearly something going very wrong, something very painful that necessitates ambulances having to be called at all hours when the pain finally gets too much again and hospital treatment is required. And then the whole hospital thing goes tits up with a ward that makes a shit of things whilst this thing is being investigated. And they don’t just shit things up slightly, they shit it up massively but y’know, that’s something we’re still prodding at. Upshot is, Mrs B comes out worse than when she went in.
And then we find out what it is. It’s a rare kind of hernia that’s pretty much considered a thing that people don’t get anymore, it means that Mrs B’s innards are blocked up and shitted up and if she doesn’t get an op quickly, things will stop working and I’ll be minus one wife. For various often infuriating reasons, this takes a fucking age to organise and arrange. But we do it. We get the op.
But this is shit there’s no control over and it’s shit you wouldn’t believe. I’ve got Mrs B in and out of hospital and I’m throwing money down on taxi fares a fuckton more than I’d want because there’s days I just can’t get to the hospital any other way, there’s days where I need to get Mrs B around to appointments when she’s out and politeness dictates that sitting there, hunched up and screaming in pain to yourself is considered a bit rude so public transport is kinda out the window and I’ve got a kid to get to and from school as well. And this is what I consider normal for a whole six months from the moment it started kicking off big style to the weeks where Mrs B has to cold turkey off the painkillers.
Money just flies out of every orifice at this point. There’s no other way to get through. Every last bit you have goes towards surviving in one way or another. Sometimes, it’s buying a fucking videogame so you don’t go off your box with the madness and trust me, day in, day out of having the person you love the most screaming in pain next to you drives you a little batty. But mainly it’s on transport, lots and lots of transport. And a bit of eating inbetween because you gotta eat. And it wipes you out. Absolutely wipes you out. You think you’ve got a buffer, you think you’re going to be OK but that buffer gets pulled so very fast because priorities. Fuck money, health.
What else are you supposed to do, really? There’s nothing else you can do.
But you know, it really hurts to sit there throwing money out to survive and where your home life and idea of normal is something so alien to most people (because thank everything this does not happen to most people) to be told that you’re not a serious game developer because you haven’t got $100 and if you were, you’d be able to find a way to get it. It’s the serious game developer bit that really hurts though. Oh yeah, that’s the fucker. I’m glad no-one did that then but every time I hear that now, I’m back at last year thinking how quickly, how easily and how without anything I could possibly do to avoid it, if it happened to me again tomorrow, there’s people who’d think I’d magically stop being a serious game developer over $100 I’d be throwing out on existing and supporting my family.
In the middle of all this chaos, whilst the world was going to shit around me and I was sat trying to work out how I could get to and from hospitals when I needed to and eat, in the moments where Mrs B was asleep or resting, the times when I’d managed to get the kid off to bed before 10pm because we’d had no hospital visits that day, I made part of a game. And I did that because that’s how serious I am about making games. It’s one of the things that keeps me grounded, it keeps me sane and it’s something I love to do. So I did that. I made a part of a game and you know, I think it turned out fairly well and I’m really proud of it and I’m glad I got to help give someone a leg up in the process. I wrote all the challenge mode parts to Waves whilst Mrs B was either asleep or in hospital. Because that’s what I do. I make games. Some days I was level designing to the sound of my wifes pained utterances. I’d have preferred some Talk Talk or something but hey, sometimes you take what you have to.
(Rob’s probably going to shit himself when he reads this because I haven’t really told anyone about most of this. Rob, I’ll hope you appreciate that I had a great time designing those bits and I wouldn’t change doing it and Waves is fucking awesome. So shit ye not.)
And here’s the punchline. I had a computer. I had development software. I had art packages. I had sound packages. I had a whole myriad of stuff sitting on my computer. I had UDK and some wonderful guidance from Rob too. I didn’t have $100 I could throw down on a gamble as a business expense. Luckily, I didn’t need $100 as a business expense either but I’ve found out the past few days that this would make me entirely not a serious developer according to some people.
How the fuck does that work?
It works because, thankfully for them, most people can’t conceive of situations like this arising. In many ways, I’m really, really, really glad of this because I wouldn’t wish the year I had last year on anyone and I hope that everyone long continues to not have to face up to situations like this. As my previous stays in hospital and brushes with carking it proved, it doesn’t take long for those buffers you have to disappear. When an illness (yours or your partners) goes on for months, then fuck buffers, it’s survival time. You can’t just start selling stuff to raise a fee, you can’t go out and “get a proper job” to raise a fee because you get a very proper job really fast. But you can still make games. You can still own a computer, you can still own all the software in the world because you bought all these things prior, before things went tits up, before life took you on a slightly darker journey than you’re comfortable with. And making games is what you know, it’s what you do and it’s what you enjoy and you can do it fucking well too.
If that’s not being fucking serious about making games, I don’t know what the fuck is.
If that’s not knowing that the world doesn’t owe you a living, I don’t know what the fuck is. Because there’s a phrase that suddenly means a whole lot more, right?
My experiences, well, they’re just one way the inconceivable occurs. One way that a person can be a serious developer and not be able to scrape a fee together for a submissions gamble. I’m not special either.
And whilst I hope that these are things that never happen to any readers or any reader’s family, I also hope that next time when someone says they’re absolutely serious developers but no, they don’t have $100 right now, I hope that anyone and everyone reading this will think to listen to their reasons why without jumping to such preposterous conclusions or blindly shouting them down insisting that there are things serious developers would do. Because maybe, just maybe, those folks you’re referring to are sitting there being really fucking serious developers like I was last year.
My names Rob, I used to be a non serious game developer but I’m alright now. And so is Mrs B. Mrs B is alright too.
I hope to not have to go through anything like that again and I wish the same, always, for you too dear reader. And obviously, I can’t thank everyone enough for their support last year, even those who didn’t have the slightest clue all this was going on. Each one of you knows who you are and I thank you. I probably wouldn’t be making games still without you. You should really know that.
And everyone should know how easily things can fall away. Because they can. And it doesn’t make you any less serious about your line of work or your passion when they do, it just means shit happens.