This is a collection of words.

Nothing Happens

“You’re just jealous that it’s me and not you”

They weren’t the exact words in the tweet but the implication was there. Me. Looking in and looking up at this guy, wishing for what he had.

I thought about it for a moment.

“Fuck off”, I typed. I reached for the block button and pressed it. I didn’t really feel any particular anger, just a sort of sadness. The kind of sadness that comes from someone who judges you as if your world view is their world view, y’know?

I couldn’t resist. A sneaky peak back after the block. Words to the effect of “you know it’s true”. I go and put the kettle on, it’s time for a hot chocolate.

I’d been reading an article on what the next year would bring for games and the conclusion? Nothing is going to happen. It’s been one heck of a five months previous, it’s showing no signs of letting up. Nothing is going to happen.

I can’t remember a time in videogames where nothing much happened, where time passed and little changed but this? Now?

In some ways, sure, I was jealous. I wasn’t jealously eyeing up an interview spot, mind. I was jealous of being able to be so oblivious to the world around me.

That must be sorta comforting, I thought.

I drank my hot chocolate and carried on making a videogame.

I’ve struggled for two years now to make a videogame and it weighs heavily on me. Sometimes it’s the weight of self doubt. Two years on and off development, two years scraping time together where you can, so preoccupied with getting through that self doubt creeps in further.

“Am I good at this?”

People tell me I’m good at this. Logically and realistically, I know it doesn’t matter if I’m good at this. What matters is that I’m here, I get through, there’s another side and there’s things I enjoy doing.

Some nights are darker than others.

“I’m me. I’m happy with that. I don’t know what the future holds but as long as I’m happy and the people I care about and love are happy, I’ll settle for whatever life throws at me. If that’s being the next big thing, so be it. If it’s not, I’m sure I’ll live. I can’t quite see it somehow though, not unless the universe turns inside itself and the entire fabric of reality bends around me.”

That’s me. In 2008. A cheeky interview in The Guardian and my first real proper interview about me, about the stuff I do, not the stuff we’d organised around other people. 7 years on and my answer would be kinda similar, I guess. But 7 years on and no-one now would ask any of us “are you the next big thing?”.

I ran up to a few folks, I apologised for having to leave and I threw myself out the door.

For a while I figured it was just the painkillers. I’d been out of hospital for a few weeks and was still huffing them like no bastard else just to get through the days. Maybe going to London to give a talk and to sit on a panel wasn’t the smartest possible thing. But you know, the thing about nearly snuffing it is that it makes an already strong appreciation of good humans even stronger and sometimes, you just know you need to be around good humans. More good humans.

I count myself lucky that for most of my time in games, the vast majority of people I’ve encountered have been and are good humans. Kind people. Gentle people. People who consider other people. I’d met plenty that day who I’d meet again and shake their hands. Their work means so much to me, them being good humans means so much to me.

But I didn’t want to be in that room a moment longer.

It was the last two talks, see.

From hearing people enthusiastic about their work, their craft, their loves within and around videogames, the last two talks marked a severe shift. You have to make Facebook games! You should totally do that! But I don’t want to make Facebook games! I’m here because the only thing I want to do is make the games *I* want to make. I don’t care if it’s good business practice or it’ll teach me something about metrics, it’s not me. I didn’t get into this to make Facebook games. You can’t make me.

The last, how to wring more money from your fans with special editions. Just like Trent Reznor wot did. A lesson in whaling. This isn’t the world I want to be in. This isn’t why I got into games. This isn’t what games mean to me.

I didn’t want to be in a room listening to this, I’m probably going to tell someone to fuck off anytime soon. Best I leave now.

I made my excuses. I left.

I want what I always wanted.

I want people to be safe and to be happy. I want people who want to make videogames to be able to make videogames. I want people who want to play videogames to be able to comfortably play videogames.

And I want people who want to have a shot at making a living from videogames to be able to have one.

I wanted that when I started. I wanted that in 2008 and I want it now.

In some ways, we’re closer than ever before. In other, the same plague still lingers. For the better part of the last year I’ve watched more friends, more peers, more colleagues and explorers in the videogame dimension come under fire. It’s still going on today, rarely relenting.

I’ve watched videogames become an even more hostile place than before.

It was a late night. I hadn’t been working on videogames all night, I don’t do that sort of thing anymore. Health first and all that.

I’d spent a few hours tweaking numbers because gamedev is an extraordinary amount of time spent just tweaking numbers. I punted the results over to the devkit, the blackness turned to the glow of laserlight, purples, blues and reds. A white light in the centre as the player landed onto the screen.

“Yeah, I am fucking good at this”, I thought and closed the computer down for the night.

Five years ago, if someone would have said to me that I’d be sitting here with a console devkit, I’d have laughed in their face. Yet here I am.

Because everything changed. We fought for this and we got to the point where the industry, the videogames industry couldn’t ignore us because there was an appetite, a desire for what we made.

Sure, a lot is still on industry terms but now? So much is on the terms we set. A long, long way from ideal but baby steps and all that.

Five years ago when I ran out of that conference, it felt like the industry would knock forever at our door, success on their terms not ours. Be like them if you want to succeed. Do what they do if you want to succeed.

Fuck that.

Spaces get made. There are other ways.

Five years ago I knew full well you didn’t have to make a Facebook game to get better at making games. Five years ago I knew full well that you could go out there and do business without worrying about how to bleed extra money from the people who loved and respected your work. Fuck. I knew this ten years ago and I know it now. You can take all that and fiddle it around a bit now because damn right there’ll be people saying “but you can’t x without y” to stop folks from stepping up, there’s always something.

I’ve been patiently pushing forward year in, year out watching videogames open up for more and more people, more abilities, more talents, more voices, more people. I can’t think of a single year in all the years I’ve been doing this when nothing happened, when no major changes or shifts occurred. Not one. From how games are made to how games are sold, videogames don’t sit still. I’m watching people now, new folks not old white bearded men like me, bring their own quality stuff to videogames and it’s amazing to watch. They’re going to make so many things so much better as they do. Sure, mistakes will be made but hey, humans and all that.

But y’know, if you tell me that this year will be dull, that this year nothing will happen when we’re riding out the back of one of the largest attacks on the people who work within videogames…

…yeah, I’m going to tell you to fuck off.

Because this has to change and we can’t afford to wait. We need to make videogames a better, safer space for people to work within, for people to be better within and we need to be doing it, like, yesterday. Because videogames aren’t just money, how you sell videogames, they’re not just products. Videogames are the result of people and people are important. Videogames as industry has spent years edging away from this, throwing a few figureheads to the press to keep a face on it whilst talking about SKU and IP and monetization and and and… maybe that’s how we got in this big old fucking mess, yeah?

I just hope we don’t lose too many of these good people before it does change, y’know? Right now videogames, you’re breaking my fucking heart.

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This is a collection of words.

On Patreon

I have a Patreon now.

There’s a running joke with a lot of people who know me that if there’s a way to make sure I don’t make any money from what I do, I’ll find it.

It’s true, I guess.

I’ve long maintained my games at accessible prices, either Pay What You Want, donationware or just flat out giving them away and yeah, I’m giving them away right now because I honestly think there’s a point where you do hand these things over for free, where you say “ok, enough”. I’ve done enough with them, it’s cool. I ran a big sale a few years back and spent all the proceeds on a big haul of shopping for someone who had none. I had a few quid over last year so I paid for a week in a spooky house and took people on holiday there. I’m not very good at making a fortune, I’m really not.

I’ve ran RR out of pocket for years. It gets some contributions to help keep it afloat and I’m grateful for that but the reality is that for the past ten years, I’ve paid out over 10k out my own pocket for the place and then some. Which isn’t a complaint, you have a choice in these things, right? Nobody forced me. Give or take the odd moment here and there, it’s been massively fun too. There’s a few things I’m not proud of along the way, a couple of things I’m sorry for but in the main, we did good I reckon. We made a lot of good things happen in our time. And during that time, I had amazing support from people too, when the shit hit the fan for RR, I never once had to deal with shit without help. I’m so thankful for that.

And I write here and write often for nothing. I’ve only really gone after one paid gig myself and I managed to “do a Rob” and make a mess of that by falling ill the week I was supposed to write something so that never really went anywhere. Truth be told, the kind of stuff I write about isn’t the kind of stuff videogame outlets generally look for anyway and it’s not the sort of stuff that runs to a schedule. I made an exception for Eurogamer recently because I have nothing but the most amazing respect for what Chris does and well, if someone you respect that much asks, be rude to say no.

But generally, writing about being a small developer, writing about the human parts of making games or making sense of the videogame world around us, it doesn’t pay anyway. Occupying a weird niche between opinion piece, explainer of things and intimate tales of my life as a developer? No outlet wants that stuff, especially not on the regular. I like writing here anyway where I can write more freely and be safe knowing that if I fuck up, I’ve got good people who’ll pull me on it and as I’m in control of things, I can sort stuff out pronto. You can’t do that freelance.

And I’ve been ok with all this. In many ways, I still am. No-one makes me do this after all. Also, after being knocked down ill a few times in recent years, it’s been an amazing way to stay sane during some really rough times. Wouldn’t change it, y’know?

But y’know, cash. It’s a bastard.

We’ve tried a few things in the past to ease the burden but nothing’s really sat pretty. Once upon a time a now very famous developer offered, alongside some other folks, to make games we could sell to help ease the costs but I kinda found that awkward and didn’t know quite how to handle it so I let it drift off. I’m glad I did now because there were better things waiting for him and for the rest who offered too. We tried some donation-incentives on RR and that’s cool but again, it was people putting up work to help get out of a rut and I couldn’t square that with my conscience. So.

Patreon seems cool. It’s sort of like donations and stuff but you get to know that because of it, it eases some of the costs of doing what I do. It means that I can justify the time I want to spend writing more without thinking I’m taking away from doing something that would pay a bill instead or get the kid some shoes. And there’s so much stuff I want to write, so many old posts that need to be updated so they can be useful still, I’m sure the world of videogames isn’t going to quieten down anytime soon so I’m not going to be short of stuff to say, yeah?

But more than all that, I’m kinda tired of being just a hairy dude with opinions on things. There’s been times this past year where I’ve near walked away, so many times, but the thing is I still love videogames but I miss being able to write about them. The reality is that with no money in it, there’s only a finite amount of time I can put away to writing things so that’s how I end up writing stuff that’s just bouncing off a thing that happens and being man with opinions. It’s so much nicer writing about games, what they mean to me and what they mean in the wider context of the whole game-i-verse (which is totally a real thing) and I miss that stuff a lot. I’d love to be able to afford myself a few hours here and there to be able to write about videogames proper again.

And it means that maybe, after ten years or so, I might be able to claw a few quid back for doing the things I do. Even a few quid takes some of the worry away, y’know?

But I know times are tough, I know Patreon isn’t something that can be relied upon in the long term. Of course I do because these are the sort of things I spend my days thinking about. For now though? Hopefully it can be a way for people who value what I do to help make it easier for me to do more, to write more. And spare some time to sort out a proper archive of the really useful posts. (All two of them or whatever)

I still feel awkward about it, probably always will, but if you like what I write, what I do and want to help make it easier for me to do more? I’d be grateful for your backing. I’d like to be able to keep on writing, keep on talking about life in videogames and every ounce of support, mo matter how small really, truly helps me be able to do that.

So yeah, I have a Patreon now and I’d be most grateful for your patronage.

Thanks again.

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The Problem With Percentages

There’s lots of (rightful) noise about UDK going not-actually-free but we’re using FREE in big letters anyway. And by FREE (in big letters) what we mean is a revenue share that kicks in if you earn over three thousand dollars in a quarter. That revenue share is 5%.

There’s been a lot of “ppfft, 5% is a fantastic deal for what UDK is”

But the problem with percentages, especially when we’re talking videogame deductions, it’s really hard to tell. It might be. It might not be.

Depends.

So the threshold before you have to pay Epic any money is one game, built in their thingy, that earns over three thousand US dollars. That’s a little less than 2,000 squids in UK money. So far, so OK, yeah?

Let’s play with some numbers.

If you earn 3k RIGHT NOW and owe Epic 5% then what are we paying out?

$150. That’s not too bad, yeah? In UK money, that’s a little less than a hundred given recent exchange rates so that’s sort of not too much off the top all things considered.

But that $150 assumes you’re not paying anyone else out of this three grand. And this is where it gets a bit more complicated because you’re not paying off Epic with what you’re left with after everyone else has taken a cut, you’re paying off Epic out of the full amount regardless of other deductions.

So let’s just assume your work is being carried on one of those popular stores with the industry average of 30% being creamed off before you see your part. Suddenly, you’re not down $150, you’re down $1050. Out of $3k.

But what if there’s a publisher involved too? You might be looking at a 50/50 revenue split of what’s left after the storefront has taken their cut.

So we’re left with $1950 of our money from the $3k after the store has taken its cut. Split that in half and you’ve got less than a grand left to bank. And you’re down ANOTHER 150 dollars because the chances of the publisher taking the brunt of your engine costs are slim to none. So out of $3k, we’re left with somewhere in the region of $825 dollars. Or in UK terms, we’ve just gone from nearly a grand and a half in squids to around 400 of them, give or take.

And then we’ve got tax to pay out too. And maybe other revenue shares too because this is indie and some people pay artists, some people pay musicians, some people pay staff in revenue shares.

It all adds up and project or person depending, 5% may not be a good deal. But then it might be too, it depends.

There’s other things to take into consideration too, mind.

How do you hit $3k? For a lot of people this feels like an impossible number, for a lot of people it will be an impossible number. It’s always worth bearing in mind that most videogames simply don’t make money, many don’t really get the opportunity to make money because they don’t reach their audience for one of lots and lots of reasons and blah blah blah. But $3k isn’t the number it was a few years back.

$3k is an accidental iPhone hit, unlikely but it can happen and it can take you by surprise. See Flappy Bird or something. What was with that?
$3k is a middling Humble Bundle. They’re still hitting reasonable numbers unlike elsewhere.
$3k is a feature slot on a store at the right time.
$3k might just be a successful launch day or the majority of your earnings until much later. Who knows.
$3k is a good press placement that leads to more press and more press to a load of people all buying a game one day.
$3k is a YouTuber shining the spotlight on your game when you least expect it and linking to it too.

Sure, sure, most people won’t see that $3k anytime soon but the opportunities to land $3k are, for better and worse, more plentiful than they were only a few years ago. That doesn’t mean they’re accessible to everyone, not by a long chalk, but they’re there. Unreachable for many but there. Crucially here, the opportunity for that $3k to be a one off event for a day, a fortnight or whatever are more plentiful. We live in a time where it’s now possible to earn $3k one day and flatline back to negligible the next.

The good news? If a game peaks then drop again, next quarter it’s off the hook until it hits 3k again.

The bad news? If a game peak then drop again, it’s time to get paying out 5% on the 3 grand and whatever else trickles through for the rest of a 3 month period. It’s not unrealistic that the 5% could wipe out a substantial part of the rest of the sales, yeah?

It depends.

There’s the oft heard argument that if you earn lots and lots of money then paying that 5% won’t matter to you but well, that’s a personal thing right? It’s easy to sit there and talk about that kind of theoretical but we should all appreciate that’s going to depend from person to person. But Rob, the engine is amazing and…

But what if the game only uses the basics of the engine, something any other engine can do and none of the mega shiny features. What if the game makes millions and millions in a freak Flappy Bird-ism, is it right that the person who made the engine continually profits from that success? I can see you shaking your head at me right here and now but that’s one messy fuck of a question with shit flung everywhere and as I say, it depends.

A lot of this all depends on what you’re happy with. I can’t and won’t say whether Epic wanting 5% is a good deal because that’s stuff that’s dependent on circumstance, on what the person making a videogame feels. When it comes to tools, there’s no agreed ground here. Some will be happy to coin over the 5%, comfortable even. That’s cool. Some won’t. That’s also cool. Deals are personal, “good deals” very much depend on circumstance. We need to remember this when we talk about these things.

And we need to talk about what the deal means at the low end and at the high end and do it honestly. EPIC are fairly up front (once you find your way to the EULA anyway) of the what, why, where and how you reach this percentage but people will and do get caught out because they missed a bit. Maybe they didn’t realise that $3k can be from a crowdfunding campaign, maybe they didn’t know that’d take them over the line? Maybe they got a $3k advance from a publisher to tighten up the graphics on level three and didn’t know that took them over the line. Maybe either of those aren’t good deals? It depends.

So rather than talk about whether 5% is a good or bad deal, we need to talk about what percentages mean to our deals, about the costs and outlays of making games, the long term effects of making deals now which could come back to bite you on the arse in the future and as it’s becoming clear that there’s an increasing push for a part of a developer’s revenue share, that too. (Actually, on that last point I’ll debate Epic and engine makers but fucks sake DO NOT give revenue shares to YouTubers or anyone else entirely uninvolved in the process, fucks sake)

Because the people just coming into videogames aren’t born with an innate knowledge of the costs, the ways and the means involved in getting a game to store a lot of the time and maybe they won’t make the choice that’s best for them because no-one stepped up to explain what all these numbers mean.

That’s a conversation that’s vastly more important and vastly more helpful than working out on our fingers whether the work of the team at EPIC is worth 5% because we CANNOT decide this for other people, we can only empower them and educate and let them make their own choices. And maybe that choice is “well, let’s go with Unity instead” or maybe it’s “fuck this for a lark, I’m off, I can’t be bothered with this” or maybe it’s “YES! Unreal offers me the things I need to make my game and it wouldn’t exist without it so I’ll pay the 5% and fuck it all, away to freedom”.

It depends.

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Honest

I’m the last honest man in videogames and so is my wife.

I read with interest and slight bafflement the recent Polygon piece on the aftermath of Molygeddon, that with Peter now shushed and I guess, partly as a result of John’s barely saying boo to a goose interview, developers will be more guarded, more PR savvy and that’s it now, we’re done here.

We’re not done here.

It’s bafflement partly because in a post-Molygeddon world we’ve seen no shortage of old hands willing to shit themselves in public in service of distracting from having even the slightest light shone on the games industry, we’ve no shortage of them willing to say the most absurd and sometimes unintentionally callous things to prove that game development is hard (everything is hard, it’s how you carry yourself through the difficulties that counts) and well, come on, this is videogames, there’s never any shortage of someone saying some damn stupid shit. It’s a daily event, handlers or not. Talking unguarded is not and never was the reserve of just Peter.

It’s bafflement because sure, Moly may have been let loose without a handler but his honesty is still PR, it might come across as a more sincere, more open conversation but it’s still just PR. It’s all in service of the videogame and it’s often more than slightly dishonest in its claims. I honestly don’t know what’s preferable, being rolled out with a handler or the poor fuckers back at the studio who have to read about a bunch of features they never knew existed or were ever to exist until the interview went live. My hunch is to say that I’ll take the handler, it hurts less.

It’s bafflement because it assumes that the world hasn’t changed, that there is a shortage of interesting people who’ll talk to to the press, now there’s just folks who won’t say boo to a goose, no-one left for the press to sit down and interview unguarded. This is, to me, more an indication of a press not looking around them, unable to keep their ears to the ground and to find new blood to speak to. I’m not pointing fingers or looking for folks to blame, I’m in the middle of the videogame whirlwind and *I* find it hard to keep up with what’s going on around me. I’m not hamstrung by the need to make rent to pay people to do their work either.

There are hundreds of developers out there right now making interesting games and only a scant few millionaires and successful folk that the press give their attention to. There’s honourable exceptions, there always is and I tip my hat to folks like Mike Bithell who manage to ride the quote machines and be good human beings at the same time, no shortage of respect there.

I almost didn’t want to write this because I’m not in it to kick anyone, just kinda sad at all these kids, all these people riding the waves of a new openness in development, all these people desperate for a voice that aren’t being given their chance to speak, are having their ability to speak open and unguarded, their willingness to speak open and unguarded, written off because the industry is stuck in its ways and floundering to keep up with the new blood.

It’s always been this, of course, but in the thousand trailer preorder bonus jiggling new news cycle it’s more difficult to cut through the bullshit of an unending blast of PR from the big, the monolithic and the old. This is, of course, partly the point of those PR blasts, to consume attention. Yet we live in a world where most of the chances to talk about videogames go to the people who, even without a PR guard, have the least to say. Those increasingly irrelevant men, doing what they’ve always done.

There’s so many people in games now with so much to say, so much of worth and use but they don’t fit within the system. They don’t have organised PR, they don’t do press tours and in many, many cases, you won’t find them locked in a room at an event showing off their videogames to the press because that is still a privilege reserved for the few (as good as some indies are at reaching out and playing the game). We can’t keep on going as we always have done and expect the new blood to fit in with us and the old ways, we need to accommodate them somehow. Reach out to them for their words.

Rather than lament the virtual death of the last honest man in gaming, it’s time to find ways to reach these new people and let them speak. It’s something the music press worked out long ago, sure with its own imperfections and troubles but still, they look for the new, the upcoming, the gobshites and more.

It’s time for videogames to do the same. Good vocal people are out there, no handlers, fuck all. Let’s break the cycle of the old news and help usher in generation of generation of new game authors and give them their chances, their opportunities to speak. No tears for Peter or any of the other old guard, they’ve had a good run and they can always chime in when they feel like it. And they will because fucking hell, we’ve no shortage of people who don’t know when to shut up (*waves*). They’ll be OK, they’ve done OK.

Time to catch up with where games are now, eh? No more laments for the old guard and the old ways. On with the new.

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Rob on Eurogamer

I went and made some words for Eurogamer on games as the new rock and roll. You can read it here.

Truth told, it’s not the best piece I’ve managed to throw out into the world but I enjoyed it all the same. It gets, in a slightly circular manner, where it wants to go but it never really finds its rhythm. Of course, my method of finding the rhythm is usually to spend a lot more time editing than I had reasonable time for with this commission (being a last minute replacement and all that) and to pepper the piece with swears, which I’m not allowed to do for Eurogamer. So!

I pitched three ideas across originally, one on Glorious Trainwrecks and another on my love of B Games (there’s some crossover here!) and this one on games as the new rock and roll. When it came down to having to choose I had to weigh up how much time I had to give over to it and I couldn’t really sing the praises of Glorious Trainwrecks to the public without getting some quotes (doable but it’d be pushing an already tight deadline tighter) and well, B Games I had a shot at but again it was tough to say everything I wanted to say about why they’re necessary without more time to plot and plan.

So, yeah, games as the new rock and roll it is. It’s a subject I’ve harped on about before but I’ve been a broken record for thirteen years, why change now?

The piece itself is partly inspired by reading Bombed Out, an all too familiar story of growing up in the North, lurking around bands and then going off and doing something else instead. Even though it’s a good few years before I’d be dreaming about bands, there’s a lot of stuff that rings familiar to it. And a lot of stuff lost too but that’s how it goes, yeah?

Talking of lost, I lost a lot trying to bail it down to a sensible wordcount. About halfway through and I’d hit around 1.5k words about stuff I’d still need to expand on and so a night with the scissors was in order trying to salvage it into what you see now. Had it not been half term, I’d have probably given it another day of going over but the kids must play and the dad must nod at them sleepily whilst stopping anyone sticking their heads in the oven and well, here we are.

They might not be the best words I’ve put to page, it often might (as one commentator says) be like trying to untangle coathangers but it’s something I believe strongly in, it’s something that doesn’t get talked about enough because we’re too busy talking up our million dollar successes without looking at the ripples they produce and y’know, these kids are our future of games, they deserve a shout out.

As always, it’s about remembering that there’s humans involved in things. It’s never “just videogames”, there’s people, there’s hopes, dreams, intentions. Some noble, some not so much. But in a world of constant discussion around sales numbers, SKU, framerates and all that jazz, it’s all too easy to miss the how, the where and the who. I feel I stumbled a bit on this piece but judging from the reactions, the point didn’t get lost in my awkward prose so we’re cool, I guess.

For all these reasons and a few more, I’m grateful to Chris for letting me have an audience to bang this drum at.

Thanks, Chris.

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Health

I’m still not sure if I’d managed to wipe my arse.

Looking back, I kinda think I did but I can’t be sure. It’s all a bit, well, hazy.

I’d woken up on the bathroom floor, somehow I’d manage to land face first. Clearly I’d tried to steady the fall and I must have done something right as nothing seemed to be broken but there I was now, face down, my arse in the air, my pants round my ankles.

The ambulance guy looked down at me and made a joke about the other end making more sense or something like that. It made me smile for a few seconds, enough to take in what was happening anyway. I remembered the intense feeling of sickness, I remembered the feeling of everything slipping from me, like everything I was being drained. I remember sitting on the bog but I can’t remember if I’ve managed to wipe my arse. I think I have? It’s awkward. Is this even the time to worry about this? That I still don’t know is a source of much bother.

Minutes later I’m in an ambulance and rushing off to hospital. Thankfully after I’d pulled my pants back on. You’ve got to keep some dignity, right?

Really, if I’d have had any sense I should have seen it coming. Between spending time trying to make a videogame and doing what I do when not making videogames, I wasn’t so much burning the candle at both ends as taking a flamethrower to it daily. Nights and days blurred into one, 20 hours awake far more usual than unusual. Fucking hell, how did I even think I could do this? Turns out you usually can for, far longer than is actually healthy. Or at least I could and I did.

Far from the first time of course. When I was much younger, I’d get up and be in work for 10am, I’d leave work at 10pm and stroll down to the pub. From the pub a group of us would pile back to mine and we’d play games, chat and quietly party the night away until 4 or 5 in the morning and do it all again the next day. But I was young then, invulnerable then. Youth brought that for me, a heady mix of seeing all your future stretching out in front of you and profound doubts of whether you’ll see the future so fuck it all.

But two years ago? I shouldn’t have felt invulnerable, not at all. I’d had two major health scares, both times somehow luckily getting out of them alive. The first, the excruciating pain of being hours away from my appendix giving up the ghost, me scraping into hospital just in time, the second a near fatal bout of pneumonia where fortunately for me, my only real memory of the whole thing is Mrs B trying to shave round my oxygen mask. My beard still grows slightly off from that.

It didn’t stop me throwing myself down to London, hocked up on painkillers for a 7 hour ride, only a few days after getting my strength up enough to actually walk round the place, to go and sit on a panel and give a talk about videogames.

Because I’m fucking stupid, yeah?

It took falling off the toilet for me to realise that this isn’t on. When you’re in hospital and the treatment is pretty much being stuffed into the quietest room they could find on the least busy ward they could find and left to get some sleep… It’s gone wrong.

I left at 10 the next morning, feeling perkier than before.

I also left realising that I’m shit useless to anybody dead so maybe I should do a bit more to avoid that. Maybe life could be a bit healthier, right?

It came with another epiphany. I make videogames. I don’t just make videogames but I make videogames. I have my doubts sometimes as to whether I’m good at it, I don’t read my own press but Mrs B assures me some people think I am. I think they’re off it but OK. But videogames? Creative pursuits in general? They’re easy to get lost in. Easy to give too much to.

As I walked out of the hospital, took the taxi home, I figured that’s it, no more. Not no more videogames but no more giving too much to videogames. Because one day, it won’t just be a scare, it won’t “just” be collapsing off the bog and waking up to an amused ambulance dude. And what will my friends and family think of the guy who gave up his health for videogames? Will they say “Rob really loved his videogames” as they load the coffin into the hearse?

I hadn’t thought of that really, too busy with the extra half hour, the extra hour, the extra three hours making a thing. Too busy finding time and ways to make a thing. Whilst doing other, already exhausting enough, things. Too busy to know when to get up and take a walk, when to walk away. Cut half an hour off doing something else to find another half hour to make videogames.

3 scares on and it’s only the past year or so I’ve realised the answer is to know when to walk away. To try and learn what’s worth giving yourself over to. Instead of finding half an hour to multiple hours to work harder at making videogames, I should have found the time to go and do something else. To switch off, to be with friends, to be with family. To eat, to drink, to be healthier.

And it’s not a regret that I didn’t. Me then wouldn’t listen to me now anyway. It’s a lesson. And it’s a lesson nobody else has to really learn the way I did.

We’re more than what we create and in the grand scheme of the universe a videogame is not worth trading your health for. It’s hard to remember that when everything around what you’re making seems so important, so vital. I know this.

I’ve also seen the flipside and I know you don’t see it coming because we’re always better than that, immune to it. Until you find your own equivalent of being found arse in the air on the bathroom floor and trust me, you don’t really want to be found like that. You really don’t.

Take a break. Make videogames healthily. Look after yourselves. Be as comfortable as your circumstances allow.

Just take care, alright? And try and make sure you definitely know you’ve wiped your arse if you fall off the bog, it really bugs you otherwise.

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