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6:17 PM on 06.23.2010

The Great Escape: Pushing up daisies

When Grim Fandango came out in 1998, I was just a little kid, but I was already more computer savvy than any of my family members. While walking through an electronics store with my mom one fateful day, the cover art for Grim Fandango caught my eye. It scared me a little... but also it intrigued me. I wanted it. After pestering my mom about it for the duration of our time in the store, she finally crumbled and bought the game for me. I wasn't expecting it to change my life.

Upon getting home, I ran to our computer den and put the disc in, and my fate as an incorrigible nerd was sealed. I was whisked away to a beautiful, vibrant world and I wanted to stay there forever. Manny, Meche, Glottis, and all the rest of the colorful characters had huge places in my heart. I drew pictures, wrote stories, did everything I could to keep myself in the Land of the Dead. When I finally beat the game, I couldn't put my emotions into words, and even today I don't think I could if I tried, but there was something truly magical about the experience that game provided me.

I came to the realization that I wanted to leave people with the wonderful feeling Grim Fandango had given me. I wanted to make video games, beautiful ones, epic ones, games that would make people feel the way I had. I made little attempts, at first just writing stories for games, drawing pictures of characters I invented, eventually teaching myself to mod using the Neverwinter Nights toolkit as soon as it came out. As I grew up I lost sight of this vision. I became jaded to everything and increasingly apathetic to my future. I was cracking under pressure as my family pressured me to “do something with my life”, my dad telling me that making video games was unrealistic for a woman. I was letting everyone walk all over me. By the time sophomore year of high school rolled around I had lost my passion and stopped caring.

Sophomore year of high school was also the year one of my best friends died.

As you can imagine, this didn't help my current situation much.

I sunk deeper and deeper into depression, hating everything. I felt empty inside. My grades absolutely plummeted and I was convinced nothing mattered, and nothing would ever feel good again. There was a time when I genuinely wanted nothing more than to die, because if what was going on was all life had to offer, I didn't want any part of it. And one day I came close to fulfilling my wish of dying. I was in my room, going through my belongings for what I thought would be one last time. In a cardboard box under my bed, I found my old copy of Grim Fandango. I'm not sure what inspired me to install it and play, but I did.

From the second the install screen loaded, it was like Manny slapped me across the face, asking me what the hell I was doing, and where my head was at. I played it all the way through in that one sitting, the puzzles still burned into my brain from all the times I'd beaten them before. During the ending cutscene, Manny turns to Meche, who is worried about the future, and says to her, "You know, sweetheart, if there's one thing I've learned, it's this: nobody knows what's gonna happen at the end of the line, so you might as well enjoy the trip."

I put my head down on my desk and sobbed. And from that day forward, I was a changed girl. I pulled my grades up and chased down my passions of making games at my dream college, and succeeded. I'm enjoying the trip. It took a game all about death to show me how beautiful life really is.   read

11:21 PM on 01.13.2010

but what can I do?

I sat at the town hall meeting for game dev students tonight, the first one I’ve gone to. I was enraptured, falling in love with my college all over again. There’s so much going on in the next few weeks it’s got my head all in a tizzy! Two of my game designer idols are coming to speak in the next few weeks, Jason Rohrer and Johnathan Blow (!). On top of this, two game-making competitions were announced. One is Global Game Jam, which isn’t really a competition per se as a “work for 48 hours straight and make the best goddamn game you can make” weekend. The other is Gamma 4.

It all sounded so wonderful and fun. I wanted to do it all! But I got a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach as I continued to listen.

What could I possibly provide to any potential group?

At the end of the meeting, one of the game programming professors approached me and we began talking.

“I want to do all these competitions,” I said, wistfully looking at the seniors who had made the announcements in the first place.

“So do them,” he replied matter-of-factly.

“But I’m a freshman. I don’t know anything about the mechanics of actually making games. I feel like I have nothing to contribute,” I said.

“I’m sure you have something to contribute.”

“All I can do is write stories,” I said.

“What more do you need? The only thing stopping you from doing this is you.”

It resonated with me. I doubt myself far too often. I’m always telling myself that I can’t, stopping any potential progress before it even begins. That, I have decided, is bullshit. I am going to do this. Even if I fall on my face and make the worst game ever created, I'll still be proud of myself because I'm trying, and I know I'll learn a lot during this process.

Gamma 4 and Global Game Jam, here I come. I hope you’re ready.   read

9:18 AM on 06.06.2009

It's an intro blog!

Well, it’s high time for an intro blog! I've been lurking around and posting on the forums for long enough.

My name is Angra [not really]. I'm a seventeen year old girl living in Middle of Nowhere, MA. I've been gaming since I was little - the Nintendo 64 I got for my sixth birthday was what turned me into a gamer. When I was eight or nine I started playing PC games and that's when I played Grim Fandango for the first time. While I'm sure I didn't appreciate all of the subtleties in a game like that [although I was a really smart kid], that game changed my life. For the first time I began to think that I could make these things someday. I played other LucasArts adventure games and they continued to nurture that dream. All thoughts of growing up to be a movie star or a ballerina were dismissed - I wanted to make video games.

Now I'm going to go to school for that dream. In the fall I'll be going to Champlain College to major in their Game Design program and I've never been so excited in my life. I'm going to be a huge dick and brag for a second and say that they only accept 40 kids into the program even though they get over 300 applicants per year. FUCK YEAH. The program the school offers is amazing. All the professors have worked in the industry for years - one of them was a producer of X-Play back when it was still Extended Play and another made the Carmen Sandiego games - and the college has a 95% job placement rate for graduates. The professors go to game conferences and scout for jobs for their senior students. Also, in my senior year, I GET TO GO TO THE GDC.

Haha, can you tell how excited I am?

When I get out of college, it would be my dream to work for Double Fine or BioWare. Both have heavily influenced the type of games I try to design, but especially BioWare. I focus a lot on story, characters, and plot development. Character depth is really important to me. I hate seeing, especially in RPGs, the same recycled characters over and over.

I want to be a female Tim Schafer and breathe a new life into the industry, and I think I can do it.

If you have any other questions, feel free to ask me! :]   read

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