What the Plate Looks Like

My plate is currently a large, colorful, plastic plate that is square with rounded corners and a raised edge. It’s the rim that gets me. I wouldn’t mind letting some of the things on my plate slough off, but that’s hard to do, since it’d involve tipping the plate and running the risk of losing the whole kit and kaboodle. Maybe that wouldn’t be so bad, though, since Life is always quite generous about refilling your plate, sometimes faster than you can eat it. Still, some of the things on my plate are quite delicious, and I’d hate to lose them. Honestly, I’d say what I really need to do is start diving in, rather than sitting here overwhelmed by the amount in front of me.

I’m of course talking about the metaphorical “plate” that describes the things we have going on or needing to do.

The job search has begun, though not with any marked or specific direction. I’m looking primarily for jobs in the New England area since I’d rather not end up further away from my girlfriend, since she has two more years of school. That said, I’m hardly in a position to be picky — while I’m not going to move to California for a job at McDonalds, if a job within the gaming industry presents itself, I’ll go where the work is. Still, with 50ish game companies in the greater Boston area, I don’t think I’m limiting my chances of getting a job in my industry of choice that much. (That’s to say nothing of other tech related companies, as well as colleges and universities.) The biggest hurdle, honestly, is writing cover letters for each position. While a resume can be fairly straightforward and identical/similar across jobs, cover letters are meant to show a bit more of the person, and why I’d be a good fit. I hate talking about myself (notice the lack of updates on here?), especially when I’m essentially trying to sell myself. Still, it must be done.

In the next month or so, I need to make arrangements to transport my storage unit from Seattle out here… which means I need to have some idea of where I’m going. This is going to cost money, more than I really have to spend right now (which is none to speak of), but there’s the simple reality, and frankly it’ll be nice to have all my stuff in one place again. Ideally, I’d like to get an apartment by myself (the idea of buying a condo or house is still very appealing, but there is no way in hell people are going to pay me back in a reasonable enough timeframe to do so), and again ideally, somewhere within walking distance for Erica (which means Providence, which means likely commuting to Boston for work… I’ve done that leg enough times at this point to not feel horrible about that, though). Now, the interesting thing is that due to how rent was paid earlier in the lease, my rent is paid through July, at which point I’d damn well better have a job (and realistically sooner, paying your own insurances is decidedly not cheap).

This all does, however, mean that Critical Games is going to have to wait a while longer to swap over to a design studio (which remains my goal). I still strongly feel that there is a need for nuanced, narrative based games that really delve into the storytelling capabilities of the medium, a style of game that is largely unmade currently. I simply don’t have the assets or industry clout to pull it off right now. Instead I will be pursuing other things, including game design for other companies, level design, writing (script and technical), customer relations (GMing), QA testing, web maintenance and moderation, and other positions I’m either qualified for or feel I could do (I’ll leave you to guess which are which… I will say I’ve done most of them in one capacity or another, just generally not for pay). I’m also looking into grants through the NSF and NEA (among others) to either do some game prototypes (much thanks to Chuck Kinzer for pointing me towards some of those), or write a book (either on the role of animation in the US in the 20th century, or one of several photo essays). I’m also going to see if I can put together some written articles to submit for publication. I’m not sure if I’m at the point where I could actually do that for a living (in fact I’m pretty sure I’m not, though the desire to eat can be a powerful motivator), but if even one or two get published, that could help stave off a negative bank balance and give me more time to find a good gig. If there was ever a time to be looking in these directions, it would be now, since my living situation is fairly stable and rent at least isn’t an issue.

An idea that my brother and I tossed around at lunch also has some merit, though it doesn’t solve short term concerns per se. The idea is to offer ourselves as freelance researchers and consultants to game companies (though the work could just as easily apply to television and movies). As we move more and more towards high definition, technically and historically accurate depictions within games, the need for cultural, geographic, architectural, and historic research is going to increase exponentially. I feel well equipped in my capabilities as a researcher, and I think now is an opportune time to start offering this talent as a service. I can take 4000 pages of text about a culture or historic period or esoteric topic, and synopsize it into a 10, 20, 30 page report covering relevant details to what might be needed in accurately depicting that idea in a game. Anyone who has spoken with me for more than half an hour knows I’m a sponge for random information — why not try and get paid for that? The issue is in convincing studios that they need such a service, and while I absolutely believe that they WILL come to this realization, I strongly suspect it may be slow going. The best thing I can do, I think, is put up a page offering this service and start contacting companies about what I’m offering. That, and pick the brains of folks in the industry about the idea. I may get lucky, and someone will throw me a bone, and give it a shot. The reality is that will be the real test of whether or not a freelance research role is viable and worthwhile.

There are several projects I’d like to get underway that I think would be beneficial for me (if for no other reason than I think they’re neat and would keep some sort of creative and intellectual momentum going). I’d still like to work on building some levels and mods of various types. I want to wade back into programming with both arms swinging, namely in Java and Objective-C. I want to write a MUD from scratch, hopefully with a scalar framework so it could be taken visual by someone with gumption. I want to get back into Latin (I’m rusty as heck), and put a concerted effort into Japanese. I want to finish some of my short stories (and start some more). I’ve been talking with my father and our friend Charlie for several months about restarting a photographic art group. All this, I want to do while I continue the job search, and try to have some semblance of life. Needless to say, I have my work cut out for me. Time to get started.