The Old Bear

So I really should leave the personal stuff out of this blog and just focus on the Dawnshine project and this journey we're going through to make an MMO. But I hope I won't turn too many people off from one more post about my life.

When I was 14, I'd written a novel and a computer game, both on my Apple IIe. The computer game was a Space Invaders knock off. The graphics were written in Vector Codes. I bet no one even knows what that is any more. Basically, I took out graph paper and drew all the graphics for the game out. Then I translated it into "make a dot, move the pen up one pixel," or "don't draw, move left one pixel." Each of these commands were in an octal series of binary. Most game graphics back in the 1980's were done this way, as a series of 001, 101, 110, etc, each standing for a series of instructions. Then you would save it in a special file type so that operating system knew what to do with them.

I mentioned that I used to play DnD as a kid. My parents actually pushed me into playing DnD in an effort to get me to read. I have three learning disabilities that sort of simulate Autism when combined. Because of them, I was always off in my own little world as a kid and computer games (making them or playing them) helped me visualize the ideas that kept popping in my mind. I was terrible at writing. My dyslexia made it difficult to learn how to spell, but I was so driven to overcome it that I kept a dictionary by my computer and constantly looked up how to spell words. Anyone that reads this blog knows I still make a lot of typos though. Writing has always been important to me as a tool to get ideas out. So even though I started off terrible at it, it's something I constantly push myself to get better at.

When I was 15(which would have been 1988), I wrote a game proposal to a game company on the east coast. It was called Underground Empire. The concept of the game was that you played a revolutionary leader determined to take over control of a large medieval city. You had to raise an army, train spies, make alliances with the other revolutionaries, etc, until you were strong enough to topple the government and take control to win the game. This concept is now the premise behind the Underground Alliance, one of the Dawnshine Factions. It's also a game I still want to make one day.

The proposal was about 15 pages long and pretty detailed. The company wrote me back telling me they were very interested and wanted to meet with me. Um, did they know I was only 15? I'm not really sure what would happen next. I mean, I wasn't going to hop on a plane. Not sure of how to go forward, I didn't follow through. I should have written back though. My point being that this was the path I was headed down, even as a kid.

My parents got me the computer because I was withdrawn from the world and doing badly in school. It was their hope it would help my grades, but it only made me more withdrawn. They decided that I should go work with my grandpa in an effort to make me more normal. So I went from a 15 year old computer nerd with very little upper body strength to a young man that laid brick 60 hours a week during the summer break and all weekends during school. I still have stretch marks over my pecks and biceps from the work. There were days I came home and collapsed because I faced muscle failure--yes, it's a real thing--or cried from physical pain. My grandfather yelled at me and insulted me, driving me to work harder and harder. I thought he was the meanest guy on the planet.

My grandfather grew up during the Great Depression. After he narrowly escaped his father trying to kill him with an axe when he was 8, he was on his own, working as a stone mason to support himself. When he was 17, he went to college full time and worked full time, and after 3 years, graduated college with a straight A average. My grandpa knew how to work, and he didn't put up with people who weren't willing to do the same. He usually did jobs for half the money he should have been charging and gave away money to his "less fortunate" neighbors even when they were doing better than he was. Those around him said he constantly gave away his money to charity so that he'd always have to work. But it wasn't just the money. I never once saw him pass someone in need without helping in any way he could. My dad got the heck out of there the second he turned 18 and became a bar tender in Tahoe and my uncle Larry went to acting school in London just to get away. But my grandpa Harry didn't retire until he was 88 years old. I'm really not kidding. He was still laying brick into his late 80's.

I laid brick until I was 24, hating it the entire time. I'm not sure why I didn't go right back to making games as soon as I could. I got into body building and martial arts after that. I toured as a musician and was as far away from being the nerd I was as a kid as I could be--at least on the outside. It took me a long time to finally go back to where I was as a kid--where I always wanted to be.

I'm mad at my grandpa for being the mean guy that he was. I blame him for diverting me for 20 years away from my goal of developing games. But because of him, I know what it means to work as if your life depends on it and to do what say you're going to do even when you don't want to. The irony is, even though I hated him, that my grandpa loved me deeply, and thought this was the greatest gift he could give me. I finally realize he was right.

It hurts to even type this. But at 96 years old, he passed away yesterday.





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