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Pain, Fatherhood, and Game Design

by Thomas Henshell on 10/14/15 03:48:00 pm   Featured Blogs

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The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

Real artists take the misery and sadness of life and translate it into art.” -- Josh Peck

As I write this my wife and newborn baby are in the hospital.

Baby James was born at 10:28am Oct 9 2015.  We named him after Archmage Rises’ musician James Marantette (just kidding, we say this to every James we know).

He stopped breathing 10 minutes after he was born.  The worst of it was this happened to be the precise moment I was recording video of the nurses cleaning him.

Staff applied a breather and several other things I don’t understand.  They quickly ushered him to an adjoining room.  He started breathing with assistance pretty much right away.  So that is good.

James was born at 12lb 15oz (5,868g for my metric friends) by C-section.  That’s a pretty big boy (about the weight of 2 normal sized babies).  Due to his size, breathing is more difficult.  My wife had gestational diabetes while pregnant (just like with our previous two children) and so given his size they are concerned about his blood sugar levels.  He was born low, so they put him on liver stimulating medication right away.

For the first hour, as I attended to my wife in the recovery ward, I didn’t know if my baby would survive.  I asked for updates but the nurses attending my wife didn’t know baby’s status yet assured me someone would come when there was something to say.  See, they assign a doctor and nurse team to mom and a doctor and nurse team to baby, and they rarely talk.  It’s the typical corporate multi-team communication breakdown except in this case, it literally is life and death.

It was at this time I decided to phone in updates to my parents and my wife’s parents.  I knew they were anxiously awaiting news. 

When I spoke to my mom my analytical mind started with the data: birth time and weight.  When I relayed that my wife was fine, I got to baby and suddenly couldn’t speak.  This was weird for a loudmouth opinionated person like myself.  The torrent of emotion flooded out the words.

I didn’t want to articulate what I was thinking and may be happening.  I wish I had more concrete information to share but at that moment I really didn’t know what was happening.

James has been progressing well since that moment.  He was on assisted breathing for about the first 12 hours.  When they felt safe to take him off, they did, and he’s been fine since.  His blood sugars are being assisted through IV fluids and medications.  They are slowly weaning him off, but it is taking a very long time.  It could be 4 more days before they clear him to go home. 

I have to admit, he looks like a little cyborg with all the wires and cables snaking out of him.  His right foot glows with an eerie red light.  It’s the oxygen monitor showing through the blanket. 

“I need your clothes, your boots, and your motorcycle.”

Moments like this can bring us perspective and refreshing clarity.  What really are the priorities in my life?

Ironic as it may sound, outside of my family and faith, the game is the most important thing in my life.  Amazingly enough, it also is to my wife.  I sat next to her in her room.  She is recovering from major abdominal surgery, yet her thoughts are on when I can return to work on the game.  We’re in this journey together.

This game is the artistic expression of my life.  Of who I am.  As long as I have articulating fingers and a pulse I’m going to finish it.  I have to.  For me.  For the fans. 

This is my passion project.

How Does This Relate to Game Design?

Artists are molded by their experiences, then we use them to shape our work.

At its heart, Archmage Rises is a simulator.  I call it an RPG so people understand it quickly (Who has ever heard of a mage simulator before?), but really it is a simulator.  You do things and the world responds accordingly.  Realistically.

From day 1, the ability to have relationships with NPCs of your choosing has been there.  These relationships can turn romantic (if you want and they want), lead to marriage, and even to the bearing of children.  I find the ability to mother/father a child in the game world an interesting and unexplored area of RPGs.  (And yes, there will be implications if a female player enters combat 38 weeks pregnant!)

What has changed from this recent life experience is the possibility of having a sick baby.  My first two children were born healthy so it never really entered my mind.

When James stopped breathing I was powerless to do anything about it.  I desperately wanted to, but couldn’t.  Fortunately there were people around who dedicated their lives to training for situations just like this.  They knew what to do and did what was needed.

So in the Archmage game world, if your baby is born sick, there will be some way to correct the affliction: a spell to cast, a medicinal ingredient to locate, or a special healer to find.  Regrettably, to make the game realistic and balanced, I have to allow for quest failure. 

A quest to save your child’s life is a quest motivation I find deeply compelling.  It is the desire of every parent I see in neonatal. 

Art is a portal to experiences we may not have in real life.

SDG.

You can follow the new kind of RPG/simulator game I'm working on at Archmage Rises.

You can tweet me @LordYabo


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