The Story of Me, Part 2

[This blog post covers the period of my life from 1999 to 2008. Before you read it, know that this is not a happy Facebook status update. Issues of mental illness are discussed here.]

 
In my previous post, I mentioned how, when I was in college, I wrote some short stories and did a few other creative endeavors.

As college graduation approached, I gave some thought to what I should do with my life. One thought I had was to get a job in book publishing.

To that end, I did an internship at Milkweed Editions in Minneapolis. This was in the summer of 1999.

After graduation, though, when push came to shove, I didn’t put as much energy into landing a job as an assistant editor as I might have. I felt I would have had to look pretty hard, maybe around the Midwest or around the country. I just wasn’t passionate enough to make it happen.

I got a job at a bookstore, but you know what? Over the long haul, I didn’t care to keep this job, either. I quit after a year.

Why? Good question.

The truth was, I wasn’t feeling that great a lot of time. For years I had been dealing with depression. Maybe not as bad as some people. But I did feel down a lot of the time. And I did feel hard-pressed to enjoy any moment of the day anywhere near so much as the moment I fell asleep.

This is a self-portrait I drew once when I was feeling depressed.

As my twenties went by, I isolated myself more and more.

Maybe the worst period was one winter when I lived in an office that I rented for $110 a month. That was also the period when I tried to make a living donating plasma. Even with the low rent, it didn’t quite work.

Eventually I fell upon second-shift janitorial work as I job I didn’t mind so much. It was a job where I didn’t have to talk to people.

So yeah, I isolated myself.

I didn’t write much during this period, and I didn’t do many other creative activities. What did I do? Well, I read some. And watched movies. And I also played computer games.

Does that sound insignificant, computer games? Well, it was, in a way. And yet it wasn’t. It became quite signficant, actually.

I joined a community for those who like to play interactive fiction, or text adventure games. If you’ve ever played games like Zork, with its text input and text output, you know what I’m talking about.

What was so interesting about this game development community?
 
If you don’t care about the answer to that question, skip this paragraph. But the people in this community had written systems that not only streamlined the process of developing computer games, but made it easy to release them on multiple platforms (PC, Mac, etc.). And inventive young authors had released many such games (or “interactive stories”), some of which were far more daring and experimental than the original 1980s Infocom games. (This community used to be at the Usenet newsgroups rec.arts.int-fiction and rec.games.int-fiction, but for the past few years it has centered at intfiction.org.)

 

This gaming community contributed to my story in no fewer than three important ways:

1.
I learned to develop interactive fiction computer games using languages such as Inform 6 and TADS 3. I found these languages elegant, powerful, and easy to learn. (Well, TADS 3 wasn’t exactly easy, but two out of three ain’t bad.) My imagination exploded and I started programming.

Soon I had nearly completed a game called Nothing but Mazes. Emphasis on nearly completed. I released the introductory portion of the game in a competition for unfinished computer games, called IntroComp 2006, and was going to release the full version later that year, but I got delayed by life events to be described below.

2.
As another consequence of being in that game development community, I met Daphne Brinkerhoff. The two of us struck up an online friendship. Before long she flew from Maine to visit me in Wisconsin. Then she visited a second time. Then I drove out to visit her. Then I drove out again, this time with a cargo van, into which I loaded all her things and moved her out to Wisconsin. Before long we got a place together. And then, in 2007, we got married.

Click here to see the very best photo ever taken of me as a computer science student.
 

 
This is it! The very best photo ever taken of me as a computer science student! And that’s Daphne, sitting next to me!

 
3.
And there was a third big thing that ultimately came from my learning to develop computer games. Eventually, I decided to go back to school for computer science so I could get a job as a software developer. And that is the next part of my story.

But before you go on, be warned — this story does not get to its destination in a straight line.

This has been part 2 of 4 of my story.

Part 1 covered 1976 – 1999.

Part 2 covered 1999 – 2008.

Part 3 will cover 2008 – 2017.

Part 4 (if I decide to create it) will cover the future: November 2017 and beyond.