It was November, 2002. I was 19 years old. I worked in the Walmart Tire and Lube Express, changing oil on old Chevy Astro vans with leaky, rusted out oil plugs. I stayed in the underground oil-change pit all day wearing a dark blue jumpsuit and scribbled startup ideas for a Napster killer and a Phoenix (later named Firefox) bookmark sync plugin (amongst many others) on oil-stained napkins. (Notice I called my sync plugin "FireBar." I wouldn't realize until much later that I was clairvoyant.)
I decided one Saturday night to go with some friends to an industrial dance club in Detroit called Leland City Club. Of course, I stayed out way too late and was too tired to make it into work, so I called in. I didn't have a good excuse, so I told my manager that I had been out dancing, and then added that I had sprained my ankle. The next day I got an ACE bandage and some blue ink and faked a sprained ankle, even though nobody would have cared to look. I wasn't good at lying. A few days later I stopped going in, probably out of embarrassment. I had gotten an apartment at age 17 with a terrible fake ID I had printed and laminated myself with a Lexmark printer in my bedroom. I don't even think they looked at it before photocopying it and handing it back. I couldn't stand being at my parent's house, and I was clever and desperate enough to find a way out. Unfortunately, the only thing I could get was a townhouse way more expensive than I could afford. I had somehow found a way each month to scrape together the rent, but I was fighting a losing battle and I knew it. From the beginning, I had hated school- or maybe just the other kids. Even in first grade, I sat alone on the playground and drew comics by myself. In the fourth grade, I made games in Hyperstudio instead of homework. In the sixth grade, I used some simple workaround to get into the admin control panel and change the network password. They had the DARE officer come get me out of class and change it back. At the time, I wondered how they knew it was me. I'm not exactly sure where things went wrong. I had a great childhood, and my parents were amazing. I went on ski trips, camping with Boy Scouts, and a cruise to the Bahamas. I even went to Space Camp! I remember being in my next door neighbor's basement and finding a single of Nine Inch Nails "Closer," left there by one of his older siblings. I picked it up and was mesmerized by the cover, immediately wanting to listen to it. Perhaps that's "when the devil got in." It's difficult to know! (It wasn't Trent's fault, I think he got it from David Bowie, who got it from...)
Around that time, I rode my bike to the recycling center down the street and found a paper grocery bag full of old Penthouse porn magazines in the newspaper section, and hid them in the woods. I took one back and hid it under my mattress, because it was a stereotype that the television had told me was a normal thing to do. I can't remember what happened to it. I think my Mom probably found it and took it away, and I just pretended it didn't happen. From that day on, everything felt a little off. My parents didn't feel like my real parents.
I had been an altar boy at the local megachurch, and one day while bored sitting in mass, I read Revelations in the Bible and looked around in awe, astounded that all of these adults actually believed this nonsense about beasts with sixty thousand horns. Nobody bothered to explain to me that as we get older, we start tripping our balls off and it is describing the imagination of the subconscious.
I came home and my Mom tried to get me to memorize a catechism. I could tell that they were programming my brain somehow, and I despised it so much that I threw a huge tantrum, throwing the book across the room, repeatedly smashing my face into my mattress, and grabbing a red metal coin bank and scratching "HATE" into the back of it. I think this was probably the beginning of my fall from grace. The Master Sorcerer Steve Jobs came into our home around this point, his power glowing from the tiny CRT monitor on a Mac Performa 630. It had 8 megabytes of RAM and a 33 mhz processor. My brother showed me how to use ZTerm to dial into a local BBS. From that moment, I was hooked. Stereotypically, I racked up a $1000 phone bill calling long distance BBSs. I downloaded the Anarchist Cookbook from somewhere and printed it out, taking it to school and showing it to another kid, not knowing any better. It's a miracle I wasn't expelled.
I played Legend Of The Red Dragon each day after school, and after my BBS time ran out played WarCraft 2, Marathon, and went through one of those "1000 Shareware Games" CDs looking for anything fun. At some point, I begged my parents for a Mac game programming book, and they bought it for me after I assured them I would learn from it. It was expensive and heavy. I didn't understand any of it, and got frustrated after only a few days of trying to make sense of the QuickDraw code. I shamefully put it on the bookshelf, never to be opened again.
We got an N64. I spent a summer vacation in the basement eating giant bowls of black cherry ice cream and getting 120 stars in Mario 64 over and over. It always felt strange and lonely when I finally got onto the castle roof, so I would start over again. My brother was usually in his room playing Final Fantasy III and Secret of Mana on the Super NES, the haunting melodies constantly audible outside his door.
A few years later, in high school, the Great Wizard Bill Gates infiltrated his way into our family. I had convinced my parents to buy me a Windows laptop, promising that it would help with my homework. I dialed into NetZero and used a program to block the popup ad window every ten minutes. I spent my time on ICQ, IRC, and read horrible websites like Something Awful and Stile Project. I played Quake II and listened to The Fragile by Nine Inch Nails (A young warlock named Trent Reznor), which my Mom had bought me, and blasted it out my bedroom window, making my Dad angry. "He's just taking advantage of your emotions," he said to me. He was right. It was awesome. (Thanks, Mom!)
It was the dot-com boom and I signed up for everything I could. I got a CueCat. I got free groceries, free trials, and free samples. I somehow got eight cases of Dr. Pepper shipped to our door just for clicking and typing. My parent's mailbox quickly filled up with scammy MLM and pyramid scheme advertisements under the fake names I had used. They didn't say a thing. (Thanks Dad!)
I begged my Mom to order me a CD64 from China. She didn't know what it was, of course. It arrived, and I stared at the N64 expansion port, wondering how it was possible anyone could figure such a thing out. Surely they must be aliens! I spent days wiggling the cheap connectors trying to get it to boot up. Once in a while it actually worked, and I played as many N64 games as I could, finally having the chance to see imported and rare games. Most of the time, however, I played F-Zero X, amazed by the smooth 60 FPS movement.
In the eighth grade, the gifted kids had been set aside and given a list of classes they would be taking in high school. I leaned over to my friend, pointed to the C++ class, and said "I'm taking that, and then I'm out of here." I didn't think I had the balls to go through with it, but that's exactly what I did.
Around grade eleven, while taking the C++ class, I had somehow gotten involved with a girl whose mother had put her on birth control (a wise decision) to her father's dismay. Suddenly I couldn't handle the prison of school or my parent's house, naturally. I didn't care how I got out. I read 2600 magazine and ate up all the internet rhetoric- written by anarchists and libertarian conspiracy theorists living in trailers, no doubt, but I didn't know that at the time. I didn't need college, it was a waste of my time! I should become an entrepreneur! To be honest, I doubt I would have gotten much out of school anyhow. I didn't have the self control or discipline to get much from the actual knowledge, most likely due to the porn habit.
Once I had made up my mind to quit school, I decided that I was going to prove that religion was nonsense. I had seen the truth of reality- why, it was all gore and porn! I snuck out at night and slipped into a few local churches just to prove that nothing would happen. I was angry, for some reason, that the church was taking people's money. If anything, I thought, it should be used to help me! I didn't get caught, but it was in the newspaper, and I think there were even some copycats. I didn't do much damage, but the damage was done to me. Shortly later, I lost what was left of my already-tattered soul. Shortly after I turned 17, fueled by lust and desperation, I printed my terrible fake ID and applied for credit cards until I somehow got one. I went out and walked into every apartment complex I could find, filling out applications and bullshitting my way through the process, telling them I was a website programmer. I finally got approved for one, and I felt free for the first time. I moved out of my parent's house that night, taking a garbage bag full of clothes and leaving a note informing my parents that they had "heads like a hole," and that "I would rather die than give them control." I applied for more credit cards, thinking I could juggle the balances to pay my rent. It worked for a couple of months, and then everything fell apart. My apartment was soon full of local runaways, kids with tattoos and piercings who smoked cigarettes and weed, who I had no idea how I had gotten involved with. I had never touched any drugs before. (Besides video games and my PC!) Soon I was smoking cigarettes, and then weed too. The police probably knew or suspected that I was up to no good, and there were always police cars parked in front of my apartment, probably just to send a subconscious message and strike some fear into me. I didn't realize it at the time, of course, but it probably worked.
One of my roommates got me a job working at the Walmart across the street. My apartment was at the top of a long hill, and each morning I imagined flying down the hill with one giant jump. I worked out some rough estimates and decided it would take about 30 garbage bags full of helium to be nearly buoyant. (I have no idea if this is correct.) I wish I would have tried it, though I most likely would have gotten hurt. My electricity had just gotten shut off. I realized the power company guy had simply rotated the electric meter to an "off position" and fastened it with a piece of thin wire. I cranked it back, and the lights turned on. I was sure I was going to be dead soon, so I didn't consider the consequences. I hid in my bedroom and sat on my Walmart futon with a cheetah print comforter and played through Super Metroid on an emulator on my patchwork PC cobbled together from salvaged parts, with the first and only bag of weed I had ever purchased sitting on the table next to me. I had no idea what I was going to do. I just sort of assumed that my life would end, as if my power would shut off as soon as I ran completely out of money.
The police raided my apartment the night I was stoned and playing Super Metroid. Apparently someone had broken into a Subway across the street, and they were looking for a stolen safe. They came into my bedroom, checked the closet, and told me they didn't care about my weed. I beat Super Metroid. It was the greatest experience I had ever had. It was also, by that point, pretty much all I had. I went to Dave and Busters with my friend and played Pump It Up, which started my obsession for dance games. Within weeks I was playing burned Dance Dance Revolution CDs on a borrowed Playstation using a Pro Action Replay, on a soft DDR pad I had ordered from Lik-Sang. I wondered what kind of insane Japanese person could possibly read the Maniac steps.
A few days later, there was an eviction notice on my door. By that time, there was a couple sleeping on a queen sized bed on the lower floor of my apartment. They apparently had answered the door the one and only time my parents came to visit. I don't remember how I met them. The couple decided to get another apartment in the same apartment complex and they offered to let me live there. I was there for a few days and bought a GameCube with Super Mario Sunshine, and played it ferociously on an old blurry CRT TV that cut off half the text and life meter.
One day I was in Target with my roommate, and the power went out. The store went totally dark! I was in the video game section, and I took the opportunity to grab an original pink translucent GBA, the kind without a backlight that was nearly unplayable inside. I took it as some sort of sign and walked out with it, holding the box in my hand.
A local arcade got Dance Dance Revolution MAX2 and I got good. I played Stepmania on my PC with my fingers. I beat MAXX Unlimited on "Maniac" in the arcade. DDR Extreme came out and I beat The Legend of Max. It was saving my life and ruining my life at the same time. I didn't know what was happening, but I was becoming a Dance God and Dance Dance Revolution was taking me to heaven. I was truly proud of a skill that I had for the first time, and it gave me self esteem at a time when I had none.
It was November, 2002. Metroid Fusion was leaked online and I played through it in a single night in VisualBoy Advance. I bought Metroid Prime a few days later and played it in the dark over the next few nights. A few days later, a girl came to visit, a friend of the couple. I thought that she was maybe the hottest girl I had ever seen. She sat on the couch next to me that night as I was playing Super Monkey Ball on the blurry TV, and a few hours later was sleeping in my futon.
Suddenly, I had a girlfriend, and a hot, smart one at that. At once I had the motivation to do something with my life, and I was certain what I was destined to do. I knew I couldn't make a GameCube game or a PC game like Quake, but I could probably make something pretty good for the Game Boy Advance. It made sense at the time!
It was 2003. I downloaded an open source development kit for the GBA and got a dot moving on the screen of an emulator. This was the first serious program I had ever written. Super Metroid had somehow pulled me out of a hopeless disaster and brought me opportunity. I knew this was what I was going to do with my life. I just didn't yet know the difference between an open source homebrew toolchain and a commercial development kit. Everyone has to start somewhere! I had taken that C++ class in High School before dropping out, and had the confidence that it was enough. I knew I was smart- that I was really smart, and I was desperate. I had to figure out how to keep this girl. I had to do something! One night when she couldn't come over, I ate a 54mg Concerta that a friend left at my old place and covered my bedroom floor with scribbled papers, dissecting Super Metroid movement animations frame by frame and making measurements to try and reverse engineer the physics.
In one night, I had a ripped Samus sprite jumping on the screen with animation. I had convinced myself that I could make a game. I copied the code to a new directory and started working on a simple game, "like Zelda, but with guns and drugs like GTA," called "Zeldrug." (It probably would have sold well!) I got on AOL Instant Messenger and messaged my friend Phil, asking him to start a video game company with me. My enthusiasm and determination convinced him and he got on board. We called the company "PNBSoft," until we thought of something better.
My girlfriend and I got an apartment in a very cheap, shoddy apartment complex. There was black mold running up one of the walls, and the apartment across the hall's ceiling caved in because of a water leak, but we didn't care. I started borrowing money from my parents after showing them some demos. My Dad agreed to give me about $500 a month to pay rent. They were undoubtedly worried about my apparent madness and refusal to deal with reality, and perhaps my Dad saw a bit of himself in my ambition.
I printed out long articles from Gamasutra about game development and the game industry, hole punched them, and put them in binders. I learned about being a "Lone Wolf" and about post mortems and how to deal with publisher negotiations. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, but I was sure I could figure it out. (I am pretty sure now that those people didn't know what they were doing either.) I convinced Phil that we only had to make a tech demo and we could convince publishers to give us funding. I had no idea what I was talking about, but a few plastic binders with economy-printed hole-punched articles was all I had to believe in. My Don Quixote journey had begun! The Game Boy Advance SP came out and we each got one- for testing purposes, of course. I ordered a couple of GBA flash carts from Lan-Kwei. We used the HAM high level GBA library along with DevKitARM, which was buggy and not quite finished but usable enough. This project was the one thing I had going for me, and I stubbornly held on long after we started to run into problems.
Phil came over and we had a brainstorm session. I came up with what I thought was the greatest game idea ever: an Adventure RPG set in a modern suburb where you fight in minigame battles instead of typical RPG battles. Phil liked the idea and "RPG with Minigames" stayed on the whiteboard from that moment on. After some time, we called it "Button Mash." We decided to rename the company to "Monkeys On Keyboards."
Each day, Phil drove up with some Hot 'n Now cheeseburgers for us and hacked on a Marble Madness clone in one of the bedrooms with me. I was probably the worst person in the world to work with, and Phil was a champion for putting up with me as long as he did. I sat there chain smoking with a fan in the window (at his request!), playing obnoxious techno music, trying to force myself to pretend I knew what I was doing enough to make a Tetris clone.
At night I played pirated GBA games on my flash cart. During the day I browsed through lots of Super Nintendo ROMs on ZSNES with a Lik-Sang PSX controller adapter, on my cobbled together PC running pirated Windows XP. Phil kept his legit Windows box on the desk like a trophy. I had no such integrity (yet).
Phil was a far better programmer than I was, starting in high school and having gone to Michigan Tech for the past few years, and I struggled to keep up. It's incredible that he stuck around as long as he did. I somehow finished the Tetris clone in a week or two and began working on a clone of Puyo Puyo. Phil finished his Marble Madness clone and made Checkers, a Slide Puzzle, and then a Cameltry clone, amongst a few others. I started working on a DDR clone.
I covered the windows with black plastic. We lived in a cave and it was paradise. My girlfriend played Earthbound on a PC emulator and Zelda Wind Waker for GameCube on the couch. I got through Extra Expert mode on Super Monkey Ball and saved recordings of my best trick stage clears to the memory card. I got to the final boss in Luigi's Mansion. I had 6 more blue coins to find in Super Mario Sunshine. I built a terrible homemade wooden DDR platform. I bought a real copy of Super Metroid, even though I didn't have a Super Nintendo. Each night we watched anime which I had downloaded from DC++ laying on a futon mattress on the floor, going through dozens of series.
Unable to find any decent public tileset tools, Phil started working on a tileset graphics editor in Java, which he had learned at Michigan Tech. I told him I would make the whole game if he did that. I started working on the RPG engine. Within a few months he had a fully functional tile editor, with layers that matched the GBA hardware. Phil was hardcore! It was all inside one huge .java file he had written in notepad. He was adding in network support and making it self-compiling, and I told him to take a break, and I would do the rest in six months. (It took me a lot longer than six months. (My Dad was right.))
(Phil's editor is still the basis of my game editing tools to this day. I offered to give him half of what "bob's game" makes, but he refused! Phil is a great friend.) There was a blackout, and we had no power for several days. I played the just-released Japanese NES Classics Metroid ROM on my GBA SP with my girlfriend on the couch in the dark. It was one of the best times of my life. Our futon got black mold underneath it. An obese man moved in above us and the ceiling bent and creaked dangerously wherever he walked. After a few days without sleep, I went up and started yelling at him. He laughed. We went to the main office and demanded a different apartment. We should have moved to a less cheap complex. Maybe I should have gotten a job. It was too late. I was already on my journey, and holding on to my dream at all costs.
They gave us a new apartment, a mirror image of our previous one in another building. We moved everything over. This one had a guy living next door who was trying to be the next Eminem. He watched us move in all our stuff, and glared at me every time I walked past. We should have been nicer to the apartment staff, lack of sleep or not. It was 2004. I worked on graphics in Phil's tile editor and programmed the RPG engine during the day.
We bought Pokemon Channel, got stoned, and cackled at Pikachu. My girlfriend played Harvest Moon on the GameCube. I played Dragon Warrior 4 on a GBA NES emulator on the flash cart on the toilet until my legs fell asleep and I stumbled off onto the floor. I bought a Beatmania IIDX controller and started practicing. We watched anime at night. I sent an email to John Carmack and he gave a short reply, making me certain I was the next video game superstar... if only I could make the game.
I went to go play DDR with my friend a few weeks later, and had a sinking feeling the whole night. My girlfriend called his cell phone and told us someone had broken in and stolen the GameCube and my PC. We went to the nearest GameStop and they had my games on the shelf. We showed them the receipt with the GameCube serial number on it and they got the security tape with the neighbor selling the games. They found my PC in our neighbor's apartment, but the police confiscated it for evidence. (I wish he had become the next Eminem! I hope he has recovered and I feel bad about it now.)
My memory card was already sold, and I never found the last six blue coins. To this day I never beat Luigi's Mansion. (I will do these things as soon as I get a PC and some free time.) My Super Monkey Ball replays were forever lost.
I went to court, but didn't get my PC back. Feeling victimized, I became paranoid and stored everything left at my parents' house, becoming minimalistic and only using an old Dell laptop. I needed vindication. I wrote an NPC engine with dozens of unnecessary movement types, implementing every kind of NPC behavior I had seen in any other game. I wrote a formatted text engine and drew half a dozen fonts for it pixel by pixel. My game started becoming my identity, and I started getting completely lost in it. I became obsessed. I couldn't work hard enough. I worked at nights, leaving my girlfriend to play Harvest Moon alone. I took the laptop outside and walked around until I found open Wifi, and downloaded some porn for the first time in years.
I kept drawing my childhood, trying to remember... Our lease ran out and we moved to a nicer but smaller apartment. I selfishly took the bedroom as my office. We got Comcast internet and I got re-addicted to internet porn. I listened to comedy albums all day and drew graphics while stoned.
The Nintendo DS came out. I was terrified by it, realizing I was out of time. After reading news that GBA games would be ported to it I felt a tinge of hope. I ordered the first pass-through flash device available for it. It was hand-made and had #7 written on it with a Sharpie. I began to port my GBA RPG engine to it after a few months, using the PAlib library in place of HAMlib. I had the strangest feeling that PAlib was somehow being developed to save my life.
Using my parents' money, I filed to trademark "Button Mash." I read "Atlas Shrugged" on a homebrew text reader on my GBA SP in bed next to my girlfriend, and then started sleeping alone on the floor of the office. Cave Story was released and I became furiously jealous that I wasn't the first one-man game. I forced myself to keep working even harder, drawing terrible graphics. Life became a blur. I was becoming completely mad. I saw the potential, even if nobody else did, and my defensiveness only made those around me more critical, making me more defensive.
I started gaining weight. I lost my self discipline and self control and developed an ego instead. I stopped playing DDR, and instead smoked too much pot and too many cigarettes. I became paranoid and lost all my self esteem. I became jealous and reclusive. I started writing myself notes and tacking them on the walls, reminding me to be nice, to cheer up, to stay motivated. It only made it worse, of course. It was 2005. My girlfriend and I constantly argued and I downloaded a massive porn collection. I became increasingly more insecure about my failure to produce the game which I had made my identity. I got a strange growth on my right index finger. My girlfriend bought me "Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg," and I played it once and never touched it again. I was spoiled. I was selfish. I was enslaved by my addictions. I was confused and I could not understand- I was on my way to hell.
Phil wanted his desk back, and I argued with him and haughtily dropped it off at his house. I started avoiding my girlfriend completely, only coming out for my now-hourly glass of coffee. She finally had enough and started staying out late with friends, then other guys, trying to get my attention. I tried to quit smoking. I was filled with rage. I started putting up notes on the wall telling myself to be nicer, then as soon I saw her I would be overcome with anger and march back into the room, slamming the door. She giggled at me and threw a party with friends from her work. I threw a tantrum and knocked a monitor onto the floor.
I moved out in a dramatic act, moving to Lansing into an old converted college dorm room for $250 a month. I sealed up the door with foam to keep out the noise and keep myself in, after stocking up on canned food and coffee.
Spending weeks at a time in the tiny dungeon I had created, I forced myself to keep clicking. After a month, my girlfriend emailed me, saying it was over- I hadn't had the spine to officially break it off myself. The finality of it hit me and I went into despair. Depressed out of my mind and trying to stay motivated, I covered the walls completely with notes and quotes. I got stoned, drew graphics, watched anime, and sat in the tiny shower stall with an umbrella, pretending it was raining.
I tried to bake bread in a toaster oven after watching "Yakitate Japan," and almost set the place on fire. There was an infestation of beetles that came through the window. I masturbated to my huge porn collection until it hurt, and finally tossed the DVD spindles into a dumpster in an attempt to kick it for good. I played pretend DDR on the floor without a pad, and began to subject myself to an unrealistic workout schedule. My cheeks became gaunt and pale. I listened to comedy and weird synthpop and tried to quit smoking again, packing tobacco into a weed pipe once the loneliness had overcome my will power.
I was in that room for six months, and then my parents cut me off. I had created a massive world. It was ugly, but it was real. It was 2006. With nowhere to go, I moved into my friend's rented house basement with asbestos insulation everywhere, setting up a plastic tent in the midst of my despair. It was freezing. I took the bus and donated blood plasma for money, coming back and playing DDR until I passed out. I felt my consciousness and self control coming back. I kept refining the graphics. I hacked on Phil's editor, adding features, trying to make it my own.
It was a college town. As soon as I got some momentum, there was another girl that appeared, somehow- I think it was at Denny's. I rebounded on her immediately. I tried to quit smoking again, and failed. Later I would find out that she was cheating on her fiancee- I might as well have been kicking myself in the balls. It wasn't really her fault- he had gotten selfish and she needed somebody to fill the void, she didn't really care about me. We had sex in the plastic tent in the basement. I was broken and confused.
My Dad picked me up in his truck at some point. All I remember is him yelling at me to "Get Normal!" He was trying to knock some sense into me, to get me to understand I didn't need to do it this way. I didn't understand. My game was all that mattered, and I didn't have time to change my methods. Over the next few days, I obsessively searched for apartments online. I found the cheapest place I could, an hour away from my parent's house in an urban sprawl town. I was in some kind of terrifying autopilot. I somehow sat my parents down and convinced them to pay for one more year, that this was my career, that it would all be worth it. I moved in with my beat up desk and a cobbled together PC. It was a 1.2Ghz Duron with 256MB RAM. This is what I wrote most of my game on. The power supply didn't fit in the case, so I duct taped it inside the desk. My parents bought me a used loveseat, probably hoping that I would get a new girlfriend. I set my desk up in the bedroom and set up a DDR station in the main room, at first honoring my parents' request that I keep my apartment looking normal.
I soon tacked all my notes and motivational quotes I had collected along the way onto the wall and covered the window with black plastic, labeling the door with "Motivation Room." I put a mirror in front of my computer so that I had someone to talk to, commanding myself to "Be The Hero."
I had no phone, no car (I still didn't have a driver's license!), no internet, no money, and nobody that I knew within a half hour. I was completely isolated. It took a few weeks to adjust. Unable to focus and still heartbroken, I walked around searching for free Wifi on my DS, and sent emails to the girl from Lansing. She never replied. I walked two miles to get my groceries. I chain smoked tobacco in filter tubes. I walked to the library with a USB stick to check my email and get new versions of PAlib. I smoked small bits of weed out of a tiny bowl I had made from parts from ACE Hardware. Once I adjusted, I got back to clicking. It was a fresh start, so I made a new logo and decided to rename the company to "Densetsusoft." I really didn't like the name of the game anymore, and the "bob's game" concept had begun to form in my mind.
I got on food stamps and started making one giant pot of food substance, a lot of frozen vegetables, spaghetti sauce, noodles, and chicken or tuna. I ate the same thing every day, scooping out a bowl of the awful-tasting mixture and microwaving it. Eventually I started eating it cold out of the pot straight from the fridge. I went down to 130 pounds.
I spent a couple of months drawing the massive outside areas for 16 hours a day, and another few months cleaning up and adding layers of detail to the existing graphics. It still wasn't good enough. I moved my desk into the middle of the larger main room and covered the sliding glass door with black plastic.
To keep myself inside and focused, I screwed some boards in across the door to make it annoying to open, covered it in black plastic, and piled up everything I wasn't using against it. I stayed inside for sometimes over a month or two. The first four days were always really tough and I found myself inventing excuses to leave, but after that I was on autopilot and I had the time of my life. I got my self discipline back. I read through an offline Wikipedia copy I had and tried to learn how to become a noble and good person. My heart was open and I knew the work I was doing was good. I got good at Beatmania IIDX. I got pretty good at C and Java, switching between the RPG engine and the heavily modified editor. I got good at graphics. I got good at making tracker music. I played through newly released DS ROMs each night laying in the mattress next to my desk, learning from the designs. I filled notebooks with ideas, scribbles, rants, and drawings- some of it brilliant, some of it neurotic. I wrote entries each day in a massive journal.
I was still fighting against my addictions, but I was starting to win. It was lonely, and the porn I had became like gold. I deleted it all, and then undeleted what I could the next day. I flushed packs of cigarettes and wrote notes on the door declaring I would never touch them again, cracking within hours and running to the tobacco store. Thanksgiving came, and I went back to my parents' house. It was boring, so I met up with some friends at Denny's, along with a girl from high school I chatted with on AOL Instant Messenger who lived down the street. I showed her my game running on the DS, proud of what I had made. For some reason, I wanted to prove that I wasn't the dropout loser she took me for, but I have no idea why I thought that. My parents brought me a new pair of shoes for Christmas. It was 2007. I worked through the new year, going to bed early after playing some "Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker."
The stress I was going through, along with the weed, lack of self-esteem, and extreme isolation made me psychotic. I screamed at the walls and paced back and forth between the desk and the bathroom mirror. I listened to the same song on a loop for weeks or months, sometimes even while sleeping. I covered the mirror with insane Expo marker rantings and then covered it in black plastic, not seeing my reflection for weeks. I experimented with all the variables, and removed everything but the goal.
I got a postcard in the mail from the girl in high school who I had hung out with on Thanksgiving- she had gone on a road trip with a friend. She must have asked for my address at some point. There was something strange about the postcard, and after staring at it and wondering, I left it on the floor next to my laptop until it got shuffled into the piles of random clutter. It was dangerous, and it was hell- but it was working. That's all that mattered. My favorite motivational quote, "A bad game is bad forever. A delayed game is eventually good. - Shigeru Miyamoto," was taped up in the corner, giving me hope. My productivity increased every day until I was a machine. It began to happen the way I had imagined. It was working, and though it was a constant torture, I had never felt more satisfied. I went through the list of characters I had come up with, drawing 8 full sprite sheets every day, and then going over them all again. I drew hundreds of sprites without stopping. I went through each room methodically and scripted the NPC placement and behaviors, hard coding it all in C. The engine was shaping up into a solid, professional piece of work. It still had some bugs, but it was stable enough to walk around the whole world and run all the NPC behavior overnight without crashing. My game was real. I had written nearly an entire retail quality RPG by myself. I was 23 years old. It was the happiest I had ever been in my life. I felt satisfied that I was becoming the person I wanted to be. It felt as if I was getting somewhere, I was going to make it. I was a guy like Leonardo da Vinci. I felt powerful, as if I had been reaching for something and nearly gained it. Something within me knew that I would have the leverage I needed to do anything, to change the world the way I needed to. My Dad came to visit, and asked me if I could invent a way to improve Detroit. I came up with an idea for a school desk with a touchscreen in it, with automated interactive lessons and a worldwide educational tournament network. I was sure that I was going to be the one to revolutionize education. Over the next two weeks, there was an odd phenomenon. By some strange coincidence, my few remaining friends spontaneously came over to visit, and I showed them what I had made. One by one they mocked it, got angry, and stopped coming over. I didn't understand. Wasn't it good? Why would they get angry? I boarded the door back up and angrily wrote notes on it, saying "Fuck these people, I don't need them!" It was me versus the world. My parents came over and I showed them what I had made. They were amazed and impressed, for a day. I was so proud, and more motivated than ever. Then things got strange. They started pointing out the tiniest flaws in what I had made. I couldn't understand why, but it hurt. I would obsess over their words for days. I mentioned it to them several times, and they offered no explanation. Why couldn't they just be proud of me? I didn't understand then that the problem was in myself, not them. My Mom got a bit weird and kept insisting that I get a cell phone. I tried explaining my situation to her, that I couldn't afford any compromise, that it was too difficult for me to resist the temptation. I would call a girl. She kept pushing and sort of forced it on me. I broke it, and then lied and told her I had dropped it. She immediately got me a new one. I broke all the numbers off the cell phone, and then stabbed the board underneath with a screwdriver until there was no way I could dial with it. I found a way anyhow. I called the girl from high school in total compulsion, as if possessed. I think I asked her how her trip was, and then hung up. ... When I was in Kindergarten, I drew a picture in crayon which was made into a dinner plate. My parents always served me food on it, even as a young adult. They would always ask me what it meant, and I never knew. It appears to be me in a room painting and listening to music, sweating bullets at a knock on the door which has come to interrupt me. The door is in my heart.
... There was a knock on the door. I was taking a shower, and there is no way I could have heard it, but I felt it, somehow. I opened the door wearing a towel, expecting nobody to be there. The girl was standing there, wearing a nice outfit and fresh makeup. She informed me that she was housesitting for her sister with the whole place to herself, and invited me to come hang out. Things got weird. I sat on her sister's couch and said "I'm not going to sleep with you." She got neurotic, snapped "I've had enough of you!" and drove me back, slamming the car door on me. No problem. I was tough, and had closed all my weaknesses. I finally had control over myself, and I could handle this. I decided to try and quit smoking again. It was probably the biggest mistake of my life (so far). I failed, and my will shattered. I was walking down the street, and the next thing I knew I was on the phone, humiliating myself, crying, apologizing. She made fun of me and hung up. I couldn't redeem myself. I was broken. I couldn't think. I couldn't focus. My heart was shattered. I suddenly felt like I was wearing a thousand pound weight. I had climbed out of the well of despair and become my own master, and somehow, like a thief, she had seen that light and was overcome with the compulsion to grab it. She had stolen my heart the very moment I had freed it! I had been tearing through my To-Do list at lightning speed. My changelog had been racking up pages each day. I had been a machine. Suddenly, I was completely useless. I tried to focus, and got immediately frustrated, knocking my monitor off the desk in rage. I couldn't comprehend it! I went to the store with my Dad the next day. I told him what had happened, and that I didn't understand. He said "you'll figure it out." It sounded sinister and sly when he said it. I was confused and I couldn't understand. I didn't know how to cope. I had no control and I was grabbing onto anything I could. I remembered in the sixth grade they had recommended Ritalin. I had refused to take it. My Mom had begged, but didn't force me. First I went on Wellbutrin, trying to quit smoking, then, remembering that first night with the Metroid, I tried Concerta again, then Adderall, then generic Ritalin. My Dad only said "I guess if you need it..." in a mysterious tone. I damaged my health and my heart. I was sure that my dreams were ruined, but I was so close- and there was no way I could give up.
In my mind, I couldn't understand why someone would do this to me. I was the youngest person to have written something like I had. It was all I had. It was the largest thing I had ever seen written by one person. My dreams were right there in front of me, and was watching them fall to pieces. I had done it! I had struggled through hell and back and lived through a complete nightmare and sacrificed everything! Why would they hurt me? Why were people around me attacking me and not supporting me? I didn't understand. I had been defeated, but not fairly! I was defeated by a dirty trick, not honest work, which was intensely more frustrating. How could I respect such an approach? It was my own fault, my own weakness, but I didn't know how to overcome it. I couldn't do it. Instead, I got worse. I wasted months in that apartment. I walked in circles. I screamed. I broke everything. I couldn't focus- my heart was closed and nothing would come out. I was frustrated to shreds. I got obsessed with myself, trying to find myself again. I started recording everything. I took pictures. I documented everything. I got increasingly weird, imagining myself standing up for homeless people. I screamed at the store manager when I saw him berate an employee. I walked outside in the snow for miles without a coat, amped up on Adderall, not feeling the cold. I still forced myself to draw graphics, even at a slow, frustrated pace. I developed an ego and drew a forest with my signature in it. I made some weird music in Reason and emailed it to a radio station, and then lashed out at them when they said it wasn't good enough. I sent weird, embarrassing emails to friends. I spammed that girl with hundreds of humiliating emails, even proposing marriage. She never once replied. She knew I was lying, even if I didn't. I called her house and her Mom answered with a sigh. She put her daughter on, who mocked me and hung up. She moved out of state shortly after, her only online presence was an Amazon wishlist full of shoes and diamonds. Somehow, seeing it put me into a haze of fear, like a curtain had been closed over my consciousness. It was Mind Control - The Uncomfortable Truth About Humans. We control each other's minds. We are psychic beings! I didn't know that then, and it took me years to understand. By now, I've realized that I hadn't been any better, that I was just passing blame. I had showed her my game, not knowing the meaning of the act. I needed to learn to respect women. I had to kick the addictions and master my own will, but I didn't know that they had bound my mind. I wasn't capable of understanding! Eventually, I figured it out- just like my Dad had said. (Thanks, Dad!) She had crushed me because I had hacked into her heart and mind by showing her my game, and did everything she could to prevent me from reaching any kind of redemption to save her own soul. Why? Because I didn't respect women, so she didn't respect me, and had done what she needed to get out from under my control. She had the natural advantage of power, because she had beauty and I was full of lust. To her, my tactics must have seemed just as unfair and dirty, since I smoked cigarettes instead of proper coping methods. No matter what I achieved, in her mind it wasn't respectable. I borrowed a bike that was on the lawn next door to get groceries. The neighbor was waiting for me when I got back, seemingly high on cocaine. He punched me in the head when I dropped the bike back off. To be fair, it was his kid's bike, and I hadn't asked. I ran away as fast as I could, and came back to my apartment, terrified. I packed all my stuff into boxes, and then unpacked it again. I felt more defeated than ever before. My parents cut me off again the next month, refusing to renew my lease, which was already past a year and on month-to-month. My Dad took me to a restaurant, and after the meal handed me a card to a psychiatrist, saying that I had no choice. I stood my ground, but I was quickly running out of options. They were closing the trap on me and I knew it. I had to move back to my parents' house for the first time since I was 17. My parents bought me and my brother a Wii for Christmas. I played Super Mario Galaxy, standing up in the living room, playing on the family TV.
It was 2008. My Dad bought me a new computer, desk, and chair, probably trying to cheer me up. It was a dual core AMD machine with an integrated Radeon. It wasn't top of the line, but it was the best computer I had ever had by far. Unfortunately, I was completely useless. I stayed for a few weeks in my old bedroom with no self control, staving off The Fear by popping Ritalin, masturbating to porn, reading 4chan, and trying desperately to make money through online scam sites, clicking on banner ads and signing up for spam email lists for $5 prepaid debit cards. I played Metroid Prime 3 on a CRT monitor on my desk, barely comprehending what I was doing through my stimulant haze. Nothing was enjoyable.
I had to get out of there. Despite definitely not being ready, I emailed Nintendo in desperation, being as assertive as I could. Somehow, with great persistence, I made my way to a business guy there. I needed help- I needed someone to take me seriously, because I couldn't with a broken heart and broken will. Out of options and coked up on Ritalin, I kept emailing. After a week or two of back and forth emails, things seemed to be getting nowhere. Frustrated, I lashed out at the business guy and sent him a psychotic mess of an email, trying to stave off the massive depression and feeling of being crushed. I apologized, and miraculously, the business guy agreed to meet me anyway- after I showed him my game running on the DS through a video conference. My Mom had to take me to a local library to use their video conference setup. After that, he said he would look at my game at the upcoming GDC. He probably just wanted to make sure I wasn't dangerous first. Honestly, all I wanted was the development kit, so I could keep programming. Deep down inside, I could sense there was a way I could scratch my way out of the hole I had been shoved in. I needed that SDK as a sort of leverage, so I had some kind of official approval- some kind of endorsement to show the people around me to shut them up, to keep them from trying to discourage me. In retrospect, it might not have helped that much. It may have even made them fight against me harder. The truth about humans is that we are all in a giant psychic dog pile, scrambling to tear each other down and claim the throne. The meaning of insecurity is that it is an opening in the door inside our heart. To be a truly great leader, one must earn the respect and love of others- not just conquer them. I went to GDC. I had never cared about conferences and had no interest in it. It was my first plane trip by myself, and my first time away from Michigan. I was a total noob there. I saw the Fez guy standing at his booth. I said something like "That looks neat, it's like Cave Story with a 3D mechanic." It was supposed to be a compliment, but he seemed to take offense to it. (It did look like Cave Story, and I'm glad he finished it!) I stayed in the Vagabond Inn in a cheap part of San Francisco. I saw the police raid a house while walking to find my hotel, and when I arrived there were two male dwarfs in BDSM gear staying across the hall from me, which was a big culture shock. I ordered some Chinese food to my hotel room, and it was the best I had ever had. I ate about a quarter of it and crammed the rest in the miniature fridge. The Nintendo guy delayed my meeting until the very last time slot of the very last day. I showed up to the meeting with my luggage, because my plane was leaving right after. They were starting to close down the exhibits. There were 3 people in a white booth. The business guy and two Japanese developers in expensive looking shiny suits, one woman and one man. He asked me if I enjoyed seeing GDC. I told him that I mostly was in my hotel room working on the demo. I had spent most of the week just cutting out all the cutscenes and anything that looked buggy, leaving a very sparse and barebones world. It would be the last time I would touch the code for nearly a year. I had taken too much Ritalin and I was extremely nervous. I stammered through all my sentences. My demo was terrible. The Japanese woman walked around in the demo a bit while the business guy asked me questions about the game. My answers were vague and confused. The Japanese woman laughed at getting hit by a car (which made me feel great), and then the demo crashed at a dinner table scene that wasn't finished. He asked me if I would be willing to work with my own team within Nintendo. Without even considering it, I immediately said no. He looked angry at this. I immediately felt half stupid and half impressed with myself. After a few more questions, I remember him saying "sadly, I don't think your game will ever be released." I got really angry at that, and it stuck with me for a long time. (I used it in my later "Stage 80" demo.) I suppose the reason I got so angry is both because I was insecure about my unfinished game and because I believed that game development should be done by a shut-in lunatic man-child. Isn't that what an artist is? In retrospect, I am pretty sure I was just way too sensitive. I am sure I looked insane, but I'm not sure if he was testing my resolve, just being a jerk, or it was his honest assessment of the loony kid with a buggy demo. It doesn't matter. I kept asking about the SDK and saying that's all I wanted, that I just wanted to keep developing. He said he would do what he could, but he didn't sound confident about it. I knew deep down that it was never going to happen. The meeting was completely useless. I wasn't even close to capable of handling it and I had no confidence. After five minutes it was over, and I turned around while walking out and yelled "I want that SDK!" He looked impressed with that for a split second, and once again I felt immediately half stupid and half proud of myself. I walked out and across the expo floor. The conference was over and they were taking the booths down. I then turned around and walked back to the Nintendo booth, found the guy, and asked him one last question: "Can I do another pitch?" He hesitated for a moment, and then said I could. (This would become very important later on...) I flew home and immediately told my parents that Nintendo had offered me my own development team. It was enough to escape. My friend and I got an office a few streets away from my parent's house. I set up my computer and listened to very angry industrial music there. He played the drums in the next room. I slept there at night, only going back to my parents' to take a shower every few days.
My ID had expired, so I went to go renew it at the DMV. They handed me a driver's license instead of an ID. I didn't know how to drive. My Mom got a new car and gave me her 2000 Chrysler Sebring convertible, and I sort of figured it out by driving around at night. After a month or two, I came back to my parent's house and they stopped me in the living room. They handed me a check from a Tennessee bank, in a city I recognized from childhood trips. I had apparently inherited $100,000 from my Great Aunt who had passed away. I was a trust fund baby and had never known it. My parents looked sad giving it to me, and I somehow knew it was going to ruin my life. I tried to give it back to my Dad. I said I didn't want it. He took me to Charles Schwab and had his friend there deposit it into a managed account. It was the first time in my life I had more than a couple hundred bucks. Suddenly, I had the resources to make my game happen and everything was in place, but I still had a broken heart. I couldn't think. I couldn't focus. I was chomping Ritalin and chain smoking, trying to pick myself back up, unaware that I was only keeping myself held down. In my mind, that horrible girl had ruined my dreams and there was nothing I could do. It was my fault, of course. I know that now. I wasn't strong enough. I had no self control. I didn't have the will power and I didn't know how to get back up. I went to dinner with my friend's family, and his father told me to put a video of my game online. I told him I was going to splice in footage of how hard I tried, of the scratchings on the walls. He told me it wasn't necessary. I came back and made a terrible barebones website talking about how I had locked myself in a room and put 15,000 hours into this game, which was more or less the truth. It was the first time I had ever touched HTML.
I put a video of my game online with a hastily cut together video and added captions to it on YouTube, with my friend playing drums in the next room over of the office. A few major gaming websites picked it up, and things started looking up.
My friend bought the iPhone 3G. It was interesting but still too slow and frustrating. At the request of my fans, I reluctantly made a gameplay video showing some of the first quest in my game. It wasn't worth it, as I thought. I did some interviews for small websites. I didn't know how to deal with the journalist requests and tried to please everyone.
I started emailing with a small publisher for the DS. I signed their NDA. They told me to apply for Nintendo licensing, and their guys would rewrite the game for me to make it marketable. It was the most depressing email exchange I had ever had in my life. The App Store was released for the iPhone. My friend brought some of his college buddies to the office. We ate psilocybin mushrooms and LSD a few times, and one time both at once! Suddenly, I remembered and fully understood what I was making. It woke me back up and opened my heart, gaining my memories and thoughts back, if only temporarily. I didn't yet understand what had happened, but it had worked.
I made some weirder videos, putting in everything I wanted. I put in a time-elapsed segment of me being shirtless (and masturbating in one frame) from the time in the apartment I had gotten obsessed with recording myself. I put an elaborate stop motion segment of the creation of my sprites, put together manually from backups. It took me a month of solid work. It was art. Half of the YouTube comments were "why is there a shirtless guy?" I didn't care.
I was starting to become functional again, Ritalin (and cigarettes) or not. I bought a kitten, a Persian Munchkin girl which I named Midi.
I had become interested in watching the stock market and noticed that it had inclined to a peak for a long time and had started to decline. Trusting my gut, I emailed the financial guy at Schwab and sent him screenshots, saying I think the stock market is going to crash. He assured me that wasn't possible. A week or two later the stock market crashed and I lost a big chunk of the money I had just inherited. I bought the first Android Phone, the G1. It was awful and unusable, but I knew it was definitely the future.
With the excuse of moving near the publisher available to me (but of course I just wanted to get the heck out of Michigan), I moved to New Jersey with my friend, telling my Mom it was only temporary. It was really hard to get away! We packed a U-Haul trailer and set off, my friend towing the trailer in the rain behind his SUV, me following in my Mom's Chrysler Sebring convertible. I still barely knew how to drive, having had access to a car for only a month or two. Once we arrived, we somehow managed to find a duplex that would approve us. I took the upstairs bedroom, my friend took the downstairs. I covered the walls of the room with black plastic. We got internet access.
I had the funds that I needed. I had a commercial office (back in Michigan), a registered company, a Tax ID, and I had a place to live right near the publisher I was talking to. All I needed was the license from Nintendo to get a copy of the SDK and get back to programming. I waited for the response on the application. I emailed back and forth with a licensing rep who said it was definitely a unique case. They stopped responding. A couple of weeks passed. It was past the deadline. I was frantic. I couldn't handle the stress. I was confused, angry, and frustrated. I was so close to getting myself back! I wrote a genuine, desperate plea on my website. I deleted it. I put it back. An idea was forming in my mind. I wanted to stand up for myself, somehow. If Super Mario Bros. had taught me anything when I was 4 years old, it was that I needed to eat a power-up to smash through the ceiling. We drank psilocybin tea made with ten grams of cubensis mushrooms. Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails had recently done his "Year Zero" ARG where he had a fake SWAT team raid a concert venue and arrest the concert goers, a sort of pseudo meta-protest with an obviously real-world meaning. I could do something just as creative using only a website and courage. Nobody in the video game industry had ever done such a unique thing. All publicity is good publicity, and I knew this was going to get some attention. We went to Target and bought a crappy Wireless IP Cam and a rotating disco ball. I had been given permission by the business guy to give Nintendo one more pitch. I was going to become the Nine Inch Nails of video games- It was going to be the coolest thing anyone had ever done in video game history! On top of what I had already done- the largest game ever made by a single person, having gone through hell and back, it would make me a legend! My friend played the drums, and I chanted a speech straight out of my heart. I was going to change the world. The next generation of children would all be super-smart, thanks to the internet, and I would guide them. I would seize the leverage I needed to revolutionize the education system. I was going to reset society. But first, I was going to play the villain - I was going to become "bob." I laid in bed and realized that God is the voice in my head, that we are all an extension of the same being, and that all truth comes from the heart. I learned that we are in the Matrix, we are beings made of voxels made of pure energy in a divine simulation which we cannot possibly comprehend. I learned that the force that keeps everyone from reaching their own potential is their ego, insecurity, and acts motivated by jealousy in others. Everyone is capable of becoming Godlike if you decide to become what you are, if you don't let the hurtful words of the jealous stop you. Agents can take over anyone at any time. I realized that I AM a guy like Jesus. (We all are capable of it!) It was Year Zero. I realized that I AM God- and I AM playing my own game. Something was missing. I express ordered an LED sign board.
It was 2009. It was a confused, messy "protest." It was ridiculous and awesome, and I knew it. I just typed random nonsense into a plastic box and cackled like a maniac. I emailed the business guy at Nintendo and told him that I was making my pitch, as promised. I was doing something big, something important and original, and I was going to do it my way, on my own terms. Better to ask for forgiveness later than permission! It began with the concept that I was trapped in a green room. This had something to do with being trapped in my own insecurity, something to do with the "Viridian Room" web game that had been popular recently, and mainly had to do with going along with the theme of being locked in a room, since that's what I had been doing for most of the previous 5 years- Unfortunately, while the people who were already following my game realized that, most new people coming in didn't get the associations. It did get the attention that I wanted though. I wasn't sure whether to call it a "viral ad" or a "meta protest" or even a real protest, but it was certainly all of the above and somewhere in between- and I definitely did it to get attention for the game. I had already assumed I was turned down for the license and that it was a lost cause. I should not have been so hasty, it was still technically possible they were debating it. I just lost hope and decided to move on, turning the rejection into publicity. It worked. The internet was infuriated. There were threads in every gaming forum that had erupted with frantic arguments between people who "got it" and people who were obviously frustrated to tears by it. "Someone is doing something without reservation, without regard for the social norm or political rules! It's cheating!" I emailed a few hilariously insane letters to the contacts I had at Nintendo, telling them if they didn't make an open App Store they were doomed to become like Sega within a few years. I didn't get any replies, but I didn't care- I knew I was right. I got some "Out of Office" replies, cackled like a maniac, and added them to the email chain. I was tripping my balls off and didn't care in the slightest- as I was able to see that power is all in the imagination. I announced that I was the greatest game developer that had ever lived. I was, of course, half serious and half joking, or perhaps completely serious and completely joking, and ran in the next room choking with laughter, telling my friend what I had just typed. "That is probably the most inflammatory statement ever made," he said, while playing with Final Cut Pro and Ableton Live on his Mac. An Encyclopedia Dramatica page was quickly created by someone who would probably never again feel a shred of freedom to be themselves. Although annoyed by it at first, once I understood the circumstances that compel people to antagonize others, I felt sorry for them. (Once you submit to peer pressure, you become enslaved by it!) It turned out to be a German guy who had written a Virtual Boy emulator. I understood at once that he was a great fan who was simply uncomfortable with showing it, and to be honest, the page was pretty good and took quite a bit of effort to make. Some possessed individual, likely a jealous aspiring game developer, put together a slanted Wikipedia article, shaping my words to paint the story the way they wanted to perceive it. I couldn't believe someone would put so much effort into caring about someone else, but I appreciated the fact that I had a Wikipedia article now. My friend had driven back to Michigan for a few days. We had brainstormed a big list of concepts, and it was time for a big one. I decided I was going to "trash the room" and fake my own death, transitioning into a Batman-esque supervillain. I froze the camera and very carefully overturned all my furniture. As a finishing flourish I took a stack of blank printer paper and tossed it in the air. I laid on the ground to get a few good camera frames of myself looking good and dead and called my Mom. "Hi Mom, I'm not dead, don't worry. If anyone asks where I am, don't tell them, OK?" I put the feed on a loop of the frames of me laying on the floor and went to sleep. A worried kid in Europe called the police. They read the website, didn't know what to make of it, and went to my parent's house asking where they could find me. My Mom gave me up in about two seconds, of course, and they contacted the local police in New Jersey, who came and kicked in my door. (They were just following protocol.) They woke me up from sleeping happily in my futon behind the camera and asked if I was alright. I sat up in bed and immediately said "oh, darn it! I knew this would happen." I showed them my spiked shoulderpads and tried to explain that I was doing a comic-book transition from a mild-mannered hero into an egomaniacal video game villain. They said that when a threat of self-harm is reported, they are obligated to either take me in for a quick voluntary evaluation or they had to arrest me. They asked me to put a caption at the top of my website saying I was OK and I agreed. I complained that it was breaking the flow, to no avail. I had weed sitting out on the table and I think they pretended not to notice. At some point I quickly laid a piece of paper over it while I was showing the officers that none of my stuff was broken and all the papers were completely blank. One officer went in the other room where there was a bag of mushrooms sitting inside one of those cube storage seats where the cushion comes off. There was a table with some candles and a small battery operated rock fountain, the room was otherwise empty. I realized he had gone in there and grabbed my coat, rushing in. I swung my coat around to catch his attention, put it on, and said "I'm ready, let's go!" I have no idea if he had looked in the compartment, but I wasn't going to give him any more time. Leaving the door broken and hanging open, the officers took me to the nearest psychiatric ward. I explained the situation to the staff there and they went to my website and laughed. They sat me in a waiting room with a girl who kept screaming and banging on the glass, until a lady with a clipboard came in and asked me a few questions. Did I have a girlfriend? "No." Did I have anything to look forward to? "I wrote a huge video game which is currently getting a huge amount of attention due to an online campaign where I faked my own death and got escorted to a psych ward." Then she brought me into the staff section and asked for my autograph. Shortly after, I was certified Officially Sane by the State of New Jersey, given a document to prove it, and was free to go. My friend was on the way back, and he came and picked me up. The apartment staff fixed the door, and I continued, a bit annoyed but more or less OK. I continued updating the site with nonsense, fueled by the artificial focus of Ritalin, slightly stoned, and smoking cigarettes. I wore a bathrobe with some cardboard spikes tapes onto them. I kept a laptop in the bathroom with some JAV porn on it, and for some reason started to feel a little guilty about the Japanese ladies on screen. I regularly turned off the light and went out with my friend to the store, and a couple times we ventured into a local strip club. I felt a bit guilty about not sticking to the lock-in 100%, but it wasn't supposed to be that serious to begin with. "I am trapped in my own subconscious room of envy, trying to aspire to tear down my idols and become my own God." "They broke into my house! They installed keyloggers! They are the Yakuza!" I was half serious and reaching for deep metaphor, and half just being plain outrageous. It was supposed to be referring to trolls breaking into my psyche and using my words against me. I am pretty sure Nintendo is an old Yakuza company- though I am also quite sure that they have cut those ties the best they could. (I'm still not sure about how Gunpei Yokoi died though.) The biggest problem with half the stuff I typed is that it was way too deep for anyone to understand, even myself. My forum quickly filled up with 15 year old geniuses and prodigies, the only people on the internet who understood what the heck I was doing. I ordered some posters and business cards. They arrived after a week. I had gotten four huge boxes of business cards just to be safe. It was way more than I had thought. I got stoned and talked with my friend about how hilarious it would be to go and put posters all over the Nintendo World Store and put my game on the shelf there. "And with a whole bunch of hot Japanese babes, like at E3!" Sort of a way of pissing on their territory, I suppose. Of course, I was serious about wanting to, but there was no way I would actually do it. I went to sleep. He woke me up, letting me know that he had booked a bunch of Asian models from Craigslist. He had initially asked for Japanese models, but not enough had replied. I wasn't sure if this would be offensive or not, but it was too late. I was not prepared for this whatsoever, and to be honest I hadn't been completely serious about going through with it, but I didn't have the heart to turn it down. We went and got some spiked boots from a gothic clothing store. We stopped in the Nintendo World Store to case the place out. I talked with one of the guys there about the Gulf War Game Boy, and he told me if you thought about it, it is pretty obvious they replaced the screen. I thought about it, and he was right. I bought a Princess Peach coffee mug. We met with the Craigslist Asian models at a coffee shop across the street. They had absolutely no idea what we were doing, nor did we. I had been up for about 20 hours at that point and was in no condition or prepared for a public event. We went in about 10 AM when the store was completely empty. We taped some posters to the outside of the store, and then removed them, leaving one or two. I put a few copies of my game box on the shelf. I slipped some business cards in the game racks and under some T-Shirts. The manager came out with his wallet chain swinging and told us to leave. I told him that we had permission and slipped him the Nintendo executive's card from the GDC meeting to buy us some time. He immediately got on the phone, but it was 7 AM in California. After we were done, I turned around and yelled "welcome to bob's game!" into the empty store while a guy standing on a ladder putting up a banner just stared at me blankly. We left. Back at home, I recorded dumping a couple of boxes of business cards out on the hardwood floor next to my boots, and taped a poster to the wall and signed it. I spliced in some police sirens to the video.
It really needed music, and I knew it. It just wasn't exciting enough. I shipped it anyway. This was one of my biggest mistakes- I should have trusted my gut. It needed music! The internet hated the video and it just got smeared instantly as "jaded developer vandalizes store!!" by the gaming tabloids. I was pretty upset by this, because I felt that I had been framed in a way. Unfortunately, even after I provided proof of the hack, nobody bothered to retract it either. So much for professional games journalism!
Nintendo finally emailed me the rejection letter. I suppose that they had taken the protest seriously enough to where me leaving the room was the leverage they needed. It was nice to have a real answer, and the "protest" was at least a success in that I actually forced a response out of them. It was obvious to me (at the time) that they would never have approved a one-man developer- even though that may have been my own haste and pessimism, and perhaps I should have taken myself more seriously! I threw a party with the disco ball in response to the rejection letter, finally having gotten some closure at the very least. The Stage 80 video was fun to make, but was not factually accurate. I believe I captured the spirit of an independent developer and the emotions I had felt, but the guy on the other side of the table was a young executive, not a balding businessman. A few of the phrases were, however, verbatim as I remembered them.
I made one last serious video, attempting to document my goals and explain the whole thing one last time to the best extent I could. It got reported nowhere and got very few views. It was a masterpiece. I talked about the sorcerer Iwata controlling the audience with his magic puppet strings. I thought I was joking. I didn't know where the knowledge came from.
I didn't know that I had actually discovered the real truth... (More on this later.) The "power-ups" were wearing off and the constant trolling was starting to get to me. They couldn't outwit me, so they were stooping to lower tactics. I hadn't anticipated that. I was getting huge amounts of hate mail with badly spelled insults. I was getting tired of giving the same explanations over and over to people who refused to believe them. My web host dropped me and I had to move my site. Some guy in Thailand was sending me literally millions of spam hate mails that said simply "fuck u faggot" that ruined my inbox. I switched to Google Apps with Gmail to fix the problem, which ended up being way better anyhow. The DSi, obviously inspired by the iPhone, was to be officially announced at GDC, which my meta-protest/campaign/viral ad ended on. I had assumed that they would announce an open game store. I was wrong. The rumors came out that it was to be as closed as ever. What was the point? I emailed my impromptu mailing list again, saying they had a chance to catch up to the iPhone. They could have quickly announced an open platform. I knew they wouldn't do it. They dropped the ball. I was upset. They had completely left me hanging. Well, it was my own fault. I had never really respected Nintendo of America much, knowing that they were mostly business and marketing and didn't actually make any games there. It was just people doing their job- most of them probably didn't care what they sold. Most likely, nobody there even had the authority to approve what I was doing! It didn't matter that they didn't reply. It didn't matter that it didn't work. What mattered was that everything I predicted eventually came true. I could see the future, but I didn't yet understand or believe. A young Steve Jobs had been obsessed with IBM not caring about the home computer market. I got obsessed with Nintendo not caring about independent developers. What was the next generation of game developers going to do? It was obvious, they would all jump on the iPhone. I went and bought a PSP, my first non-Nintendo video game device. I spent a few days navigating the tumbleweed disaster maze of PSP hacking instructions and installed custom firmware by cutting a wire on the battery. I played Final Fantasy 7 for the first time, hated it, and considered being the first to livestream playing through all Final Fantasies in a row lying in bed with a monitor installed over my face. I was tired and I had to focus. I had to get back to development and port my game, since it was never going to happen on a Nintendo system and I had no other choice but to keep moving forward. I had "threatened" to release my own flash card with my game on it, but there was no point without the SDK. I would never have the passion for continuing development. Some of my fans had started a forum. I didn't want a forum, but now it was there, and I made it part of the site. It was fun to play around with, but it went against what I was trying to do. I really was not ready to release a demo but more and more people were demanding it. Pressured by my fans and against my own wishes, I ordered a variety of flash cards, and when they arrived I spent a few days trying to make what I had work on all of them. The first demo I released was fairly buggy, and I ended up having to pull an all-nighter replacing the sound system to get it to work. I have no idea how many people downloaded it. My five years of painstaking work to make a retail quality game had been officially rejected and delegated as "homebrew." I didn't want to create the "indie scene." I didn't consider myself "homebrew." I was trying to make a retail product with an official SDK. The protest officially ended on the first day of GDC, one hundred days exactly. I had wrongly assumed that Nintendo was going to announce an App Store for the DSi there. After registering, the staff had a security guy grab me and take me to a conference room, where the heads of GDC sat around a table and interviewed me. There were probably people from Nintendo there too. I answered their questions honestly, and they seemed to like me. I told them I was just doing something unique, that I had invented the first real-time internet soap opera protest, and I was just running it like an improv TV show, adding something interesting and crazy each day. Suddenly a police officer showed up and asked if he could search my bag just in case I had a katana or something in there, and I let him. I had nothing, of course. Afterwards I wondered if he was actually a real officer, not that it would have mattered. The director lady of the conference asked "What will you do if your dreams don't come true?" I thought about it for a half a second and said "Nothing, I guess." I didn't have a better answer. They were satisfied I was not dangerous and let me free to explore the conference, but insisted that a security guard go with me to see Iwata give the keynote. Honestly, if the guard wasn't there, I might have gotten up and screamed something, but I doubt I would have had the balls. I flew back to New Jersey and went back to the apartment. I had been compromised. I regressed back into a simple consumer, defeated. I shaved my head in submission, not realizing the meaning of the act. For a few weeks I kept going to the arcade and playing In The Groove 2. I would get $20 of tokens, play a few games, and give the handful of tokens to some kid. It was worth it making a memory for someone. I almost (but not quite) passed Summer Speedy Mix in the arcade. I played PSP and watched Game Center CX and some TED talks and thought about what to do next. I had to be alone for a while, and I decided to move to Austin, Texas, which I had read was an "industry hub" where a lot of creative types lived. I packed up my car and took off alone, telling my friend I would go scope it out first. I drove to Austin and stayed at a hotel for a few days while I looked for an apartment complex that would take me. I found a place for $700 a month, signed the lease, and unpacked my car. A few trips to Target and Ikea later and I had covered the windows with black plastic, put together some wire shelves, and had a mattress on the floor. I drove back to New Jersey and helped my friend move to Dallas to stay with one of his former band members, a few hours north of where I was staying. We packed another U-Haul and got the rest of my stuff and my cat. I got Comcast internet access and rented a private server at a hosting company. I wasn't sure what I was going to do with it yet, but my forum had convinced my it was a good idea. Unfortunately, the reality of single-man development is that it is slow and time consuming. Having internet access was a mistake, and the server turned out to be mostly a waste of money, though it was a good learning experience. I spent a month working on an iPhone port, got a very basic version working, and decided to put it on hold. I hated working in XCode on Mac OS, having been a lifetime Windows guy, and I had no motivation to work on a platform where I knew the controls would be terrible. I decided to target PC instead. I taught myself SDL and some basic OpenGL. I implemented some funky HQ2X filters to make things look nicer, and then removed them. I was motivated and enthusiastic, but still didn't feel like myself again. Once things calmed down again, I decided to email the producer guy at Nintendo and apologize. I didn't get any response. In fact, my email address had been blocked, so I sent it again from a different GMail account. This was really frustrating to me, since I was ambitious and being as creative as possible, and this was a company that prided itself on its creativity, passion, and personality. After I sent the email, I felt like I lost half of my energy. I had submit, even though it was something I really felt that I should have stood up for. Did I really do anything that terrible? Once again, it was something that I didn't understand at the time, but eventually came to understand why. They were still a cold hard business underneath the friendly facade, like every company must be. They had offered me a job and I had declined it. It wasn't my company to create for. If I wanted to put my personality and passion into my products, I couldn't do it on the back of a Nintendo system. It was the first time I had really been alone in a city, and I wasn't too comfortable with venturing out of my apartment. I thought it would be a good idea while I had the chance to experience a bit of it. That's why I moved there, wasn't it? I didn't know where to start, so I went to go check out a small industrial club in downtown Austin called "Elysium." I had never really drank alcohol, other than drinking until I puked a few times when I was 17 or so, but I ordered a Tecate and tried to talk to some people. I eventually met a group of regulars there and we exchanged phone numbers. I released another demo, this time for the PC. I had been really motivated, enthusiastic, and amped up on coffee and Ritalin, and posted something like 'full release.' I think I had been trying to motivate myself to stay locked in and keep working, and was going to release a story about the makings of the game. I decided against it, and figured the demo was good enough. The demo was pretty good, but it was far from a full release and I don't think people were really thrilled with it. I was really proud that I had ported my code to SDL and actually had a tangible desktop client. Unfortunately, the code was a disaster, I had essentially written a layer simulating the DS functions. All the events and scenarios and maps were hard coded. I just wanted to start over from scratch, but I knew I didn't have time. I also wasn't going to just take the full game and put it online for free. I had to make some money. This was my career and I had invested years of my life into it. Freed from the constraints of the Nintendo hardware, I suddenly had to find a real way to sell the game. I applied for Steam. It was declined, probably by a temp worker who decided he just didn't like me. This was years before the Greenlight system. Shortly after I went to GDC Austin. It was smaller than the normal GDC and kind of boring. I went to the Sony booth and the guy there knew who I was. He gave me his card and told me to apply for PSP licensing, ensuring me that I would definitely be approved. I came back home and applied. They declined the application. I went to a panel where the Fez guy was giving a presentation with the World of Goo guys. They asked if I was in the room. I didn't say anything. Then they ripped on my trailer for a few minutes. I showed my badge to the guy next to me and shook my head. I wore my 'bob' industrial villain costume with the spiked goth boots I had bought in New York to a big GDC party that night. There I met my friend Alex Peake, of Code Hero fame, who came up to me and complimented the outfit. He told me I should move to the San Francisco Bay Area, SIlicon Valley. I drove around Austin in my Mom's convertible blasting hardcore German industrial music with Alex and Robin Arnott. I went to the goth club to try and shake the feeling of overwhelming hopelessness. I started going more regularly. I went and saw a bunch of the industrial bands I liked play. At the very least, Austin was a good place to see live music. Soon I was getting invited to after parties where people were snorting lines of cocaine, apparently a popular thing due to being near the border. I tried it, and decided it was the stupidest drug on the planet. It was like really expensive Ritalin that only lasted 20 minutes. I didn't even like Ritalin. I started amassing a collection of Japanese porn torrents from 4chan /t/. I was becoming a depraved person and I didn't care. I went to a party and snorted a tiny dot of white crystal methamphetamine. It felt like I had taken a dozen Ritalins. If anything, it motivated me to get the heck out of there. I decided immediately that I needed to leave Austin. I went home, deleted all my porn, packed my car in one night, gave my desk and chair away, and went to the leasing office in the morning and turned in my keys, paying the fee for cutting the lease short. It was December 31st, 2009. I drove to the Bay Area, calling Alex Peake when I was nearby. It was 2010. I had $20,000 left. Alex let me stay at his house in Oakland while I looked for cheap apartments, trying to conserve what funds I had left. I was out of Ritalin, going through withdrawal, and having an awful time focusing on anything. After a month, I finally found a cheap place for $675 a month on Craigslist, an old converted motel room in Santa Clara. It had ugly pale blue Berber carpet that smelled of hospital disinfectant. Over the next week I went to Ikea and Staples and bought a folding table and chair, and covered the walls with black plastic. I went to Fry's and picked up some cheap 1080p monitors. I got Comcast internet access again and started streaming my motel room, trying to force myself to get back into the zone and get into the code, getting increasingly frustrated. I had no target platform or way to make money and the code was a mess. More distracted and depressed than ever, I started downloading porn again and filling some cheap terabyte hard disks from Fry's with TV shows. I bought a PS3 and played through Heavy Rain, which had just been released. It was time for GDC. Back in New Jersey I had started a thread in the Select Button forums, and a guy there named Tim Rogers had told me that he could introduce me to some people in the game industry who could help me out. He was a poster on Kotaku who wrote really long, ambitious articles, and he had a lot of contacts. I was certain he could help me get my game published. I decided to send him an email, asking if he would be at GDC. Alex texted me, asking me to come to Death Guild, an industrial club in San Francisco. It was raining and I was going too fast, and my car skidded off an exit ramp, through a bunch of trees, and ended up sideways on a road, without a scratch. I kept going. I got to the club, and my phone went off. Tim had emailed back, saying he would be at GDC and we could hang out all week. I was so depressed from the Ritalin withdrawal that I actually cried a little bit at the news, right there in the middle of Death Guild. I had forgotten my own value. I bought an HD CRT TV from Craigslist and set it up on a wire shelf, setting up my DDR station. It was time to get back in shape. I started getting my routine back. I started to feel pretty good. I met up with Tim at a restaurant in Oakland. We spent the week of GDC driving around San Francisco in my Mom's convertible and filming things at the conference. He introduced me to a lot of people. It didn't seem to help that much, but it made me feel a lot more significant in the game industry, and surely that would help me get published. In retrospect, I should have just gone it alone, and it was a mistake to pair up with another personality. I didn't think I had the confidence, which was my own fault. After GDC I asked Tim if I could visit Japan, because I always wanted to visit there. I told him I would help him make a video game while I was there. We went to Denny's and brainstormed some game ideas. I agreed that I would try and make a game in UDK, a simple king-of-the-hill game where you defended a pyramid as the world ended. I liked the theme of having aliens in the sky. Maybe I just wasn't strong enough to face the pressure of my game and I needed help, or maybe I was looking for a way out. Maybe I was trying to give up, or maybe I just wanted to get rid of the money I had left. Maybe I just needed a vacation. I bought a ticket with Korean Air and a suitcase from Target. 16 hours later I was in Narita airport. It wasn't really that eventful of a trip. Tim was living in an apartment with several other people, and I spent most of the time there trying to figure out UDK. To try and uphold my end of the bargain, I bought two desktop computers while I was there, and we hacked together some episodes for a YouTube show spliced together from random footage of walking around Tokyo. Tim was much pushier than I was used to and after some badgering I agreed to be the CTO of his company, despite already having my own corporation. I assumed it would be harmless. He immediately put captions into the video proclaiming himself the CEO. I was uncomfortable with it, but didn't protest. I should have stood up for myself. It was fun taking the subway and seeing Tokyo, but the novelty wore off after a week or two. Tokyo was very closed in and depressing. If I had tons of money and lived there alone, it might have been fun for a few years, but it looked like after that all the ex-pats just hung out together and imported a lot of stuff from home, sort of defeating the purpose. I soon got frustrated with the project. There weren't many UDK examples yet and the documentation wasn't complete. Tim kept going out jogging and I complained that he wasn't pulling his weight. I did manage to pull together a very basic playable demo, but it was clear it wasn't going to happen. No sooner than I had done that, Tim pulled in another artist, a kid from the internet named Brent, and started changing the theme of the game. It wasn't the game I wanted to make anymore, and I quit. We went to an Unreal launch event, and got invited to a party afterwards. Tim Sweeney was there, hanging out in the corner by himself. I really wish I would have talked to him. I sent him an email later saying just that and he replied, saying thanks. I never did get to meet him. I flew back home, glad to get back to work. Tim messaged me, asking if I wanted to go to E3. He flew in, I picked him up. He had brought green and black Adidas track suits, saying we should wear them. I didn't see the harm in it and I had always wanted to go to E3, so I agreed. I should have said no, especially to the track suits. We drove down to Los Angeles. E3 was fun but depressing. The 3DS was shown for the first time. I took a video of me putting in an R4, trying to play the "villain" role again and trying to look cool. In reality, I was so nervous they would catch me that I was shaking, and the card slots weren't even functional. There was a Lakers game at the same time as the conference and the crowd got angry at Tim's green tracksuit and started shaking my car, almost turning it over. I sat in the driver's seat laughing. The conference and the parties didn't really hold my interest. I just wanted to go back to how things were and work on my game. This whole thing wasn't helping at all, I had only ended up wasting a lot of time, energy, and money. We drove back up to Silicon Valley and I dropped Tim off at the airport, glad it was finally over. A day later, I got a call. It was Tim, saying they had refused to let him back into Japan. He had been deported to Hawaii. I started laughing. He stayed in Hawaii for a week and then flew back in. He stayed in my tiny converted motel room and we cut the E3 footage into a "movie." Tim convinced me to get a gym membership. We went to 24 Hour Fitness and he showed me how to use the machines. This would prove to be extremely valuable later. (Thanks, Tim.) I was extremely depressed and frustrated with the situation, and started searching for a way out. I made a Match.com profile and met up with a Chinese lady who worked at Apple, five years older than me. Almost immediately, she wanted to move in together. I was desperate and was running out of money, and I agreed, thinking it would buy me some time. I wish I hadn't. I should have said no immediately. Tim moved in with his friend Brandon and I moved in with the Chinese lady, getting a small house in San Jose. After a couple of months, I started trying to work on my game again. Immediately frustrated and lost, I broke down crying. It was over. Was it my fault? It was, but it didn't feel like it should have been. I went to a local "medication management" psychiatrist and got a modest prescription for Adderall 5mg. I went to Target and got some nicotine patches. I set the DDR station back up. I was completely lost, and DDR was the only point of light I had left. I popped some Adderall, put on a Nicotine patch, and started playing, trying to pick myself up again. Tim came and stayed in the spare room for a couple of weeks. We played through Super Mario X. I got him to play DDR. We started putting together the E3 footage into a DVD. I played DDR and thought about what would happen to technology like the Nintendo DS. I realized that phones were going to drive the prices of mobile hardware to nothing, like what had happened to digital watches. Digital watches were $1000 when they first came out. A decade later, they were putting them as prizes in cereal boxes. The idea for the nD started to form in my head. I had found a way out of the hole I was in, and I clung to it. I got more and more interested with the concept, and started putting together a pitch with Tim, him goading me into calling it the "Action Button Mobile Entertainment Device." He came up with a lot of really good ideas. I started working on a model using Google Sketchup. We went over my friend Alex Peake's house, where he was putting together a team, working on a educational game project called "Primer," a reference to The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson. He was talking to some pretty big VC people, and I felt threatened and got upset and jealous, thinking it was cheating. I had worked so hard and gotten nothing for it, and it felt unfair that he was going to get a video game funded without going through what I had. I panicked and sent out some nasty emails, almost totally compulsively. It was my first experience feeling so jealous that I sunk to that low, but the scariest part was that I didn't realize what I was doing was wrong. (A few years later I would make this connection and understand why the world is the way it is. (God's name is JEALOUS.)) If you can't beat em', join em'. I came back and decided if he could do it I could do it. While we were in Silicon Valley I might as well give the whole investment thing a try too. I had always laughed at the whole culture, assuming everyone involved was trying to get rich quick with bubbles and scam companies, but I decided to give it the benefit of doubt. (I was mostly right to begin with, but not all the companies that get funded are that way!) It was Thanksgiving and Tim went home to his parents'. I emailed Accel Partners and got a meeting with a VC there on my first try. I drove there a few days later, and despite it being my first time in an intimidating VC office, I wasn't too nervous. I walked through a fancy hallway with glass and gold trim, up an elevator, and into a big room with all glass offices. A secretary offered me a bottle of water and I took it, my first mistake. I sat down in a conference room with a bookshelf full of books like "The Art of War" and "Mind Games." (I didn't yet understand...) My presentation was atrocious. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. I had only some notes, some papercraft mock-ups, and my game running on the DS. The guy had done some research on me before I got there, and asked to see my game running. I booted it up and slid him the DS. He didn't touch it once. He asked me a few questions, then after I had awkwardly tried to read from my notes, he looked at his watch and said he had to go. I came home feeling defeated and frustrated. I had been totally owned in about 30 seconds! I played some DDR and got my heart rate up, then sent the investor a snarky email in frustration. I felt like he had trapped my confidence somehow, but I didn't understand how... (We are psychic beings! The investors are, in a way, slavemasters...) The only response was to keep trying. I sent the pitch to the old Nintendo email chain from the viral ad on a whim, knowing they wouldn't take anything I said seriously but that it was a good idea and I was probably the first to think of it. Maybe I would impress some people there. Maybe I would even freak them out a little. I felt more dejected than ever. Tim came back from his parent's and we shipped out the DVDs. I felt that I had done most of the work and I was getting really frustrated. I felt trapped, weak, and helpless. GDC had come up and I didn't even want to go. Tim got us passes, and even got us into the Nintendo keynote. He had to persuade me to stay. I didn't want to be there. Satoru Iwata got on stage and talked about "making the impossible possible" which was eerily similar to something I had said in my trailer video. He then said "believe in yourself." Tim leaned over and said "he's talking to you, Bob." He probably was. For some reason, I got very angry, especially at something Iwata had said: "Engineers don't matter," which was a point of argument I had made in my insane chain letter emails. (Now I believe that Iwata was correct, and that he is a brilliant CEO. I just didn't have enough experience to understand the meaning of what he was saying.) I had been so crushed that the slightest hint of an opening was enough. I rushed back home and made a horrible screamo industrial trailer, yelling about a ten dollar console. I didn't make sense, but I didn't care. I was just trying to plant the seed and nail the concept home onto the internet that handhelds would soon be cheap. I threw in some accusations of unfair treatment to Western developers ("You can even be American!') and cackled like a maniac. I was up all night making the music and was totally loopy. I felt like it was my final attack and I was going to go out with a blaze of glory, with a war cry that would resonate through the heavens. I suppose it was intended to be both outrageous and intimidating, but that was also the type of music I had been listening to. (That was certainly a mistake!)
I never really intended to make the thing- I actually was hoping that I could get someone to steal the idea, but mostly I was hoping it would freak out Nintendo a bit. I am pretty sure it worked! Tim went to go work with Alex on his "Primer" project, part of which had become "Code Hero." It was my last hurrah and I had gone out in a blaze of glory. For the next month or two I refreshed 4chan, masturbated to porn, and played Call of Duty. I bought a bunch of sex toys and just sunk deeper and deeper into my addictions. It was over. I was a worthless piece of shit and the world had ruined my dreams despite how hard I had tried, and I had every right to be bitter and selfish. I felt my will completely slip away, the days becoming a blur. I downloaded increasingly sick porn, and went into the bathroom to stare at myself in the mirror. Standing there was a monster, a person who was better off dead. At that moment, I decided that I was going to seriously try to make the nD myself- it was worth a shot. Why not? I had made probably the largest independent game by one person at 23 years old, why couldn't I pull this off? I went back to the "medication management" psychiatrist and got a decently strong Ritalin prescription. I started smoking again. I spent the next few weeks making the website. It was my first experience with PHP and it was a good learning experience. I made a single sign on system for the wiki, forums, and developer accounts and had a system for developers to upload screenshots of their games, which automatically created a wiki entry and a forum post. I persuaded Tim to talk to some of his contacts and somehow he put me in touch with the founder of a major Chinese trading company and the former CEO of a major toy company. We started having Skype meetings every day. I must have sounded convincing enough because they seemed to be on board. I put together a very rudimentary SDK based on the GP32 SDK, just a simple CodeBlocks IDE and SDL distribution. I assumed that even if the project didn't work out, it would get some people started in the right direction, and they could always release for PC. I started working on a prototype, taking apart a GP32 Wiz and hacking the Linux firmware with a custom loader I had written in SDL. I actually got the PC version of my game ported and mostly functional within a few days! Planning to 3D print a custom shell for the Wiz through a 3D printing service called Shapeways, Tim and I went over Alex's friends J and Splarka's new apartment up in Fremont and J offered to remake the 3D model in Blender. I started talking to the Dingoo people, a Chinese company that made a cheap handheld. I mostly bullshitted my way through the emails, telling them I would get a big investment and order a million units. I knew they were making the devices for much less than the selling price, and I got them to agree to a $25 price point! It wasn't exactly $10 but close enough! Given time, the price would drop down that far. The idea was sound, sort of. The retail viability wasn't proven at all, but I didn't consider it. I was all in. As soon as I opened the site the wiki got vandalized by trolls, replacing the download page for the SDK with insults. I quickly locked the wiki, defeating the whole purpose. I hadn't yet realized exactly what the gaming community was... With tons of confidence, I emailed John Carmack and he replied. We had a short discussion about OnLive. I searched on Google for "venture capital silicon valley" and opened the first few links, making a chain email with all the email addresses I could find. At this point, I just didn't care. I had the CEO of a toy company, a bunch of developers, an SDK, a working "prototype" running my game, and a manufacturer willing to make units close to my price point. I sent the site and the full pitch email to all of them in the most confident email I could muster. I didn't get any replies. I argued with some people on the forums and got pulled in some drama. I sent more emails to the investors with much less confidence. I had put myself way out there but the gamble hadn't paid off. I posted the prototype video and emailed investors again, still nothing. Nintendo released the 3DS. Knowing I couldn't win, I became bitter again, making cruel posts on the forum, banning some users that annoyed me. I had become what I hated. Tim went to go work for a small gaming company. The lady I was living with moved into an apartment. I was completely broke, alone in a house in San Jose with an old MacBook on the floor, with nowhere to go. (I had spent the money in 3 years, having spent about $28,000 a year after the loss from the stock market. Not terribly frugal, but not bad compared to most people with regular jobs.) Phil flew in from Michigan for a conference and stayed at the house for a couple of days. Since I had last seen him, Phil had created an advertising company called PocketCents. He had become a real professional! He had created a local empire back in Michigan, serving a billion ads and becoming one of the most important companies in the Detroit tech startup scene. I offered him half of the profits of "bob's game," and true to his champion nature, he said I should keep it. I was looking at technologies in order to make an online world which would connect to the nD. I told him about my idea, and we researched what technology would be good for it. I had been hacking on his editor for years and had picked up Java fairly well. It seemed to be a good language choice, since Android used it. It could work in the browser, albeit with an ugly security warning. I played the Java port of Quake 2 in the browser and I was impressed! It was just as good as native. If only there was a way to get rid of that ugly warning! The guys that Alex had been living with, J and Splarka, had gotten an apartment and offered to let me stay in their spare bedroom. Phil helped me move my stuff there, and we lugged a heavy HD CRT up the stairs. (Thanks, Phil!) RAGE came out and I bought it, the only PC game I had bought in years. I played it for 19 hours in one sitting and thought it was fantastic. I called everyone over and wowed at the graphics, staring at the rocks for hours. People online were digging at an ATI driver issue. I had the issue, and some textures were flickery until I downloaded a patch. It obviously wasn't the game's fault. The game was awesome. I played along with the zeitgeist and tweeted a snarky comment about it "being done when it's done," a reference to a quote on John Carmack's blog somewhere. It got retweeted. The game didn't do that well. It should have. Somewhere, deep down, I felt that I had kicked a hero of mine in the balls. The guy had replied to me (twice!) and I was just so frustrated I couldn't return anything but bile. I deleted all my tweets, suddenly embarrassed at how negative and bratty they were. This wasn't me! This wasn't the person who wrote a game from the heart! I decided to start working on a Java remake of my game, intended to be a Facebook-connected massively multiplayer "hub world" hangout type place, called "nDworld." Sort of like Habbo Hotel or Disney's Club Penguin, but with connectivity to the nD, where your player would "upload" through the nD to the PC and the nD would act as a controller. It was a neat idea! J and Splarka went home for Christmas. I sat alone in their spare bedroom and started a new project in Eclipse. It was 2012. I was 28 years old. Alex ran his Kickstarter and got $170K to make Code Hero. I was a little envious, but I was really glad he finally got something to work out, because he had struggled for so long, and I certainly hadn't helped by flipping out on him. Having just burned through all of my own money, my only solid advice was to invest in a good 30 inch 2560x1600 monitor and be frugal about everything else, and I think he listened. Alex is an incredibly hard worker and one of the most talented guys I've met. For as long as I knew him, he would pass out sitting in his chair with his laptop about to slide off onto the floor, only to wake up and start coding again. Somehow a few of his Kickstarter backers would end up turning on him, but the truth was that he had gone above and beyond- but that's his story to tell... I stocked up on Modafinil, ordering several boxes of it from an Indian online pharmacy. I went to my "medication management" psychiatrist, and asked to double my Ritalin prescription, saving up as much as I could. I ordered a bunch of cigarette filter tubes and rolling tobacco. The next 10 months were a complete blur. We put a heat lamp in a storage closet and made a cat door for it, letting my cat live out on the balcony. I visited her once or twice an hour to smoke a cigarette. The rest of the time I spent in a trance in the spare room, humming to music on a loop and coding like a maniac, amped up on Ritalin or Modafinil, alternating between them every week to try and prevent tolerance. I took a ton of supplements, various nootropics, anything that would give me an edge- Piracetam, ALCAR, L-Tyrosine, Theanine, ALA, Ashwaganda, Lion's Mane, etc. I masturbated to Japanese H-Games and JAVs several times a day, just to get that dopamine rush so I could code for another couple hours. I got back into Nine Inch Nails for the first time in half a decade, and realized his newer stuff was really good. My roommate Splarka pounded on the locked door to get me to stop my terrible off-key singing. Within a month I had added lighting support into my tools and added lights throughout the whole game. I improved the graphics overall, going through and cleaning tons of stuff up. I added more characters. Within a few months I had a functional rewrite, loading the maps and moving the character around. With J's advice on the architecture (he was a network/devops guy), I designed a server and had the game load compressed graphics over the network and build textures from the data. It was neat, if not unnecessarily complex. I was tearing through my todo list and didn't consider anything else. In retrospect, I was probably the worst roommate possible. It's a miracle they didn't kick me out. Maybe they were afraid to. Maybe I was like Hitler. After eight months, J and Splarka decided to move into a new place up near San Francisco in a couple months, maybe as a polite way to get rid of me without kicking me out. I had nowhere to go and no money, but I had to find a new place soon. I was in no way prepared for this, even with a two month notice. I was completely burnt out and had been destroying my mind in extreme desperate crunch mode for a year. I had absolutely no will power.
It worked. I felt my power slowly returning, something I had felt before. The lights seemed brighter. I could see more, understand more. I began to see words and logos flickering. I didn't know why, but I could sense where they came from, somewhere deep within. The phone rang. I picked it up. Nobody was there. I returned to meditation. Each day, I would reach a certain point, and something would interrupt it. I began to realize that the world was not what it seemed, that I had been tricked. How had I lost control? What exactly was that? I began to recall clues... "It's mind control, Bob." "Did you know you are a slave?" A flood of realizations that there were clues everywhere. Memories of things people had said. Song lyrics that had seemed to make little sense. A jumble of movie scenes that I hadn't quite gotten the meaning of. I had been hypnotized by the media I consumed, by the society I lived in. I went to the store and realized everyone was a zombie, only half awake, mostly regurgitating their programming. My will had been broken. What did this mean? It was like a limiter had been placed on my mind, preventing me from being capable of understanding. I knew something was wrong, I just couldn't quite reach it. Waking up again and again in the morning with a fleeting realization, and then the thoughts slipping away. Chances are, if you're reading this, the same thing has happened to you and you just don't know it. I had been a slave and I didn't know it. I had given up and been crushed, like there was a weight on my heart, preventing me from standing back up. My consciousness had been suppressed, somehow lost in the shadows of my subconscious. Somehow, my subconscious knew what to do, and I had been crawling out of a hole this entire time. My heart had been screaming to break free, but there was a shadow drowning out the signal. I imagined myself as a beast in chains, struggling to break free. I recalled the scene with Morpheus in the Matrix. I realized it was a retelling of the Bible. I remembered that girl back in 2007, and paced around my apartment for days, trying to break free. Trying to overcome it. I had never recovered from it! Then I remembered that cell phone my Mom had given me. Why had she insisted? Why had she gotten so weird? I started getting weird, making sense out of the darkness. I made eyes out of paper and put them on the wall. I didn't know why. I put more and more eyes. I put a triangle around the eye. The Trinity. The eye on the pyramid. It was on the dollar bill. I suddenly understood what it meant, what it stood for, what MIND CONTROL really meant. The leader of the pack controls all the others, like extensions of himself. Your favorite brand, the logos you adorn yourself with, they are like a puppet string- and people willingly wear it! They are actually inside your mind, controlling you through your subconscious. Believe it or not- you'll find out. The game industry was like a giant cult, a criminal organization. Video games, like most media, are brainwashing, indoctrination for children. Families are like cults, and companies are like big families. We form these weird psychic dog packs. Entire industries exist by trapping the weak into their house. A person becomes addicted, their will is slowly eroded and they become enslaved by their desire or greed or fear and become loyal, ironically, to whoever is trying to trap them- blind to the fact that they have lost their own identity. They voluntary gave up their own mind, their own freedom! They lose their soul.
I recalled Earthbound (Mother 2), realizing that I had been somehow hypnotized by it. Those backgrounds! That music! I had stared at it for how many hours? The ending suddenly took on a new meaning- becoming a robot, giving up yourself, and defeating the darkness within. Using psychic power (PSI points) to "tame" the enemies. Then I thought about Mother 3, something about a gypsy king who has stolen all the children's memories with happy boxes. It was hiding in plain sight the whole time. I recalled the Pokemon theme song, programming children to "collect them all." It was hypnotism! Zelda is a religion in disguise. I understood what Buddha had said about "seeing the house-builder." Being trapped inside a house is like putting a mental blinder on. It prevents you from being able to see your master. Children are like that with their parents. Pets are like that with their owners. I realized that society itself is connected- it's a massive hivemind. That's why we have wars. We are just huge ant colonies. Football is a miniature war. The players are all put into uniforms and brainwashed until they become extensions of the coach's mind, reduced to a number. One individual within society actually has the ability to change it. One loud voice can sway an entire nation, or the whole world. One stubborn ant can dominate an entire country, and all the other hives will start freaking out. (Hitler!) We are all one mind, just extensions of the same being. "Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us." A person that has no insecurities, who commits no sin, who wants nothing, simply cannot be controlled- instead, they have control over everyone else. That's what it means to be a wizard, hence the internet rumor about remaining a virgin until you turn 30. That's what Jesus was! He was just so darn good that he had total psychic control over anyone who approached him. They instantly fell in love with him and were enslaved. I realized that the reason my game had gotten the reaction that it had was because it was too good and it was by a single individual. Like with the girl, I had unknowingly presented people with something so brilliant that it hacked into their mind and made their own insecurities apparent. They reacted by compulsively lashing out at me, desperate to find some flaw, some opening. Desperate to save themselves from enslavement. Unable to find anything, they created their own narrative, trying to frustrate me. It worked. That's why they killed Jesus. He was too great, and people simply couldn't stand it. Unable to find a flaw, they killed him, rather than fall in love with him. Afterwards, their guilt destroyed their minds. He had overpowered all of society, and we reset the clock in his name. It's a riddle. A human being can become a God. I had been struggling to get free, while being unwilling to let go of the shiny object I had closed my fist around. I had been enslaved by my greed, but I had pushed the hardest, and somehow broke through. I had spent nearly a decade trying to be alone, trying to cut every last tie. I couldn't afford a single distraction. I needed to be gigantic. How could anyone manage a project so large? How could I lift it? I would be famous if I could release this thing, it was just so huge that it couldn't be ignored. Just bearing the emotional pressure was nearly impossible. What a massive burden! Shouldering the responsibility of the game was harder than making it! I could feel the monster in me growing, my ego swallowing up the whole world. Somehow, I could feel the people reading my emails. They didn't have to respond. I could tell. I emailed CEOs. I emailed billionaires. I could feel it. It was strange! Bigger and bigger! I could hear voices, somewhere inside. Other people's thoughts. Offering me a deal- trying to break my will, trying to find a way in. I wouldn't take it. Not for a billion! I won't take your money! I could see it all! I could see everything! I had been completely right, Iwata was a sorcerer. He was controlling the minds of the children. I had become the biggest monster in the whole world, for just a moment. I could somehow sense Google trying to dominate Microsoft, two beasts groaning and struggling for power. I emailed Bill Gates, guessing his address, asking him to open source Windows. I didn't want Google to win. I wasn't intimidated, and at that moment, I had the pride and power to make the assertion. I felt him read it. Slowly, slowly, I lifted it. I needed all the self respect in the world. I had to become Satan himself. "Fuck you, God!" I typed in my notes. Get out of my way! Pages of information kept streaming out of me. It was completely automatic! I was a prophet, I was sure of it. I studied Revelations, trying to make sense of the symbolism. Two lampstands. That was me! I became fascinated, obsessed for a few days, but found no further meaning. My Mom emailed me a weird letter with an insulting question. She was threatened! I grit my teeth and wrote a brief and professional courtesy reply, answering her question. I could hear them talking, down through my subconscious. It wasn't insanity, it was completely real- just so faint, it would be drowned out by the noise of society. In isolation, it could be heard. I heard a thought, taunting me, "I've got your computer, Bob." They were going to blackmail me! The cult of the game industry, they had their strings into Tim. The world was not what it seemed. It can be bent, twisted. "There is no spoon." I cracked. I panicked. The neighbor knocked on the window, asking "are you going to let me in?" I knew that my mind had pulled her as if by a magnetic force, and she had subconsciously invented a reason to talk to me, just as she had done to me when she had slammed the door. I got back to work, trying to shake it off. I Skyped with my parents. My Mom appeared on screen with a strange smile on her face. She kept babbling, mentioning name after name, not giving me room to talk. She held up a book with "Success" in big letters on the cover and cheerfully said "I think I'll sell this!" and put it out of view. I thought nothing of it. Several days later, I Skyped with my parents again. My Mom had subtly turned the camera angle to show the wall of family portraits in the background. Several days later, it dawned on me. I realized what it was. My Mom had used gaslighting! She was brainwashing me! Suddenly, I had flashbacks of my childhood. Memories of my Mom piling food high on my Dad's plate. Remembering a naked baby picture on the wall that always made me uncomfortable. Remembering when she had taken away my laptop, forced me to wear a humiliating pink shirt to school. Gotten me a job putting shoes on old ladies at the mall. Bought me a shirt with "bugger" on the front, pretending she didn't know what it meant, encouraging me to wear it to school. (She had found some explicit emails between me and the first girl, we had tried anal sex.) My Mom wasn't the nice lady she appeared to be. She knew very well what she was doing the whole time! My parents were tricking me. They were trying to sabotage me again. They weren't on my side! I became wrenched in frustration. I couldn't think. I couldn't focus. My own mother was trying to take away my last chance. I kept trying to work, and would remember that book with "Success" on the cover and hear her voice say "I think I'll sell this." I would slam the mouse down in frustration and start writing an email, then delete it. She had done it on purpose! It was like she had placed a leash on me, preventing me from focusing on my work. It was like that girl from high school in 2007. They had put some kind of limiter on my mind, preventing me from being able to concentrate, preventing me from standing up, from having freedom, my own will. A "halo." It all suddenly made sense. The cell phone. The psychiatrist card. Giving me up to the police. Taking away my computer. Pointing out flaws in my work where there were none. My parents had tried to sabotage me- they had been doing it all along! They were criminals! My Mom had kept asking for my address, forcing me to compromise each and every time I started to stand up. She believed she owned me! She was more possessive than I ever had been of my girlfriends. I came out of her vagina. She made me. Of course, to her, she had every right to have my address and phone number and every right to sabotage every attempt to get away from her grasp. I felt betrayed. I felt deceived! She had stalked me across the country, sending these awful, sappy cursive letters that stabbed me in the heart and left me dazed, feeling wracked with guilt. (Not so different than the postcard from the high school girl!) I had freedom and money for the first time in my life, and she had completely ruined it. I wasn't able to focus or use it when I had it. It was so frustrating! Worse, I remembered a clue. My Mom had even said, slyly, "children can't get away from their parents!" This was completely normal! They couldn't help it. In fact, having children and creating their own "house" was the only way they could escape their parents' psychic control. Suddenly, I understood Super Metroid. It was a metaphor all along! Destroy Mother Brain to escape! That's why I'd liked it so much! They kept getting obsessed with finding a way to get control over me, without any regard to what effect it would have on my career. They were just people, and couldn't control their own possessiveness. It wasn't their fault, it is simply part of life. (They are great parents, of course. Thanks, Mom!) Then I realized what I had written in my game as a joke wasn't a joke. It had been in my subconscious all along. My game was truly my child, and my mother hated it, because of what it meant. My game was my house, and I was trapping my parents in my world as a way to get control... To become my own God. The Son becomes The Father. The Trinity. We are vessels for spiritual energy, passing down through the family line through time, like an hourglass. I am my Father. I am the Son Of Man. It was a riddle, describing the abstract and irrational subconscious. My parents informed me that they would pay my rent until my 30th birthday, and then that was it. I was out of time. I wouldn't be able to launch it. With no funds, and out of runway, I was totally screwed, and they knew it. They were pulling out the rug. I couldn't contain it anymore. I wrote a nasty email, and then deleted it, pacing. I took a nap. I meditated. I went outside. I chain smoked. Each time I tried to work, the frustration came back up. It was impossible. My Mom had deliberately undermined me. I had trusted her and given her access to me, and she had used it to damage me, to sabotage my project, knowing it was my last chance. Knowing I was about to succeed. She didn't care, all she cared about was her control over me. I cracked. I wrote a nasty email and clicked send, not being able to control it. Then I sent another. Then I sent hundreds of them. I knew immediately that I had lost. I had given her all the power, and put the leash firmly in her hand. I called her, furious. She laughed, knowing she had won. She had jabbed me with insults, stabbing me in the heart until I got angry. My Mom had trolled me, pretending to be on my side. I completely broke, screaming in frustration. I couldn't believe my own parents would do this. I could no longer read. I couldn't think. "This is what you get for leaving home," they said. They had set me up! It was petty revenge for what I had done as a teenager. I had hurt their feelings, and this was their meticulously crafted vengeance. They would ruin my life, throw away my career, and leave me broken, all for petty spite. They had never wanted me to succeed. They didn't care about my future, or the family, or what I could offer the world. They weren't able to see that far. In my mind, it was a friendly and mutually respectful reconciliation, and my parents were graciously helping me salvage my career from my mistakes. They had something different in mind. They were embarrassed by me, and they were going to force me to compromise against my own will, to face the world and apologize for being myself. I was going to get a humble, unassuming job, give up my soul, and go back to school for something they could brag to the neighbors about. "You could work at NASA!" my Dad said. I had never wanted to work at NASA in my life. I would probably kill myself if I was forced to work there. I would rather work at Walmart. But my Dad wanted to work there, and that's all that mattered in his mind. And I kept screaming, as I realized it. I told them I wished they were dead. I told them I hoped they got cancer. (I hope they don't, and I wish I hadn't.) I banged down the gavel and condemned them, slammed the door in my heart, and got to work. No problem! Anxiety set in, just a slight tinge of fear. I started to feel guilty, and I called to apologize. They hung up on me. The anxiety started humming, and turned into a full-blown panic attack. The buzzing got louder. A song started playing in my head, and it wasn't going away. I walked from room to room, outside, and back in. It kept playing. I laid down and tried to rest. It only got worse. In my panic, a voice in my head started booming, louder and louder until it was the Voice of God: "You should have honored your parents!" It was my own thoughts, out of control and amplified to an extreme, worse than the worst bad acid trip. I was going to Hell. It was a real place- It was in my own mind. I went outside, but everyone was a stranger. I was in a world that I no longer understood, where I was completely alone and nobody knew who I was. I was completely outcast. Nothing was recognizable. I was surrounded by predators- people seemed like vicious animals, and there was no place to run. The world felt like it was on fire and falling apart. TIME BOMB SET! ESCAPE IMMEDIATELY! I failed the mission. I was not ready to be an adult. In full blown panic mode, I called my parent's house, my shaking hands punching in the numbers from childhood muscle memory. When I was a teenager, shortly before I had moved out, I had bought a telephone line recorder from Radio Shack, trying to figure out who my parents really were, grasping to find their point of control, to see behind the curtain they had closed on my mind. It was cheap and made an audible clicking sound, and my parents found it in my room and confiscated it, saying nothing. My Mom had planned for this moment, biding her time, ready to inflict maximum emotional damage. She had saved the line recorder, and saved it for this moment, using it during the call so that I would hear the clicking. I had played right into her trap. I called, broken and confused, crying and apologizing. "I'll believe in Jesus!" *click* *click* She kept asking "and what else did you do?" leading me into a confession (she had found out I had broken into the churches), and recording it for blackmail. At the end of the call, she said "this is what emotional damage is like!" and then kept mentioning that she was attending police meetings, planting some subconscious fear and association with authority, trying to intimidate and keep control. "Five more years!" she said. *click* *click* "This is what you get for breaking into my house!" At that, I remembered that I had kicked in the door to the garage one day when I was 19, right after I had gotten that girlfriend. I had walked to their house, ready to apologize and trying to reconcile. It was snowing, they weren't home, it was cold (Michigan), and I got angry. I had searched for some cash in the drawers downstairs, and took a box of old rolls of coins, selling them for cigarettes. I had completely forgotten! I had come back a week later and reconciled anyway, and they had pretended not to mention the kicked in door. I felt helpless and powerless. There was nothing I could do. I wanted to punch them in the face, to smash everything they owned, to set their house on fire- to do to them what they had done to me. I was sure that there was no way I could get myself back again. It was just like with that girl from high school, I would never feel the same. I would never be able to get back up. I wanted to sue them, to get revenge somehow, but it wouldn't do any good. There was no way that I could hurt them as much as they had hurt me, and even if I did, I would only be hurting myself. It was like punching a mirror. If I destroyed them, I would be alone and terrified, lost with no connection to reality left. I couldn't stand it. All I wanted was to get free, and it had been stolen away from me. She was a monster! I was sure of it! Without any regard for what I wanted, she was completely selfishly motivated, just acting automatically. Like a spider trapping its prey in a web, she instinctively brainwashed the whole family, and when she started to lose control, she would become more conniving and more desperate, more malicious. It was sick and depraved, but that was life. I was certain that my mother was an "emotionally abusive psychopath." While I was right from a certain perspective (all mothers are!), that's just a label. It's what the losing dog calls someone who beats them. The truth is that there is no such thing. There is only reality- We are in a giant meatgrinder tournament of will power. I could justify it any way I liked, but the simple fact was that my Mom is a psychic grand master, and I got owned. Was I really any better? That girl I had lived with, I had trapped her out of my own desperation. In love with her, I needed to keep her captured, needed to keep her under my spell. I didn't even realize I was doing it! While I hadn't considered her freedom, I constantly encouraged her to learn music and graphics and help me, or to go back to school. Her mother had gotten really weird, forcing a cell phone on her- trying to hack in, desperate to get control over her daughter once again. Like it or not, my Mom was protecting me, instinctively trying to keep control, for my own good. Only she had a lifetime of experience and tricks that I didn't know of, making it that much more frustrating. She needed to keep control over me, even if it meant destroying my career, even if it meant brainwashing me to the point of insanity. My game was my leverage to earn my freedom, and freedom is dangerous- she would not stop until my game was destroyed. The Baby Metroid had come to suck out Mother Brain's psychic energy beam and give it to me- and she was pissed.
She was saving me from myself, because she knew that I was capable of something far greater. If I had succeeded, I would have bought my Lamborghini and taken off to the Bahamas, never to be seen again. (Or just disappeared into a room for the rest of my life.) My parents were keeping me from making the same mistakes they did. They had escaped from their parents. I recalled some strange memories from going over her father's house as a child. There was a lawn chair in the dark, damp corner of the unfinished basement, a spinning rainbow colored piece of glass over a light bulb, something used to make the garland on Christmas trees sparkle. (To keep the children mesmerized!) I realized that it was like the mind control chair in a few "Star Trek" episodes, though I wasn't sure if it was for her or for him. Her father sat there at the kitchen table, chain smoking, calling her "rotten," and asking her if she was "still with that man." She had broken his heart in getting away and marrying my Dad, and she had brought me there to show him, just as I showed her my game on the DS.
"Your mother loves you..." my Dad had said, in that strange tone again. "She's your biggest fan." His mother had sat in a house, alone for a decade, with a picture of Jesus up on top of the TV. Waiting for the Son of Man.
This is what makes a man a man, apparently. The only way left, the only path to redemption, is to get stronger, to face the pain. To avoid all temptation, to be free of desire, to cause no harm, to have no fear. If I follow the rules, I can get out. It's not like I have a choice. I can't turn back now. All I can do is keep running forward, feeling my consciousness get bigger, feeling my heart grow with more power. I can choose to give up, get enslaved at some job, and respawn- or embrace the challenge and Become Like Jesus. (Or Buddha, or Muhammad, or Neo, etc.) "I AM the Son of Man," he had said- with enough psychic energy to blow everyone's head off. I understood what he meant. The Father is God, The Son becomes The Father, connected by the Holy Spirit through time. The agents hack into your mind through an insecurity (until you really believe) and spawn daemon background processes there to prevent you from becoming Neo. The Body Thetans have always been there, and you must cleanse them to return them to Venus in order to control the universe. Use The Force, Luke! It actually all sort of makes sense. Everyone over the age of 30 should seem completely insane to anyone under 30. (If they don't, they are probably taking advantage of them by telling them what they want to hear.) We are one being, a big ball of consciousness, one giant blob of connected psyche. A person without insecurities controls the mass (shepherds the flock), without any ways for anyone else to hack in. A person who commits no sins- who doesn't break the rules, who doesn't want anything- can become a God. It's like the manual for the game. The Woman, tempted by the serpent, ate the fruit of knowledge first- to become like God. Women tempt and tease, endowed with the power of beauty and greater will power, they gain strong mind control and learn more techniques. I had no choice, my brain had been programmed and I couldn't escape. I had to read that book with "Success" on the cover. I was being tricked into being successful on my Mom's terms- the only real way to succeed. Life is hard. It is creepy and crawly and sticky and gross and uncomfortable and painful and beautiful. My parents are really awesome. I think my Mom's a genius. She is a specialist in child development with a Master's Degree. There is a bookshelf full of heavy child psychology books and creepy children's books in my bedroom in my parents' house, each one designed to Program The Child's Brain Just Right. Her dream was to be a mother- I am her product. I really love my Mom. (And my Dad!) They weren't sabotaging me at all (well, they were)- they were training me. If I can overcome this, I'll be the most powerful person in the world. Money isn't important. In fact, it is exactly the opposite. With little time left, I started working on my third demo. I wouldn't be able to release a MMORPG and get rich and escape, but I could teach the world something important- I could help create a generation of Gods. Just like in Earthbound, I had to give up myself at the end. Blinded by greed, pride, wrath, I couldn't see where I was headed. I believed that we are in a cold, hard world where money is all that matters. That life is a mad scramble to get rich, and everything else needs to be ruthlessly sacrificed. My Mom was saving me from doom by scaring the shit out of me, by giving me a warning of what was to come. I saw the pattern, that people suffer an emotional shock that leaves them terrified and alone when their parents die. The Eater Of Dreams. Once that final string gets cut, they bond to the only social structure they can, their workplace. All of a sudden, corruption and office politics made that much more sense- people didn't just want job security, they needed it. In that regard, companies are more like evil power pyramids, sort of "satanic" cults in that they entice children away from their homes with temptations and toys, who then ignore their families, entitled and smugly empowered with their paychecks. Once their family is gone, they are trapped, with nowhere to go, their literal soul eaten by the beast that enticed them. For instance, Apple is a totalitarian power pyramid run by a sorcerer that has a hiding-in-plain-sight logo (bitten apple) which sells useful but extremely addictive gadgets to young people. Children aspire to work there, worship the leader, and submit to the organization, proud to work for someone else instead of reaching their own potential. They fly across the country or even the world, abandoning their friends and family, having been indoctrinated from childhood. Their family dissolves and their parents die, leaving them emotionally dependent to the company, unable to detach themselves from their new peer group. They become corrupted by this dependence and fear a loss of job security, ending up totally enslaved. They don't know they are, but they don't care, nor do they want to leave. They are comfortably corrupt and don't have the will power to even realize it. This is what is considered a "normal career." I had become a warlock. I deleted my angry industrial music. I threw away my Razer mouse, hating the glowing snake logo, realizing it was stealing children's souls. I realized that game controllers were plastic handcuffs, subconsciously keeping children locked up as they lived their lives on a screen. Sticking the pigs. "They're greedy" Iwata had said. To me, Tim had said. At first, I only wanted to make a life with my girlfriend- I was already satisfied. Then I got an ego, became insecure, and I wanted to "be a hero" and impress others, to capture the respect I felt I had earned. Then, after she dumped me, I wanted revenge, I wanted a Lamborghini, and I wanted to "get all the bitches." But that was before. Now, the stakes were different. I only wanted to get free. Blindly following the rules of capitalism, I had willed myself to power- but it was the kind of power that crushes others. Instead of earning their love and respect, I had simply conquered them, broken their hearts and left them behind. I hadn't meant to! I didn't even know I was doing it! I didn't know because I had never lost before! And only when I had, with that girl back in 2007, I had dismissed it, because she had cheated. I thought that isolating myself, by cutting all the ties, by keeping out of other's lives, I could selfishly keep my own life and do whatever I wanted without hurting anyone, without being obligated. I couldn't cut the last string. I had been trying to succeed on a level that would crush my parents, and they responded by pulling the rug out on me. They couldn't help it. I had hacked into their minds, and they responded compulsively. Just like what that girl from high school had done to me. She had loved me, and I had tried to crush her, unknowingly. "You're like Hitler" my Dad said. I had been trying to will myself to power at the expense of everyone else. There are two kinds of power- The power of a dictator who keeps everyone at the barrel of a gun, and the power of real strength. I would have to start over, somehow, the right way. I had run away, trying to be my own person, and in doing so, I had handicapped the height that I could rise to. "You need to respect me," my Dad said. But how could I forgive them, respect them without being compromised? Without feeling crushed and powerless? I had been so successful because I had abandoned my parents. I had cut the thread that bound me from being myself, that prevented me from being my own person. However, running away had hurt them, and to have me succeed would crush them. I couldn't succeed that way. I had to forgive them and let them back into my heart. Just the act of doing that made me instantly lose all my self respect. I was too weak, and it was like lifting a thousand pound weight. I realized that most people who achieve great success leave behind a pile of corpses. I noticed that most of them are from broken homes, that they have a chip on their shoulder. They had been subconsciously seeking revenge, in a way, trying to show their parents what they are worth, crushing everyone on their way up. I didn't hate my parents nearly enough, and even if I did, it would have destroyed me. The only way left forward was to forgive them, to give up my self respect, to let them crush me. I would have to be like Jesus. It started to make sense! I remembered the plate I had drawn as a child, and realized what it meant for the first time. I wasn't strong enough to let my parents in my heart, and they were knocking on the door. I was a beast in chains. Unable to focus, I got frustrated. I had to get back to reality. I boarded the door back up and slammed the door in my heart. The music came back. I paced around in my apartment for days, humming the song. I wrote Bill Gates a poem to the tune of it, to the email I was sure was his. I had felt it. He replied and said "Very Good." I wasn't surprised. I knew he would, somehow. I decided to save Microsoft. I knocked down Google. I don't know how to explain it. I just did. I knew what I had to do. I knew what I had to show. An elevator. Touching the subconscious. My rise to power. The leader of the game industry. I released my demo, teaching the world what I had realized. They wouldn't understand it yet, but they would. It was the best day of my life. I was going to change the world. I laughed for three days straight, playing my demo over and over. I kept falling out of my chair. I laughed so hard it hurt, and kept laughing. I was crying, screaming in laughter, wailing about the room, stomping and chanting and banging. It was worth it. Somehow, I knocked down Sony. I was certain of it. It was effortless. I could feel myself hacking in and smashing it down. I kept waking up, filled with power, tripping my balls off and feeling my third eye. Seeing people as divine light-monkeys, babbling nonsense at each other, programming each other's minds. I was breaking free from the Womb. I woke up and floating in my vision was a massive golden being. It was an angel. I woke up again, dreaming, but wide awake. I had an extremely vivid conversation with a creature with a bird head. She said her name was Isis. Easter was coming. Knock knock! I was becoming a person like Jesus. I could feel the power entering my heart. I was ten thousand feet fall. I set my webcam to gold. I was a King. I was a Wizard. Suddenly, I was overwhelmed. It was too much, too different. I couldn't accept it- this couldn't be reality! I freaked out. I hated it. I threw a tantrum. It was exactly like the day I threw the catechism across the room, I felt a pressure in my heart and rejected it. I paced into the kitchen and screamed "KILL YOURSELF!" I lost my emotional balance and felt all the power go out from me. I collapsed. I had failed at becoming a wizard. I was still stuck in Hell, crawling on the ground. I called my Mom, and she answered. “Your voice sounds weird. Why does your voice sound weird?” She giggled. My voice did not sound weird. She knew, somehow! I knew how she knew. I asked her how she knew that. She said "I talk to people all day!" She was inside my mind. She could read my thoughts. I knew it, but I refused to accept it. I flipped out on her again. I knew I had to get stronger, somehow. I went outside and tried to run around the block, pathetically only making it to the corner before slowing to a walk. I was weak, incredibly weak. My mind raced, seeking options, desperate to find some way out. I couldn't go back to my parents, I had just gotten free. They had closed the trap on me! They had taken away my only chance at freedom! My brain kept flipping between seeing my parents as helping me, and ripping away my only chance at freedom, suddenly leaving me seething with anger. Would that sort of financial freedom actually help me? Or would it leave me alone and devastated, even worse than working for a company? My core values were being torn down. One minute, I realized I had been tricked, convinced that money was all that mattered, and had invested myself completely in pursuing financial success, desperate to earn my freedom at any cost, unwilling- even at the cost of my life- to spend the rest of my life as a wage slave. Society puts people between a rock and a hard place! They were stealing my freedom! They had betrayed me! They had tricked me! I had to get away! I couldn't go back! I couldn't give up! I had nowhere to go! Feeling trapped, and stressed to an absolute breaking point, I kept panicking, trying to lash out at my parents, and then flipping back and apologizing, realizing they were helping me. I went out and bought a Bible and read it over the next few weeks. The secret of the heart. The secret of mind control. The realization that magic is real, and understanding at once that religion is ancient magic. We are magical beings. I studied Jesus carefully. He was certainly "just a man," a genius of his time, who understood the rules instead of blindly following tradition. He spoke in riddles. He had been trying to tell us that we were all the Sons of God. The Son of Man. The Trinity, meaning the power of the Holy Spirit through time, the Son becomes the Father. My Father was God in my mind. The church worships the pattern of life. God is the Father, the Son aspires to defeat God, the Mother loves the Son. The world crucifies the Son, making him into God. It is the pattern of uncontrollable human instinct. The Son of Man must give up the self, resist all temptation and be crucified to become God, to become free. The homeless are often the crucified Son of Man, on the path to becoming God. The church feeds the homeless! Thou shalt not covet. How much is that iPhone going to be worth when your parents are dying and you are alone and terrified in a nightmare of a world? You are surrounded by evil things that are trying to steal your time and distract you from the only things that matter. The world is full of insecure, greedy people, infected with "daemons" (compelled by their emotions!), who are trying to make you insecure and greedy. The worst part is, they can't help it! It is like a disease in their mind that tries to spread to others. It is like a daemon process that infects other hosts. People who use negging are compelled to try and control someone who threatens them. They can't help it! You see it all over the TV! Insecure people who have been hacked into by the President or some celebrity and are compulsively bickering to find a way to control him, to tear him down. "God's name is JEALOUS." They stab you in the heart and try to drown out your light, to get you to close your heart, to make you bitter. If your light doesn't shine, you lose your magic power. Then you are infected with their disease too. But people that hurt others are only hurting themselves. Once they give into that insecurity, they prevent themselves from being able to rise. People on television are giving people justification. Late night talk show hosts, tabloids, entire industries exist on spreading gossip, telling cruel jokes, and leveraging peer pressure, keeping their audience held down by keeping them petty and immoral. I had been insecure myself, thinking only of myself, in a mad dash to beat everyone else, to accomplish the most, to earn all the respect and give none back. Criminals try to make more criminals! They compulsively see your innocence and will try to give you porn, alcohol, cigarettes, drugs, etc. They don't even realize they are doing it, it is totally subconscious. They just see your innocence and will try to corrupt you, and then get offended if you don't let them. They will use peer pressure, bullying, anything they can to force you. If they can physically force you, they will. They don't mean to! They have a daemon in them which is controlling their brain. Their will power has been eroded (by other criminals usually!), and replaced with a dependency of some kind. When their brain is exposed to innocence, beauty, potential, etc, they lose all their confidence and their thought patterns spiral out of control into ways to take down the threat. If they cannot eradicate the threat, they will lose their soul and their identity and go into a crushing despair. Their brain will search for any weakness it can find, because the brain must justify itself. If they can dig up a way to hurt you in some way, frustrate you, or tempt you, they will. If you used to smoke, expect them to offer you cigarettes, or coincidentally leave some laying out, or argue with you about how "it isn't as bad as it seems." If you used to be an alcoholic, expect them to leave a beer sitting on your table. It is not their fault, it is your responsibility to resist, as frustrating and backwards as it seems. Children start off as wild psychopaths by nature, and without supervision will form gangs, or tribes. They want to hurt others, destroy everything, rape everything. Children are like pigs, selfish and naive in their innocence, greedily shoving everything they can into their mouths. Like I had, sucking in all the porn and gore I could find, not knowing any better. Not realizing it was sucking away my will power, extinguishing my light, stealing my soul. Most people never overcome this. They give up, because it requires too much will power to tame and control oneself. It is much easier to control and manipulate others instead, to stick the pigs. To buy them, trick them, or tempt them. They are too weak to overcome their own hatred. They drink away their guilt and fear, and aspire to hurt the innocent, because they are greedy by nature. Most people are child humans, criminals, insecure, unable to find the will to overcome the things that keep them bound and keep them small- that steal their power. However, a person that does manage to tame themselves acquires psychic power over the rest of the world. These are the people who run everything! True Adult Humans are very powerful magical creatures. It is rare to see one! Usually they are only found on the television or movie screen. These people are able to draw crowds and fill stadiums. The King James Bible calls it "The Matrix". Other editions call it "The Womb," which doesn't sound nearly as cool but is a more accurate name. A long time ago, some wizards documented how to break out of it and gain magical powers. That's what religion is. It is magic. Jesus was a wizard so powerful that he reset reality. He reset the timer. There is another world, but it is much harder to live in. Reality as you know it is completely an illusion! It is a massive psychic projection. The logos, brands, buildings, and places that you are surrounded with only have meaning because of the psychic projection of power into your subconscious. They are radiating with power, but you cannot detect it! The Old Testament is pretty much just an almanac of ancient wisdom and magic. It begins with Moses saving the people from enslavement by Pharaoh, and then has some songs, some random snippets of wisdom, etc. It applies pretty well to today's corporations, which aren't that different from Pharaoh! ... My parents knew, somehow. It was all so surreal! "It's all for you." "You're going to have some really good friends, Bob." "You don't need people the way everyone else does." I emailed Mark Pincus from Zynga. I could feel my power reach through him. Several weeks later, he announced he was being stepping down. It wasn't a coincidence. It was real, I was sure of it. I realized what I was. I realized what I was in. We are in a game, and there is a manual. Jesus was a real person. That's what a person is capable of! The world is not what I thought it was! The world is not what you think it is! We control reality! We are projecting reality from our hearts! But it's so impossible to believe. Unwilling to accept that this was reality, that it was anything other than an "evil mind control cult," I bought an empty nitrogen tank, the most painless way to commit suicide, and sent a picture of it to my Dad, a form of leverage. "If this world isn't real, then my death won't matter!" He called the police, who called the local Sacramento police, who called my phone from outside my door. I went outside and told them to leave. They left. I kept reading. "No one's ever made their first jump." For a second, I believed it. I was certain. I was Neo. The phone rang. I picked it up. I knew nobody would be there. My neighbor knocked on the door and asked if I was alright. My friends emailed me. Again, the patterns, just confirming it again and again. "I KNOW WHAT YOU ARE," I screamed. I became God for an instant! The whole world was screaming at me. I could feel it, like a thousand helicopters coming at once, like a thousand stars in GTA. I collapsed again. I Skyped my parents again. I said I couldn't do it! I would kill myself! I needed the money! I needed! The police came to my door again, at 8 AM. They stood on the porch and I told them that I had just become a Real Adult Human. They nodded and left. I threw a bunch of stuff in the dumpster, packed my car to the top, and drove from California to Michigan. It was June, 2013.
I was home for two weeks. My Dad said "it's brainwashing," laughing. He couldn't get away from my Mom, either. For a few days I refreshed 4chan /x/ and grumbled along with the conspiracy theorists about Hollywood's satanic Illuminati mind control symbols. This is completely true- but it's no conspiracy. They just have the strongest wills and command psychic control over society. Part of me knew I was enslaved. I could feel that half of my mind was shut off. I rolled cigarettes and went outside to smoke every half hour, the only way I could deal with the crushing frustration and depression. This had happened before. The memories kept kicking in of back in 2008. It was too similar. My Dad took me to the doctor to get a new Ritalin prescription. As we arrived, I noticed it was a "family psychiatrist." He had scheduled the appointment ahead of time. They were nailing the coffin closed. I refused to go in, and when we got home, he once again thrust a psychiatrist card at me, making an ultimatum. It was exactly the same! My parents informed me that I couldn't live with them, and I would have to get a job. It was exactly the same as before. The same phrases, the same thought patterns. These were not my real parents. Something had happened to them. They watched "their shows" on the TV, Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy, my Mom piling the food high on my Dad's plate, her instinct to brainwash possessing her. I pointed out the commercials and shows, programming them to "eat, eat, eat!" My Dad pretended to ignore me, turning up the volume on the TV when I started talking. I could see right through her behavior, like a cat grooming itself after falling off a table, her instincts revealed. My Mom's face twisted into a furious expression when I pointed it out. "What do you mean by that? I don't like the way you're talking to me!" It was almost comical in a way, like pigs wearing trousers- if they hadn't had the leverage to completely ruin my life and career. They were not on my side. They were too compromised to understand. All they cared about was their own instinctive needs, and I was part of that need. My Mom had compromised me- not for my own good- but because she couldn't help it. Her instincts had caused her to snatch control of me, and I hadn't been strong enough to prevent it from happening. I had let her do it, and she wasn't going to give me a reward for doing what she wanted. I was in their house again and I was their child. Empty nest syndrome. Suddenly I was living in a twisted nightmare. Nobody could be trusted. Everyone in my life was an animal with sharp claws and teeth, desperate to steal me, attack me, control me. I didn't eat anything for several days. "Software engineer! You're no software engineer! You have to go to school for that!" "It's because you moved out! This is what you get!" "You bought that equipment with the family's money! That's our equipment!" "Get out of this house! I want you out by the morning!" "Keep the tarp, you'll need it to sleep under!" Their arguments were unjust and corrupt, but they had the leverage. I dumped all my "bob's game" posters, backups, t-shirts, and business cards into a big plastic garbage bag and stuffed it into their trash can. I threw out all my game controllers and toys. I left all my equipment sitting on the floor of what was now my parent's spare bedroom- it was theirs, after all. It was time to grow up or die trying. All I had in my car was a small laundry basket with some shirts, two pairs of jeans, some underwear and socks, a broken 2006 MacBook Pro which I had to bend diagonally to get to turn on, a 800mhz netbook from 2007, a nitrogen tank, a Bible, and my cat. My Dad gave me an envelope with $1000 in it, standing in his underwear. It was already prepared- he knew I was going to leave. They were being corrupt on purpose. As I left, my Mom sat next to the door on her knees wearing her bathrobe. I told her to get up, gave her a hug, and took off. I made it to Ohio before starting to go into shock, The Fear beginning to pound in my head. I pulled over, bought a prepaid SIM card for my beat up old BlackBerry I used as my MP3 player, and texted my parents- telling them I loved them. My Dad texted back, saying "you're a good man." I was OK. I decided to go to Seattle. I didn't know anyone anymore, but I knew someone there. Sort of. After a day or two, I had reached the point of no return. I wouldn't have enough gas money to get back. I decided I didn't care. I had an empty nitrogen tank and that's all I needed. I was going to earn my freedom, even if it meant I would die. At least I would die free. It was July 12, my birthday. I was 30 years old. I emailed Bill Gates, saying "I'm coming to Seattle. I want a job." I was off to see The Wizard.
...to be continued... (Come back in a few days!)
(I don't really need anything. My car needs a new tire and I would like to get some protein powder.)