Sunday, June 30, 2013

A Last Name You Can Be Proud Of

Tomorrow is my wife's birthday, which also very conveniently marks the halfway point of this year and a good time to finally come out of hiding.  As a quick aside my own birthday is at the end of the year.  I'd never realized the neat symmetry of our birthdays before, but that's pretty cool, no?

Last year was about trying to transition myself from games into what I thought I really wanted to be:  A concept artist.  I learned a lot about being an artist and it was both torturous and rewarding.  But the ultimate lesson seemed to be that I don't really want to be a concept artist. Or rather, that I wouldn't be satisfied even if I reached that goal.  It turns out what I really want it to make an impact.

To understand this need to make an impact we have to go back in time to a conversation I had with my father when I was in elementary school in Bangkok.  We were talking about our last name, because kids had been making fun of it (Sumo, if the blog's title didn't alert you to this fact).

Dad: You don't like our last name, no?
Me: ...Yeah.
Dad: Because people make fun of you?
Me: ...Yeah.
Dad: You know what you have to do then?  You have to make it a become a last name that you can be proud of.

I always get emotional when I remember this conversation.  My father and I have a mostly awkward relationship, but I am immensely proud of his accomplishments.  He came from a small seaside town and walked to school with his bare feet but managed to build a career that crisscrossed the region and gave me the multicultural childhood that I so cherish.  It is one of my greatest desires to make our name a last name that he would be proud of.  Ideally before he kicks the bucket and has time to appreciate it, so I'm on a tight schedule here.

I'm walking a very fine line, announcing this kind of a thing.  It's borderline self-aggrandizing and there is nothing I hate more than people who puff themselves up and announce to the world that they're out there "to make a difference" and to be "changemakers" and (good Lord this portmanteau just slays me) "Filipinnovators".  While I respect a lot of these people and wish them the best, words like that just make me squirm in my chair uncomfortably and avert my gaze (there's a word for this, I can't remember it but it sounds like "wah-jah".  Update: supposedly it's Fremdschamen).  But I want to be honest as well.  I want to make an impact.  I know I can make an impact.  The question is simply how big of an impact can I make in this lifetime, and to what ends?  That's what I'm still trying to sort out.

In line with this came the decision to focus back on games.  I have a love\hate relationship with my career as a games artist.  I love that I can do this for a living but hate that it makes me feel so limited sometimes.  But as of now it is my biggest chance to make an impact on the world, so I'm pursuing it full throttle.  I've worked my way to a point where I now have the opportunity to make a most excellent game (a sneak peek above, with some of the art made by the most excellent husband and wife studio Robotwithasmile) with Erick Garayblas and am currently working on the awesome and always improving Prison Architect (Alpha 11 just out!).  For now, this is how I make my impact.  When that's run its course then let's see what happens next.

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