Turn and face the strange
One of the problems with having a blog (apart from being pegged as a narcissist who’s easily swayed by internet trends) is that I’ve gotten completely dependent on it. I genuinely need this thing in order to remember when stuff happened. Pretty much everything that occurred between 1971 and last week is a big jumble of barely-connected memories that I’m assuming were spaced out fairly evenly, but as far as I’m concerned might just as well have all happened in 2002.
And because my journal is splayed out on the internet, it makes it seem like everything is an announcement, even when it’s really not. More of a “reminder” or a “notation” or maybe a “fun fact” for the world’s most boring “what happened on this date?” calendar. Today’s entry: my last day at Telltale Games.
Not my last day ever working with those guys, I’m hoping, just my last day as a regular full-timer. I’m extremely proud of the games we made while I was there, and the teams continue to exceed my expectations. And I think Telltale is regularly doing stuff that games desperately need to have — storytelling moments, and concentrated chunks of originality and imagination (and just plain weirdness) — and doing them at a level than no other studio is matching. Even those with multi-million dollar budgets.
It’s absolutely no exaggeration to say that I’ve wanted to work on a Sam & Max game since I was a sophomore in college. First from reading the comics in the back of The Adventurer that came with my Star Wars games, then playing Hit the Road and being amazed that a game like that could even exist. (It always felt kind of like sacrilege to say so, especially when I was working on Monkey 3, but I was always a bigger fan of Sam & Max than anything from Monkey Island or the other LucasArts games). I don’t know if I wanted to work on thirteen Sam & Max games, but maybe that was just a case of getting enough chances to get it right. So thanks to Dave Grossman and Kevin Bruner at Telltale for giving me the chance to work on a Sam & Max game that was actually released. (And to Brendan Ferguson for being an excellent puzzle designer and a pretty tireless lead).
And huge thanks to Steve Purcell for letting me spend so much time messing around with his characters and trusting us enough not to ruin them. Getting to do season three brainstorming with Dave, Mike Stemmle, and Steve was one of the best things that I’ve gotten to do in my career so far. (And that’s saying a good bit, considering how lucky I’ve been at stumbling into great jobs).
But it’s been pretty clear for a while that I wasn’t going to be content unless I could get out and try to do my own thing. A while ago I wrote a bunch of over-long posts about storytelling in videogames, and the more I wrote, the more I came to the obvious conclusion: the people who are really making a statement about videogames aren’t making statements; they’re making games. I need to start trying out ideas and attempting to make something more experimental than even a smaller studio like Telltale could practically take on. Maybe nothing will come of it — it’s entirely possible that I’m ridiculously over-estimating my own abilities — but with all the tools and support for independent games right now, there’s no better time to try it and see.
Plus, I’ve never been one of those people who thrive on an accelerated schedule; I’m more the type of person who ruminates and meanders. Moseys, even. There’s an episode of Star Trek called “Wink of an Eye” about a race of aliens who’d become “hyper-accelerated” so that no one else could see or hear them. I’ve felt like that quite a bit over the past few years — especially driving over the Golden Gate in the morning and seeing all the sight-seers stopping to check out the bay, and finding myself wondering “Where do these people find the time?” It seems like a good time to slow things down a little so I can get productive again.
And in case anybody’s wondering about the rest of season three of Sam & Max, which is still in progress: don’t worry. I think the season has been some of the company’s finest work so far, and what I’ve seen of the rest of the episodes carries on at that level. My work on the final episode is pretty much done, and it couldn’t be in better hands to wrap everything up. I think people are going to be impressed, disgusted, and horrified.
I hope the people who wandered on here as a result of my work with Telltale will keep stopping by, and will check out whatever game I happen to come up with, assuming this whole scheme works. (And if you know of any game contracting gigs to help pay the bills, let me know).
But for now, I’m planning to get reacquainted with being bored; it feels like it’s been a long time since I have been. Enough time with that, and I’ll be even more motivated to get off my ass and try something different.