Back to School

Image from OperationIraqiChildren.orgI’ve been dropping hints left and right that I quit my job, but nobody’s been taking the bait, so I guess I have to make an announcement or something. (I guess it’s pointless to even try to pretend there’s a distinction between professional and personal on here at this point. If any future employer wants to hire me, I guess they’ll just have to accept that I keep weird hours if left unattended and that I really, really like to ramble on at great length about TV shows and videogames).

I accepted a full-time job over at Telltale Games and will be starting next week, on a secret as-yet-unannounced project that everybody already knows about and they’ve already acknowledged they’re working on in every interview I’ve read.

I’m pretty excited about it. Writing for the Season 1 Sam & Max games (buy all six, right now!) is the most fun I’ve had working in a long time, probably since The Curse of Monkey Island. That’s pretty impressive when you consider that my job last year had me in Tokyo for a week and at Disney World for an entire month. But it’d been a while since I’d felt that I really knew what I was doing in my job, and that I was doing what I’m best at. And I can’t speak for the rest of the internets, but I’m pretty damn pleased with the result.

One good side effect of the last couple of years is that I’ve got even more respect for Imagineering now than I did before I started working with them. If you’re just a fan of the theme parks, it’s easy to think, “well that’s simple. I could come up with an idea like that.” The fact is that there’s a definite skill set when it comes to coming up with stuff for theme parks, at least Disney-caliber stuff, and I don’t got it. Most obvious is that you’ve got to convey every idea you want to get across, every idea you’ve spent several years and millions of dollars working on, in 10-15 seconds. Anyone reading this blog should already know that I have a little problem expressing ideas effectively without resorting to using the maximum amount of verbiage that is humanly possible, or to put it another, less effusive way: being concise.

But that’s fine, because this means I can go back to just being a fan of the theme parks while still getting to work on another of my obsessive fandoms. And I’m excited to see where we (another good thing — I can stop referring to Telltale as “they”) go with it. All the work I’ve done so far has been alone, in my apartment, getting feedback over e-mail, making rewrites, sending them in, and then waiting a few months to see the finished product.

In that environment, it’s easy to imagine the millions of different experiments you can try, all the different directions the game could go. Especially considering that the format is of shorter, semi-connected bursts of a game; and the license’s only consistent characteristic is that anything at all can happen at any time for no reason at all, with the only requirement that it be funny. It’ll be interesting to see how much, if any, of those ideas survive after the cold hard reality of a small team putting out four-to-six hours of content every month sets in.

But I’m looking forward to the more prosaic stuff almost as much. I’m even looking forward to the commute — I live in San Francisco and still only manage to see the Golden Gate bridge once a month, if that. Working from home has its good points that are hard to give up, sure: I’ll have to get used to waking up in the morning again, and wearing different clothes every day. Plus, spending 50 bucks for a tank of gas isn’t so bad if you only have to do it once every three months or so.

But the prospect of having somewhere to go every day with real live human beings to talk to trumps all that. The fact that it’s going to be working on something that I’ve wanted to work on even before I started working, even better. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go to Mervyn’s and get several pairs of stiff, dark blue jeans; a protractor; and a Trapper Keeper.

Also: the picture I got is from the Operation Iraqi Children charity, which I hadn’t heard of before. It looks like a pretty good cause; y’all should check it out.