Thirty seven years ago my older brother and I were taken away from our parents due to severe neglect. We were adopted 6 years later by a foster family. We went from neglect to physical abuse. My brother was diagnosed with autism as a kid, so, when he graduated with a degree in Computer Science/Math/Physics he struggled to get a job.
I was working as a web programmer at the time, so, when my mother called to tell me that she didn't know what to do with Andre' because he had screamed for help from the neighbors in the front yard after she'd barely punched him in the face for not trimming the hedges the way she wanted, I took the opportunity to talk my mother, who had been claiming for years that she had power of attorney and could keep him at home (for his SSI checks), into getting a breather by having Andre' visit my wife and I and help me with my work.
When he arrived by bus the first thing I told him was that even if I went to jail for it, he was never going back. We found out that our mother didn't have power of attorney and even if she did it meant squat. It had just been a way she could threaten to have him put in mental institution if he ever told anyone about the abuse. Every year he celebrates the day he moved in with my wife and I as his independence day.
I still remember times I visited my brother and saw how broken his spirit was. After I left home, for years I would be having fun and suddenly feel overwhelmed with a feeling of sorrow that my brother was stuck at my parents home suffering abuse. I still have panic attacks about what if I hadn't thought to have him visit and he was still living there in the basement in the storage room. Probably because we've always been so close. When we were taken into foster care, he didn't acknowledge the presence of any people other than me. He spoke one word. My name.
So, after a couple years of Andre' living with me and working with me it became pretty clear that web development was not exactly exciting for him. But he loved playing video games and making game modifications and levels for games that released tools for hobby game developers. So, one day, I asked him if he would enjoy making games more than web sites and he said he would. I told him that if there was a way for him to make video games that I would help him. I figured that he'd lived through 30 years of hell and deserved to get to do a dream job for the next 35 years.
It took a while to learn to do game development, but I worked hard at it. He was too shy to lead the way, so, I took the lead. I found an independent game development community, like a Daily Kos for game developers, and started learning to develop games. Meanwhile, we moved to Seattle, where most of the game studios are in the northwest, and I worked service industry jobs while continuing to learn.
I was driving a tv repair delivery truck one day and on the radio they were talking about how some Christian denomination had decided to allow gay priests and it was a big controversy and the host was asking for callers to give there opinion. I called, because before I was a programmer, I was actually going to be a pastor and I quit in large part because I didn't believe being gay was a sin. One of my best friends growing up was gay and christian. So, when I was picked as a caller I said that I didn't believe that being gay was bad and that I believed that there were a lot more people like me out there who just weren't saying it out loud. Why is this story relevant to making games? I'll tell you starting in the next paragraph, because this one is getting long.
When I got off the air I was so nervous that if God really was against being gay that by publicly saying that I wasn't and that I didn't believe god really was that I was going to go to hell. But I decided that I didn't care if I burned in hell. I would rather burn in hell with my friend than have a great time in heaven with the god who is burning him. I was so overwhelmed by the moment that when I jumped up into the back of the truck to unload a tv I missed the jump and slammed my knee into the edge of the lift.
That really hurt. It turned out I just bruised it, but the doctor said I wasn't going back to work for a week or two, so, I went home. It was while i was home injured for standing up for gay people that a position opened up for a programmer on a game and I jumped to apply and after impressing the hell out of them by doing the work they were looking for someone to do for a few weeks in only a day... I was hired! My first professional game developer job! It was for the same money I made driving a repair truck, so, I called them back and told them to find someone to replace me. They were really excited for me, because I wasn't that great at driving repair trucks.
I spent the next 1-2 years doing work for the company that hired me and other companies and got my name in the credits for some games. And of course Andre' too because it wasn't long before I was able to get him working with me. And then I was hired by my current boss to work on clinical games that use bio feedback to help kids with ADHD and Autism and people with PTSD or other stress problems. Andre' and I have been working there for the last 5-6 years now.
So, about 3 years ago we got the chance to design a game and we chose a jet ski racing game. We both had too much experience with violence to make a violent game, so, we chose to stick with fun family friendly games. We finished the game about 6 months ago for the PC/Mac. But then we thought it was a good enough game that with some more polish it could be a main stream market video game. And we began working on improving the PC/Mac version and developing an iOS version for iPhone and iPad.
About 2 hours ago the iOS version of the game just went live on iTunes. I bought the first copy. It's only $2.99, but it was the proudest $2.99 I have ever spent. I wanted to remember forever that I bought the first copy of the first game that Andre' and I designed and I directed. We did it. We really did it. I don't know if the game will sell another copy, but it's on the store and yeah I am crying a bit writing that. Cause if you know where we started and how hard we worked to get to this moment... it's the thing of dreams.
Andre is in his room sleeping. He doesn't know it went live yet. I'll tell him when he wakes up. I'll tell Melissa too. They knew it was coming, but it will still be quite the moment to take in that it really happened. And Melissa, she opened her home to my brother after we'd barely been married less than a year and he's been living with us since. She loved Andre' so much. We're buying him a new coat for Christmas, cause the absent minded genius he is, he doesn't think about those things. It's gonna be expensive and it means we won't get ourselves much, but he's worth it. When he moved with us he was so skinny he was like a holocaust survivor and he was wearing the same clothes he wore in junior high 15 years earlier. That's also why he doesn't think of buying himself a coat. But he bought us presents already.
It was 10 years ago when I told Andre' I would help him make video games for a living. We don't make that much, but we do get royalties after the game makes up it's cost of development. I have no idea if that will happen. But that's okay. We do well enough. We're middle class. And we're living a dream. A dream that took more hard work and sacrifice than I could have imagined. But I suppose that is how you make dreams come true.
Well, I better go. It's 9:25am and I haven't slept and I still have to run errands with Melissa tomorrow. Also, I have to call and meet my birth sisters. I just found out about them from one of the 3 birth cousins I now know. Oh, yeah, I forgot to tell you all about that. I know some of my birth family now and they are pretty damn cool. I'll tell you more later. But the sad part is that I found out about my sisters, because one of them died yesterday. I don't think the others know that Andre' and I have contacted their cousins. So, I am going to call and give them a bit of a Christmas surprise. They lost a sister, but they are getting two of their long lost brothers back. And they are pretty cool brothers too. They make video games for a living.
Here's the link to the diaries I wrote about finding my birth family, since this diary is kind of an almost final chapter in that story.
I just took the first step to find my birth parents family
So um my birth parents are both dead
Here are some screenshots of the game. iPhones and iPads aren't as graphically powerful as a PC or Mac, but I'm still impressed with what we could push them to do.
Thanks for the comments. They mean a lot to me. I mentioned the name of the game in a comment after a number of people asked for it. The game is called tropical heat. I was hesitant to say it at first, because I don't want anyone to think I wrote this to get people to buy the game. That's not the reason I wrote the diary. I write it because I wanted to share a moment of joyful triumph with this community. You are all my dear brothers and sisters and aunts and uncles and cousins and parents. I had to tell you about this as much as the rest of my friends and family.
Hehe... did I write joyful triumph? I did, didn't I. Now that's a phrase you never think you'll use in your life. What are the odds I'd find actual use for it during the holidays. :)