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Ryan Davis passing away triggered some thoughts in my head that I simply had to write down to get them out of my head. This isn’t a blogpost about games, game development or game business, it’s about how being a part of this industry has an inexplicable but profound effect on the way I perceive life. It might be a bit of a ramble.
I haven’t always been a traveler. Before starting Vlambeer, I had only really been to my home country, the Netherlands, and my fathers’ country of birth, Egypt. They’re wonderful countries – with the situation in Egypt being extremely worrisome at the moment – with completely opposite cultures. Living in both countries for prolonged periods of time taught me a lot about the relativity of life and the non-existence of a global truth and gave me conflicting perspectives on worldwide issues like poverty, politics and sexism. Being raised bilingually, if only a little bit, with a religion not shared by most of the country gives you a sense of just how important reference frames and perspectives are to your own, personal truths.
I’ve always been a curious human being. I remember my first Vlambeer trip, to the European Game Developers Conference in Cologne and being incredibly interested in how public transit worked in the city. I remember thinking that the people in Germany were nice, that the traffic was sort of weird and that the architecture was surprisingly diverse. I spent hours sitting at a staircase near the Cologne Cathedral just watching things happen.
I haven’t always been a people person. I’m still not sure whether I’m an introvert on an extrovert. Sometimes I feel like people give me energy, but often I’ll need time to recharge on my own. I’ve always been someone who likes people, though – people fascinate me. If I’m bored, I’ll just find a little spot somewhere above the daily life – people never look up (they should, slightly above where you’ll normally look is where humanities urge to hide infrastructure disappears) – and watch life happen.
Like that first spark of inspiration in me when I first modified QBASIC’s GORILLAS.BAS at the age of six, that trip was a defining moment. Where GORILLAS.BAS sparked a lifetime of curiosity towards programming and making things that you can interact with, sitting on the staircase in Cologne sparked a life of travel. Since, I’ve visited dozens of countries in Europe and the United States and I’m expanding that to South America and Asia soon. I’ve scurried across the United States in a car with friends, I’ve spent hours sleeping on a friends shoulder in a train through Scandinavian plains and I’ve spent long nights talking to people while falling asleep in a hotel room.
I don’t know where home is anymore. Some people joke that my new home is the inside of an airplane or the hallways of an airport. Someone said something that made me profoundly sad, when they told me my home is wherever my laptop is (after which said laptop got stolen less than two months later). Today I realized that I don’t really care what home is anyway. The world is connected enough to be anywhere within 24 hours, and the internet keeps us in touch whereever we may be.
During my trips, I’ve met an endless torrent of people – personal heroes, aspiring students, passionate developers, witty journalists and amazing fans. I’ve become friends with many of those people, and I’ve shared a lot of my life with these people. Some I run into at pretty much every conference, some only at events in the United States or in specific areas of Europe. Some I run into once or twice a year. Nothing emphasized the absurdity of this situation more than last year’s Penny Arcade Expo on the East Coast, when after hurriedly breaking down the Vlambeer booth I flew to San Francisco for the Game Developers Conference, just to meet with a lot of the same people again.
I run into the same people over and over again, in different corners of the world, and we don’t care where it is. We laugh, eat, drink, joke, argue and talk about everything as if it were our backyard. Sometimes, it actually is someone’s backyard and there’s a small bonfire with a dozen people warming themselves to the fire, sometimes it’s in the giant halls of a conference center. Sometimes, it’s sitting on the pavement of a Berlin suburb, sometimes it’s on a bench overlooking some place in Boston.
Regardless of the variables, these people are my friends. They’re people I’ve come to deeply care about, regardless of just how often I see them. It doesn’t matter to me, because all that matters is to me is that these people exist and do wonderful work. If you’re reading this, chances are you’re one of these people. Maybe, as a professional, you’ve helped me out when I needed something, you thanked me for advice, followed me around with a camera for a week or wrote a thing about the thing I’m working on. As friends, you’ve inspired me with games or passion or one of your eclectic interests. As friends, you’ve offered me a place to stay at while I was over, or maybe you’ve cheered me up when I felt down, or spent nights laughing on Skype, Twitch or Hangout. We might’ve roamed the streets of strange cities together, played awkward games together or had midnight breakfast together while we should really go to sleep before the next day of the conference happens.
You are all part of a lot of the most wonderful memories I have. You’re the closest to home I have. Today reminded me that I should thank you all for that. I’ll buy you any non-alcoholic beverage when I run into you again sometime.
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