Lockdown has given me an opportunity to reflect and think about what I want out of life, work and play. This blog is going to document my journey.
I’ve been interested in computers and games for as long as I can remember.
I used to invent games as a kid. I used to build great and complex worlds for running paper roleplaying games in. I used to little video games on my computer. I used to write turn-to-page-whatever books and sink hours and hours into video games few people remember.
I used to read and experiment on my BBC Micro when I should have been sleeping. I built a replica of The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide To The Galaxy in the style of Ceefax using BBC Basic. I used to transcribe music into bittrackers on my Commodore Amiga and hack boot drives on old floppy discs.
I grew up. I left all the games and computers behind and went out and explored the world. I’ve set up my own design studio in Amsterdam. I’ve consulted on social media with the David Lynch Foundation. I’ve taught courses online and in person at the local university. I’ve headlined a festival with a Rock and Roll band. I’ve written music for films that don’t exist. I have had many, many, many unpublished screenplays and novels returned to me.
I fell into working with open source organisations and philosophies and tried to apply them to the way I think and work. I researched projects on building community and exploring how libraries can be used as third places. I began reading about business ethics and alternative ways of working. I looked at how things could be different and change for the better.
I discovered a lot of things about myself: I like people and community more than I pretend to. I have a really strong reaction to things that are fair or unfair. I really like tinkering with websites and little bits of code and how things work. I like to research, to learn and to tell people what I’ve learned. I have a compulsion to create. If I don’t, I turn peculiar.
Now, I’ve ended up exactly where I am.
Which is actually a pretty good place to be. I have a job that I love where I get to help people start new careers and lives. I have a roof over my head in the beautiful city of Bath. A family that I adore. I actually have time to explore the things that I want to explore.
I find myself circling back to the things I used to like: games, play, community, friends, fun and thinking about how I can re-ignite those feelings with all the skills and experience I have gained over the years. To give myself a side project that I can work on that gives me pleasure and is something I am proud of.
So I set up a pretend studio, Sparkwood and 21, named after a location from my favourite TV show Twin Peaks.
I built some board games that people seemed to like and I really enjoyed designing and making them. I was going to design and make more.
But then COVID-19 struck, people died and the world went into shutdown.
I no longer had easy access to tools and wood to make these games with. If I wanted to keep making things that people liked I thought it would be far easier if these things were ephemeral. Digital.
I think about how the world has paused and how it’s possibly on the brink of something terrible and scary and different.
But I can also see the opportunity for change. Instead of getting back to normal we could move forward to a new normal. A better normal. And I have this idea nagging at me.
I’d love to build and grow an organisation that allows me to make games, build tools and resources for people, explore ideas, learn new things and then pass all of that on in a variety of ways. I want to make sure it’s ethical, open, transparent, caring, and a safe space for a diverse range of people. I want to be able to give back to communities that I love and respect. I want to build things that make me happy and proud. I want it to help other people. I want to feel part of something positive and bigger than myself. And I want it to be sustainable so I can do it for as long as I can.
I’ve no idea what form this organisation will take, how it will look, who will be involved, but the journey is part of the fun, right? And I know it’s not going to be easy in any stretch of the word, but it’s a whole bunch of things I feel passionate about mixed with a few essential skills and so there’s the drivers right there.
And to do all this around a job that I love already. Not easy.
This blog is going to document and explore this process. It’s going to be my bouncing board, my journal, my guidance. It’s not going to be weekly to grow an audience to market to. It’s not going to be more noise in the online realms. I’m going to try and craft these posts to be useful, interesting, informative or relevant as best I can.
I’d love it if you’d join me. Thanks for your time.
Sparkwood and 21
We’re trying to become a new type of game development organisation. We make games that we want to play, and we want to do it ethically, transparently and sustainably. We want to give back via open source, tools, teaching and safe and diverse community building. Go take a look at our games.
I’m not going to have comments on this blog. It’s just another layer of privacy infringement that we really don’t need. If you want to comment or respond you can always do that via @dncnmckn on Twitter.