Little Victories

little victory
Celebrate the little victories. Sounds kind of corny, doesn’t it? Perhaps it does, but nevertheless it is something myself and my better half have been reminding each other of, when we’ve gone through rough patches, where Life doesn’t line up with expectations. Those times where it is easy to fall into a pattern of negative thinking, which affects happiness, productivity, sex drive and almost every other aspect of existing. It sucks, as you probably already know.

All of us experience tough times, maybe after losing a job or a loved one, or dealing with illness – experiencing adversity is just part of Life. There are countless ways Life can try to fuck you over, and if you let it, negativity can spiral out of control and suck ever more parts of previously mentioned existence down the drain. If you’re caught in a negative thought pattern, you have to fight back.

This is where celebrating the little victories come in handy. It’s not so much about high fives or actual celebration (those are fine too), it’s about being observant of the positive things surrounding you. By consciously observing the positive, I open myself up to seeing even more positive things, thus training myself to focus on a positive thought pattern, rather than a negative one. Instead of expecting to lose, I am reminded, that sometimes you win. This is why I like to celebrate the little victories.

What exactly constitutes a “little victory”? It can be whatever, really. Maybe you got the perfect parking spot, or got a thank you note from a client, maybe your dog finally rolled over on command, or you passed that level in your favorite video game. As I said, it’s about looking for something positive, so if you recognize it as such, you can count it.

In our household, we sometimes have exchanges that go along the lines of “I hit the perfect level of cream in my coffee this morning, it was so good.”, which is answered with a “Sometimes you win”. It has become a ritual, pointing out these tiny moments, and even when Life isn’t particularly tough, and things are just chugging along, observing little victories is a habit I never tire of.

Try it yourself, and see how many little victories you can recognize in a day. What little victories have you had today?

2013 was Year of the Game

This was the invitation to the Xbox One launch party...
No year is complete without a year-in-review post. Here is mine for 2013…

Things happened very fast this year, it seems. I changed career path, and went back to my first passion – games. I ran a Kickstarter, I formed a company, I got a full time job and a promotion, working with AAA titles for the new Xbox One – the green wristband shown above was the invite to the launch party at Microsoft (and no, I don’t own one, myself). Tons of work, tons of fun! Considering that only a year has passed since I set out on this path, everything that has happened sort of blows my mind.

I played a lot of games in 2013. Great games, from major releases I had missed, to small indie games made by people like myself. Steam became one of my favorite things. It made me want to talk about games more, not just design them. I hope to do more of that in the year to come.

Photography, my primary business for the last decade, was largely ignored this year. My expensive gear is collecting dust, and all I ever use these days, is Instagram. At the end of 2013, I am retiring the thing that’s been the biggest draw on my site for years, the Microstock Photographer’s Guide. However, I’m still interested in producing videos, and even more so when combined with games. Thus, I’ve become more and more interested in things like YouTube and streaming live from Twitch. Highlight: getting together with a few friends from my Minecraft server, streaming live for 24 hours, while collecting money for charity.

There has been a lot of reading after I started commuting several hours a week. The last few months, it’s been the Malazan Book of the Fallen series (I just finished book 4, leaving 6 more to go). If you’re into epic fantasy, you will want to read it. Reading is one of the few activities I do on a regular basis, not tied to a screen – which is also the reason I haven’t jumped on the ebook wagon (yet).

I’ve been missing the old, regular game night with friends, and social activity definitely took an overall blow in 2013. I need to work on that in 2014. Don’t get me wrong though, overall it was a year of huge improvement. The last few years have been rough on our household, and 2013 came with some real progress in nearly every area. I am very thankful for that.

Happy 2014 to all my friends, known associates and internet lurkers. Thanks for being a part of this interesting ride called Life, and for all your support and awesomeness.

Full Time in Gaming

What follows is a personal story, likely too long for many to read, so if you’re looking for some sort of point, let’s go with this one: In Life you will experience ups and downs, but if you look for opportunities to get inspired and better yourself, you’ll find ways to get through all the crap.

Over the last couple of years, my life has changed in many ways. Some good, some not so much. Tomorrow I start a new chapter, taking on my first full time job in several years. During the time I was “off the market”, I was trying to build a business of my own, and having a go at a photography career, blogging and being artsy on the side. It was a lot of fun and a lot of work. Basically I sacrificed security and stability for freedom and the pursuit of creative urges, and for about a decade it was how I lived my life.

In 2011 my wife got diagnosed with a couple of hardcore medical issues, and not only were there medical bills to pay, but one of the household members was also unable to work for several months. Suddenly “security and stability” became more important than “freedom and creativity”. After a few months of not finding the work I was hoping for, I took a part time job in retail to make ends meet. This allowed me to still do a bit of freelance work, and take on a personal quest of sorts.

During Kelly’s slow recovery, we played a lot of Minecraft. When she was incapable of doing anything in the real world, she could still build castles in the virtual one. It was a great way for her to stay active, or not go completely stir crazy, and for us to do something fun together. For me, playing Minecraft also rekindled a deep love of mine – creating games. Since grade school, I have been telling stories through games in one way or another. From the text adventures I would code on my old C=64, to elaborate Dungeons & Dragons campaigns. And so, I started learning about video game design theory and touching up on ye olde coding skills.

The first game I finished was Nebula Rescue for iOS. It’s not what you would call a conventionally handsome game, but I like to think that the gameplay makes up for that. I’m particularly proud of the game balance I achieved, and the way the difficulty progresses. The day someone set a high score that was more than double that of my own, I squeed. You can find it in the App Store.

My second game – Salvage Trader – is currently on Kickstarter (go back it, I’ll be here when you’re done). It’s inspired by some of my favorite types of games, space trading, exploration and little mini games to break things up. A much more complex and ambitious project, but equally more rewarding to work on.

The greatest reward however, was realizing that I really do love making games, and that I want to have a go at doing it for a living. I’ve worked with many types of storytelling in the past, from novels and song lyrics to photography and video, but there is an added thrill of the Player, and his or hers part in how that story unfolds. I hope to be able to work on games more, for many years to come.

Which is why the next big change is an awesome one. Tomorrow I start my new job, going full time, as an “LQA Tester”. If you don’t know what that means, it’s short for Language Quality Assurance. In short, I help translate and test new video games before they hit the market. It’s also a perfect opportunity to study the game design process from inside the industry – and on a much grander scale than making games on my own.

This particular change is exciting and welcome for more reasons than one. I’m happy to be back working on storytelling things, and excited that it is even in the industry I wanted to work in. I won’t miss doing photography for a living (taking pictures for fun is way more, well, fun), and I definitely won’t miss retail. Side note: I have great respect for anyone who has the stamina to work retail for years on end – having to deal with the General Public on that level is soul crunching.

I share these things in the hope of inspiring others who might feel stuck or overwhelmed by the adversities of Life. If you’ve been following my blog for a while, much of the above will already be familiar to you, which leads me to thank all those who have been supportive and encouraging through the last couple of years. Thank you!