The Year of Change

2012 was a year of fighting for recovery, even survival. Last year, my year-in-review post centered around some of the good people that had influenced my life. I could rewrite that same post today, because there is no doubt the fight would have failed, had it not been for the help of friends and family. There were some insanely tough times, and a few hard decisions were made.

I’m not going to write a long sob story, but 2012 sucked on several levels. We were hit hard with financial trouble, and dealing with the aftermath of Kelly’s Cancer treatment and surgery. Not just the bills piling up, but also the fact that she was out of commission for several months after the fact (radiation treatment is a bitch to recover from, throw in abdominal surgery for a few months of not being able to bend over or lift anything). At the same time, continually dropping sales in stock photography only made each month bleaker than the one before.

It was time to make a radical change, so I gave up on full time freelancing and got a part time job (in a coffee shop of course, I do live in Seattle after all). I’d been working for myself for about a decade, and making that change was not easy – but definitely worth it. The stress relief alone more than makes up for having to be somewhere, not in my pyjamas, several times a week. Having a reliable, base income has allowed me to focus on the things I want to do, instead of always running down the next client.

Speaking of clients, 2012 was a year full of lessons. I realize now, that most of my stress from freelancing comes from client relations. I do not like dealing with sales, and so I have promised myself two things to compensate for that in the coming year. First, I’m raising my rates. Second, I will strive to only accept client jobs that are fun and interesting.

Unless something irresistible comes along, the priority will remain my personal projects, designing games, telling stories and learning. I have many, many ideas, including photos I’d like to take – for a while there, I wondered if I had lost interest in photography altogether, but it was working in stock photography that had nearly killed my love for the medium. In relation to that, I finished off 2012 by canceling my exclusivity agreement with iStockphoto. Wow, what a liberating feeling that was!

I’m hopeful for 2013. The world didn’t end in 2012, though it felt like it was getting close a few times. What follows are a few links that mark points of interest from 2012.

  • A Nerd Comes Home – I started the year by proclaiming that 2012 would be the year I let my nerd out. I did. It’s been fantastic!
  • The Fork in the Road – in the beginning of 2012 I still had savings, still ran Another Passion and still thought I might make it.
  • It Gets Better – I was asked to be part of making this video by Mike Selinker and Stepto. It was a ton of fun to do, and the message never gets old.
  • Nebula Rescue in the App Store – my first video game to ever be sold anywhere! Launching Nebula Rescue was a major accomplishment for me. I’m a proud game daddy.
  • Hard Booting Life – from when things were pretty much their worst, financially, I wrote about looking for work.
  • “Natural 20” – a set of three songs I wrote and recorded, inspired by my love of gaming (old skool pen and paper style, specifically).

The Power of Minecraft


A while back I read a piece about how the casual game Bejeweled can help sufferers of depression, when played in “endless mode”. The idea is that playing takes on a calming property, allowing you to feel like you’re achieving something, even if you feel incapable of doing anything. It was an interesting piece, and I would like to share my own experience with games as a form of therapy. In my case though, the game I would like to talk about is Minecraft.

Minecraft is as casual as you like, and it never ends. There is no real end-game, no timer, not even a clear objective, beyond simply building stuff and exploring the digital world created for you. Unless you play in hardcore mode, you will never see a game over screen.

In our household, we’ve used Minecraft as a mental escape on more than one occasion. When my dear wife had surgery and radiation treatment, she was physically unable to do much more than sit, and even that was a chore. Being physically weak like that also has a mental toll, and she definitely went through stages of frustration, wanting to do things that were still impossible to accomplish. So to combat this feeling of uselessness, she turned to Minecraft.

Salvation Keep, one of my medieval inspired builds. Click for a larger image.
In Minecraft, an entire digital world is generated for you to explore, and all you have to do is imagine what you want to create, find a suitable location (or carve one out of the landscape) and build it!

For myself, Minecraft helped me catch a break while taking care of Kelly, who had been hit with Cancer only a few months after my mother died, also from Cancer. Playing also turned out to be a great way for Kelly and I to do something fun together, while she was unable to do much of anything at all.

Like everything else, gaming should be enjoyed in moderation, but I don’t think it deserves the bad reputation it has outside the gaming world. I still meet people who categorically dismiss games as being a waste of time – or worse, that playing somehow makes you anti-social and dumbs you down. Gaming can be a tool to feel productive and get a sense of accomplishment – a confidence booster – and a way to socialize when the normal channels are unavailable. As long as building digital castles is not all you do, and unlocking achievements is not the only thing you strive for, gaming might even be good for you.

Spawnville, where the players on our server start out, and meet up to trade etc. Click for larger view.
I know it was good for Kelly and me, and it continues to be so. Our own multiplayer server has a small, thriving community of friends who share, inspire and help each other. There is no element of competition, except when we choose to introduce one. It’s all about being creative and having fun.

I love Minecraft, not just as a game, but for what it has contributed to my household. It kept us sane when times were rough, it’s a fantastic stay-at-home activity, and I’ve even learned a thing or two about constructing cool stuff. I can’t recommend it enough.

After several months of playing in privacy, we have finally started a tumblr blog, where we’ll be sharing screenshots, videos and more from the “Realm of Rasmania”. Yes, that is the name of our digital world, and no, I did not come up with it. The images and video included with this post are all from our multiplayer server.