1. Name (you dont have to detail) five experiences that changed you or the way you look at the world and/or how you think about it.
a) Primary School - Having endured a long rant from a teacher about how kids should treat each other fairly and not steal each other's chairs (it was practise for kids to swap their assigned seating because they wanted to sit with their friends, displacing the less popular kids or leaving kids to stand waiting for their chair to be free again) I went off to the toilet with permission and, when I came back, the teacher had stolen my seat. I was in the middle of my project and wanted to get on with it and she sat there in her hypocritical majesty failing completely to practise what she preached. I really, really lost my temper. She had a glass eye and, as I recall later broke another kid's arm while manhandling him out of the classroom. So I don't feel bad about throwing a strop in the name of justice at her.
b) Liking a girl at school but knowing and understanding, maturely, that I didn't have a chance with her. Foolishly confiding in some friends and then being bodily carried across the school playground and thrown down at her feet, painfully, onto tarmac while the sniggering friends gave it an 'Hur Hur... he fancies you'. The look of sheer disgust - I was at least hoping for pity - on her face scarred me for life. This is merely echoed, I think, by various other romantic disasters and missed opportunities down the years. This is 'patient zero' of my love life pathology.
c) The day my father upped and left, ultimately resulting in his new life in the South of France. I still find that and everything that happened afterwards very hard to reconcile with the fact he's still my dad and I still care about him despite him having done something that I hate and that really hurt me, my brother and my mother very deeply indeed. It also worries me to see trends between my grandfather on his side, him and me. I've always been determined one way or another to be different, but sometimes it's hard work.
d) Realising I had a gift for storytelling and holding people's attention. This was even before roleplaying. I used to read, or make up stories, for the other kids at Primary School, even before I set eyes on so much as a Fighting Fantasy book.
e) The defeated look in a bully's eye when I verbally dismantled him in front of his mates and the rush of power I got out of doing so, knowing I didn't have to raise my fists and take a beating. Of course, this was tempered by realising that a small, but significant proportion of people are just too stupid to realise they're outwitted and will beat on you anyway. Still, on reflection I have to (geekily) agree with Garak from DS9
Bashir: They broke seven of your transverse ribs and fractured your clavicle!
Garak: Ah, but I got off several cutting remarks which no doubt did serious damage to their egos. Thanks to your attentions my wounds will heal but the damage I did to them will last a lifetime.
2. What is the true worth of Originality in games? Its always claimed to be valued but in reality there is what sells and what does not - and as I peer at my local games store I see a lot of very popular variations on a theme...
Commercially speaking? There's no real worth in originality, or even in pursuing some lost treasure of genre that you love that hasn't been done right. Equally there's little mileage in imitation. 'Fantasy Heartbreakers' are D&D 'only better' while many other games are just self indulgent wank. Occasionally you might hit on something that strikes a nerve and does particularly well, Vampire was one such game at the time though Nightlife probably deserves the credit, D&D was an innovation in its time, so was Traveller. Most of the big names in any field were innovators at one time, then it calcifies and crystallises and becomes the establishment. The risk in just going for originality is that you risk becoming pretentious.
I try to mix the two, safe bets with something more self indulgent and experimental. The experimental stuff gets the good reviews, the run-of-the-mill most often gets the money. That and the T&A.
3. Your life... easy/difficult? What is the path you walk and what are the advantages that keep you walking down?
Not easy, but satisfying. It is difficult not being the primary earner, not for my own peace of mind - though I feel terrible guilt if I get writer's block and can't work, but because of the expectation of others. Society still seems to expect the man to be the boss and the one who makes all the financial arrangements.
Writing is difficult. Sometimes it comes easily, sometimes its like trying to excrete a concrete turd the size of Bernard Manning. It is satisfying but there's always the risk of bad reviews or of public slander - especially from gamers who want everything for free last Tuesday. Overall its worth it though. What keeps me going is trying to be true to myself and understanding that it isn't the succeeding in being a moral, true-to-yourself person that is as important as the effort to try.
Money is always tight, which I don't like and I'm always worried in the back of my mind that Donna isn't happy with the situation, or me, but I know that's just bad life experiences coming back to haunt me.
4. From the outside (taking a quick sweep of your recent post / recent games) you seem to value individuality, intelligence a good well thought out opinion backed by someone not about to be wet about it, political awareness, common sense and the ability to see beyond face value... it appears to reflect in your work. Do you agree with that statement? How much of the author is in the work - beyond that which is avoidable... do you keep a conscious level to it?
I like books and works where the author believes in what they're saying, even if I don't believe in it myself and even find it objectionable. That's how I can read and enjoy authors with as diverse political and social bents as China Mieville (Left) Peter F Hamilton (Right) and Heinlein (Libertarian? Individualistic? Crazy hippy?). When I'm writing for myself I try to inject a lot of my own personality into the writing, when I'm working for someone else I try to rein it back to an appropriate level for the subject matter. I tried to get some subversion in under the wire in Macho Women With Guns but Mongoose tamed it down a lot, I also think they missed a trick with the new Paranoia by failing to more overtly rip the piss out the Bush administration in the way the old Paranoia lampooned the Reagan years, but eh, it takes a lot for people to be daring and they're doing OK.
I do think I commonly overestimate people's ability to read subtext though, as seen in the fuss over Final Straw, Hentacle and even less controversial stuff.
5. Indulge me and indeed yourself in a decent rant on Jack Thompson (I unforunately today decided to see if there was any sanity in his quotes by looking at the context - vain effort)...
Well, see my previous entry for my feelings on media hysteria.
In all honesty I think Jack Thompson is a blessing to the video game industry, free advertising and, if he hates it, the kids know it MUST be good! I wish we had a Jack Thompson for RPGs. Other than that I think its fair to say he's an ignorant fuckhead who is creating a false controversy for reasons of personal ego and self-promotion and he's being indulged. If parents aren't taking an interest in what their kids are doing that's the fault of the fucking parents, not the video game manufacturers.