The privilege of being blessed


Born with a hole in my heart I’ve never not been sick, but this isn’t about that or my exciting new disease.

It’s about being blessed and how while it’s hard to do sometimes I know that I’m blessed.

I don’t believe in some of the implications of the word “blessed”. The divine force that others can see behind the word driving it onwards is missing in my mind. So perhaps “fortunate” or “born with a Golden Horseshoe up the rear” would both be more accurate turns of phrase.

Whatever happens from this point forward I’ve been rolling well in life, mostly because of factors completely outside of my control. 

Born with a hole in the heart then Canada in 1978 was pretty much the best time in history to be born. Not too long in the vastly longer stretch of human history and I’d be a statistic. Even limited to 1978 there were statistically more likely places to have been born that couldn’t have handled the illness or a few hundred miles south where my parents would have been bankrupt by the cost.

My current career as a video game developer was a trick of geography, living in a city with a vibrant local industry, and timing when a job opened up at Relic Entertainment that I was surprisingly qualified for a few weeks after deciding to try to make the switch after giving a talk at a Canadian University Press Conference that was held in a hotel that’s been glued to the side of BioWare’s Edmonton studio.

Looking around BioWare’s offices I thought to myself, “This is what I should do with my life.” 

I might as well have decided to swim the English Channel. I was in my early 30s and had no development experience and yet somehow by not knowing enough about how hard it was to break in landed the first job I applied for.

Like a human Dunning–Kruger Effect I triumphed.

The first few years in my new career paid poorly. I had accepted a job designed (and paid) more for someone fresh out of school but like back in school I was okay because I had money. I had savings and managed to use that to subsidize my life as I took a pay cut to switch career paths and industry. Similarly years later when I needed time away I was able to take more than a year off and go do more university because of this money I’d saved.

The money I’d saved because in part I worked for my parents and was well paid (in part) because I was their kid. (I believe they paid other people well too but being their kid helped in contract negotiations).

Which is, I know, infuriating to read. It puts an asterisk over things in my life that I’d rather not have an asterisk beside. That’s not to blame my parents who were, and are, only doing the best for their dumb kid but rather to add context for my argument that I’m blessed beyond my own control.

It is also important to add the context that all this occurs with me being a straight white male. Yes I know talking about white/male/straight privilege is trendy and maybe you don’t believe it’s a thing but I’ve benefited from it. 

In the games industry, I’ve been interviewed by one woman and two people of colour and probably about fifteen white men. There’s a certain level of automatic comfort in going into a room and seeing a lot of faces that look exactly like mine. I don’t have to worry about whether or not someone doesn’t want to work with me because they’re afraid of being #MeTooed or if they have specific views on what skills women naturally have. I don’t have to worry about someone’s specific views on what my skin tone suggests about me.

Don’t worry, we’re almost through the woke part.

While I believe that I’m good at my job and will admit employing to a certain level of self-effacing modesty currently, I’ve been fortunate. Blessed. Horseshoe up the rear.

I’ve also worked with good people and people who have later vouched for me allowing me to work elsewhere. Without someone like Geoff Coates pointing me out to CAPCOM, I might not be in the industry anymore. Without someone like Graham Somers taking a chance on me in my first job I definitely wouldn’t be doing this.

Family aside game development has been the best thing about my life. Getting to work with amazing people has made this such a rewarding experience and again is so largely outside of my control even though everyone has such an outsized impact on my enjoyment (and success) doing this thing I do. 

People like Greg Wilson at Relic who has such empathy and understanding and just plain ‘good humanness’ that it’s amazing.

Working with Joe Nickolls at CAPCOM Vancouver was such a liberating experience because he and the studio trusted and supported me at a time when I needed that. Getting to work on the wild and nutty Dead Rising franchise was also liberating and cathartic in great ways. 

Landing at Hinterland after the odd layoff/rehire at CAPCOM has also been a kind of miracle. Contracting a rare disease is stressful enough but the studio has been so human and understanding about it that often it feels like we’ve switched roles when we’re discussing what’s going on with me arguing for more work and less sick leave, and them arguing for more work-life balance and spending time with my family healing.

Hinterland is hiring by the way and rest assured I’m not contagious so you won’t get sick.

Every day I get to work with people like I do at Hinterland or any other studio I’ve been in this industry is a privilege. People like Shan Campbell have changed the way I look at the world in good ways. During my early days at Relic and sitting in a meeting with David Larmour and Remy Saville and for the first time in years realizing I was clearly the dumbest person in the room was liberating in a way that’s very complicated to explain.

Again I’m a human Dunning–Kruger Effect.

There are so many more to list that the rest of this entry could look like a phone book and I’d still miss important people. Incredible people who I owe a lot to.

Life can still suck, but it’s hard to complain about any life that’s let me do the amazingly fun things pictured above.

For example, right now I can feel the ebb of the steroids that keep my pain at bay and know that I’m five hours away from relief. I worry that despite the positive signs of my current medical treatments starting to work that a plot twist may still occur and that I’ll miss important parts of my children’s lives and be rendered (at best) a vague figure in their memories of a guy who used to live with them who knew a lot about Marvel comics continuity from 1995 - 2014.

I got to read Brian Bendis’ New Avengers run monthly when it was coming out. Every week for years I’d take time on Wednesday to drive from Kelowna to Vernon to shop at the best comic shop in the Okanagan, buy my weekly books and then eat chicken fingers at Earls’ and read. That was a privilege, time and expense I could carve out for myself.

I suppose being impressed by the ability to eat Earls’ chicken fingers is getting pretty near the bottom of the barrel, so I should wrap up soon.

This might all be a result of my cognitive bias of illusory superiority, or maybe I’m trying to steady my hand for the important rolls of the dice that are still to come but I have fewer regrets in life than I probably should.

Call it privilege or being in the right place at the right time or having a horseshoe up my rear, but things have gone inordinately well for me in life.

Just don’t say that I’m blessed.