Thursday, December 13, 2012

From Drug Addict to Game Designer

** I first and foremost want to say a HUGE “thank you” to my wife, kids, and family for everything they had to put up with in my lifetime **

I am about to lay everything out there now… there will be swearing, and a ton of stuff about my life that I am about to reveal, but here it goes:

Yesterday I was browsing the internet, and I came across a tweet from a Gearbox employee by the name of Mikey Neumann, with a link to a blog he had written ( ) and it really brought back some emotions that I feel. Honestly, it was sort of an awakening that I too have a problem, one of which I have no understanding of. As I sat back and kept on reading, I began taking a look at my life and how I got to the point of where I am now. In my eyes, I am nothing significant, but in my kids eyes I am top dog of something or another.

The title of this post is actually a true statement, what some do not know about me is that I used to be a major drug addict. During High School, I was trying to “find” myself, and the only people I fit in with where those types of people I heavily avoid now. During this period of whatever you want to call it, I became a rather depressed child. I had everything that any kid could want, love from family (most of), a roof over my head and just nothing to be depressed about. I eventually started taking all sorts of medication from Willbuterin, Effexor, and the like and nothing worked. The times that it did work my family described me as a “zombie”, but it came to the point where I wanted to die. I shit you not, I wanted to kill myself on a daily basis, and there was nothing anybody could about it. There was one thing that always prevented this… Halo. I would get so immersed into this game, that I forgot how depressed I truly was.  TO add insult to injury I was a frequent insomniac, sometimes not sleeping for 3-4 days straight and just gaming the entire time. This is when everything I knew changed; the one friend (so I thought) I had, became a regular marijuana “consumer” –I guess is the word-, and eventually I was brought on to it. I will not feed you any bullshit about peer pressure, as I made my own decisions. I was 13 at the time when I started picking it up on a daily basis. I was easily spending around $300-$400 a month, just on dope alone.

At this point in time my mind was fried; I had a ton of “friends”, and not a single care in the entire world. Once I turned 16 I was knee deep in shit (pot), had a car, a killer stereo in the said car, and I was being paid to install car parts on these rich kid’s cars.

*this is where it gets deep, because no one knows about half of the rest of this*

During this time when I was smoking marijuana, I came to a point in life where I literally had that barrel in my mouth. I remember looking down the barrel of the 20-gauge, and not even a single emotion running through my entire mind. I just knew I had to end my life because for some reason everyone would be better off. At this point in time it was just myself home, I had this stupid idea that it was fun to leave school during lunch time and go home for the rest of the day to get high. Well, my friends knew that when my mom was not home, I was a walk-in-or-get-punched policy. My –then- girlfriend Amanda, and –then- best friend came walking in, and bum rushed me. I was told the look on my face was one of someone knowing what they were doing. There was something else odd about this though, I did not load it. I ALWAYS kept a loaded weapon under my bed, and this one was no different. The night before I had cleaned it and reloaded it, call it a sign… one that I missed.

Anyways, shortly after my 16th birthday, it started becoming more and more of an alcohol problem, and I drank every chance I could get. Shit, I was an insomniac with a mother that was none-the-wiser. So I attended parties every weekend, and to this day I am thankful and shocked as to how the fuck it was I was NEVER caught. Like the fucking idiot I was at the time, I drove (never while/after drinking), and was pulled over multiple times. A 16 year old kid, with a system in his car that shook pictures off of houses walls was kind of a suspicious thing at this time. I thank God that I never hurt anyone while being so damned stupid.
Once the booze stopped having the desired effect (which in itself is stupid, by blood I am an alcoholic), I turned to other things. First it was acid, but I quickly stopped doing that when I almost ripped the skin off of my arm because I thought bees (yes… bees) where burrowing in it. It then turned to a one-time-was-enough use of Meth, which turned to X, which then lead to a serious problem with cocaine. It was so bad, that I did it right before and after I got to school. On top of the massive amount of money I was spending on marijuana, another habit kicked in and ran it up more.

I eventually said enough was enough of cocaine, and by my 17th birthday I was going through withdrawals. If you have never experienced one, it is literally the worse feeling, I was crying daily, and the down was just making me want to kill myself even more. However, this was one of the best moments in my life, because here I was standing up against that feeling and going through the process of becoming slightly better. I had a revelation while in this down, and that was I did not need those anti-depressants, I just needed myself. I directly stopped taking them (which I guess was a bad thing), and kicked them along with the cocaine.
I was hanging out with my friends so much at this point in time, I always thought my mother didn’t give a shit if I came home or not. I figured she had just given up as I was so out of control. Now, I know she didn’t, she just did not know what it was I was doing. She had informed me we would be leaving the shit fest town known as DeWitt, and moving to Lansing. This of course upset me, as I was in my senior year of high school, and I did not want to move. I was not prepared to give up this “lifestyle” I had created for myself. We began moving everything, and I was still staying in the empty apartment with nothing but the clothes I had on my back for warmth and to act as a pillow. Laying there one night on the floor, with my sweatshirt as my pillow, and a thin t-shirt as my “blanket” keeping my “warm” in 28-30* weather, I started crying. I mean full out, bawling my eyes out. It had finally dawned on me, that this was the direction I was leading myself to; this sleeping in nothing, in freezing weather with no one around me to lift me back up.

This is the point I took my first stand in life and said fuck no, this piece of shit known as my addictions where not going to kill me. I was 19 when it finally hit me that I did not need this lifestyle. I remember going home, to the new house. I walked in out of the rain, just drenched; I looked my mother right in the eyes and I broke down, telling her I was sorry. The next day was when my rehab began, I deleted all of those people from my phone that lived in DeWitt, and alienated myself from EVERYONE. I ditched all of my friends, for a better life.

Everything started going great for me, I met my wife (again- we dated In 5th-8th grade until she moved), on June 12th, 2007… which is coincidentally the day we started dating in 5th grade. Her and my son Wyatt became everything to me, and we married in June of 2009. They both pushed me to get my high school diploma, as DeWitt royally fucked me over on that one. I graduated from High School on May 30th 2008 from Fulton Adult Education. At this time I knew I wanted to make video games, I felt it in every inch of my being. It was what I was destined to do. I knew it the very day I met Warren Spector (of Deus Ex, Epic Mickey), who honestly changed my entire perspective. I was terrified he would tell me something like “don’t”, but as soon as I finished the question of “how do I do it”, he laid it out there for me.

I did not know at the time though, how to even begin doing it; then my life changed again. My daughter was born July 29th, 2010. She was that final piece to push me to finally get a grip on reality and buckle down. I began writing this thing called “Asylum” which is a story for a survival horror game, and this was my first step. I began looking around forums, and becoming a Quality Assurance expert for various teams that needed me. I never got paid, however I was offered. I wanted to just do it, because I loved games.
Then through a time of hell, I finally came across Full Sail University. I began taking the online courses for Game Design, and am set to graduate soon. Though this entire time in my tenure, I have worked on countless projects, collaborated with a bunch of professionals, and really became involved in what I do.

There is a downside though; finding a job. While depression is not usually appearing any more, it does show up every now and then because finding a job in this field is hard. For some reason, I always thought to myself that these employers, they look at that here I am taking an online course, but Michigan State is offering the same thing. A huge name college like MSU is more likely to be chosen first right? I have a vast amount of talent (particularly in writing and usability), and I like to believe that my passion is unmatched.

Why did I call this entry “From Drug Addict to Game Designer”? It is simple: my kids. My 6 year old son, thinks it is the coolest thing that one day I will be working on those games he plays. So I am a Game Designer because my son believes I am, and so do I.

I hope you all enjoyed this little… cough… entry. I hope it offers some insight into what I had to battle to get here within myself.