24 February 2006

My Metamorphosis

The title of this entry is not to imply that I have become some kind of cockroach like Gregor Samsa. It is merely to indicate the changes that have taken place in the past two or three years, much to my surprise. To put it plainly, I woke up one day and people were referring to me as an "industry professional."

I have no clue when this happened. When did I cross the threshold between amateur and professional? Is it tied to money, somehow? Does being paid for one's work make one a professional? Or is it something more? A benchmark of one's skill, perhaps? Or the length of one's list of writing credits? Was there a single release or product that distinguished me?

Hell if I know. Maybe someone else can clue me in, because I'm not sure if I'll ever understand.

One thing I do know, though, is that I have a hard time believing it. I've definitely become much less excitable in regards to new projects -- this came with experience, knowing my own limits as a writer, and working to expand them with time and practice -- but I've never grown used to the fact that I'm actually doing it. Every project I take on feels like the first one. I am always awed that someone is willing to pay me to write for them.

I see the whole "professional" thing it in the same light as I do "growing up." Mentally, I don't feel any older than I did when I was eighteen. Yet, seeing as I'm in my early thirties, the rest of society classifies me as an adult. All grown up; a family man. Old enough to smoke, drink, and drive a car. Likewise, I don't feel any different than I did when I was an industry amateur. I do feel somewhat less worried about my ability to complete projects on time, given my own constraints (family, work, and life in general). Does that mean I'm jaded? Or am I merely combat-hardened?

The more I think about it, the more I feel like it's an individual observation made by other folks. Let's face it: my daily life hasn't changed dramatically due to my newfound status as a professional game designer. I'm not wealthy. Complete strangers don't stop me at the grocery store and gush over my dubious fame. Come to think of it, complete strangers don't stop me at the local game store, either.

And for that, I am eternally grateful. If there is a God, I am in his merciful debt.

Another observation that I've made, at least with the folks I've gamed with, is that the average gamer doesn't give a darn who is writing the supplements he buys. With the exception of writers that I consider to be Industry Powerhouses, like Monte Cook, or folks who I consider to be Old Guard gamers, like Dave Arneson and Gary Gygax, there is little name recognition to be had amongst gamers, especially the casual ones. And if you expect any kind of name recognition outside of the industry? Hah! Forget about it!

To my mind, the only people that pay attention to who is writing which books are the people that are also writing them. Either that, or they are people who want to break into the industry. I suppose that's a simplistic view of things, and I'm sure there are plenty of gamers out there who would love nothing more than to prove me wrong on that count. I get more name recognition because of my relationship to my grandfather's construction company than I do for the number of words I've had published.

Another thing to consider is that most people don't know what the majority of writers and game designers look like. Photographs of the guilty parties aren't usually included between the covers of a supplement or book (though, in the case of certain mediocre titles, perhaps they should be). Our words are our distinguishing marks, and even they can rarely be told from the words of other authors once a book is finished.

Soooo...that's tonight's rant du jour. I'm not sure if I accomplished anything, or if I came to any sort of conclusion. I guess the point, in no uncertain terms, is that I don't feel much different than I did when I sat down and typed my first paying words. I'm older and (hopefully) wiser, but I still feel wet behind the ears.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You haven't reached the greatest milestone of profession status till someone tries to pitch one of your own books to you.

That's the good stuff, right there. ;)