All Roads Lead To Rome

Fell off the Earth for a while there. Haven’t had time to wrap up my Japan series or to publish my writings and musings, so what’s happened this past year?

Life continues.

Back in September 2018, I started – and will soon finish – an MSc Digital Marketing course at Northumbria University. The subject got pretty intense a few weeks in and has occupied my time since. This forced me to put some things on hold, with my blog being one of them and video game development being the other.

Right now I’ve finished the majority of my modules and have done well in some areas, not so well in others. With only my dissertation to focus on since May I’ve been spending time raising my family and trying to figure out the best direction for my business going forward. I’m even more developed now and it’s become easier to know what I want from life and to live by my values. I’m also more focused on me and have begun to trust and respect myself more in the decisions I’m making.

I (finally) took Steve Jobs advice and realised that I don’t want to be chasing contracts to produce someone else’s work anymore. I want to bring my ideas to the world. I want to create.

The last non-games project I agreed to was for a peer at University who wanted to record his stand-up gig. I love live comedy and the guy is talented so this was a great project to end on.

The most pressing decision I’ve made is to stop taking on non-games related contract work and to stick to my passions. Where before I would happily use my skills and knowledge to hustle contracts here and there I’m now putting that all aside and have developed a long-term business plan and set of personal goals which are more meaningful to me and are influenced by my values.

This sharp turn away from floating project-to-project has come from a period of personal reflection that I’ve had the comfort to enjoy these past months. “What am I doing and why?” has been the key questions I’ve asked myself to help me realign my day-to-day actions with my fundamental beliefs. Rediscovering my love of philosophy has ignited my critical reasoning and stoked drive to make the most of my life.

“It is not that we have so little time but that we lose so much. … The life we receive is not short but we make it so; we are not ill provided but use what we have wastefully.”

On the Shortness of Life by Seneca

When I’d read about philosophy in my 20’s I’d sometimes see what future I could imagine myself in if I were to pursue a PhD in the subject. However, I was just flirting with a grand fantasy of leaving my mark in a corner of history as some great thinker. My interest in philosophy was just as bright as my interest in biology, physics or any of the endless subjects I’d seek late into the night.

And like those other interests, philosophy fell into the 10 PM to 4 AM timebox for things to read about when my mind was restless couldn’t sleep. I was seeking perspectives that would blow my mind and make me wonder about life and the great scale of time and space. These things are quickly forgotten when the eyes roll shut and the morrows alarm bell jolts you into a present filled with worries, anxiety and the dull routine of modern living.

This time, I’ve found a way to use what I’m learning.

Having order and routine was something I despised when I was younger but I now see how valuable they are, allowing me a more stable and productive life with more room for creativity, sporadicity and enjoyment.

While I may follow their timings only loosely on certain days I’ve found it most helpful to stick to my morning and evening routines, which include goal setting, reflective writing, meditation, breakfast (yes!) and exercise. I find myself more mindful, more energetic, more grateful and more dedicated to my own wellbeing. These benefits go a long way in enhancing my ability to balance work, life and family.

It is essential for you to remember that the attention you give to any action should be in due proportion to its worth, for then you won’t tire and give up, if you aren’t busying yourself with lesser things beyond what should be allowed…”

—  Marcus Aurelius

Decisions are quicker to make their prioritisation is easier to manage. My workload has gone from being critically unstable to being something I can juggle with greater ease. Though I still have to reschedule appointments, delay planned work closer to its deadline or to cull my to-do-list every now and then – dropping tasks I’ve habitually added which would be nice to do had I been guaranteed an eternity to live.

I’m living leaner than ever and I’m loving waking up every day because of it.

“I have lived!” and every day is worth it.

Looking forward I’ve got a lot going on over the next few years.

I’ll be redirecting my business efforts into building a VR arcade in my local area, with the purpose of opening a revenue stream for the business which can help support and accelerate the development of my game and hardware ideas. I’ve put infinity27.com into a low-fi landing page for now till I mould it around this new vision. Updates to that should be sometime in August or September but I’ll post again nearer the time.

Japan has seeped into my soul and I still think and talk about it at least once every day without fail.

My partner and I are still eager to revisit Japan and have left ourselves options to move there in future, whichever way our commitments here pan out. We plan to at least visit again soon, as at the time we left we promised each other to do whatever it takes to return there as soon as we could. It’s now over a year and we agree that we failed to live up to that but I accept that choosing to study a Masters was a sacrifice that should make that return journey much sweeter than if we’d done so otherwise.

We also enjoy experiencing our children growing up and are working and sacrificing as much of ourselves as we can to make their lives as full and joysome as possible.

They are my meaning, my reason, my joy.

Wherever we end up and whatever the future holds I’m more ready than ever to face it humbly and with honour. There’s nothing left to add for now except that there’s no turning back…

Be excellent to each other.

Manifesto Reflection

In 2013 I wrote a Change Manifesto, which I dug up a couple of months back when I was adding some of my old websites blog posts into the archive. I didn’t have enough time to reflect on this back when I got to it, so I’ve kept it unpublished until now. The reason being that I didn’t just want to link it on social media under #ThrowbackThursday or #FlashbackFriday, without explaining where I’m at five years after originally making my vows public. Continue reading “Manifesto Reflection”

First Class Baird, Reporting In!

Bachelor Of Science (Honours) Computer Games Design And Production With First Class Honours

Thanks to my family and friends for their encouragement, to the sage guidance and advice of my lecturers and business mentors, and of course, to my glorious and beautiful fiancé for her grace, compassion and support…

WE DO IT!

Dissertation, Dissonance and Desertion

Last Thursdays scheduled post is delayed, as I was working overtime to finish up my individual project for university. Scheduled programming shall resume this week and a post for the individual project will come after the marks are released, sometime early June I expect. However, with that monstrously sized assignment out of the way I’ve only three more assignments before I’m done with my degree course. What a journey it’s been!

My mind and my desk still haven’t recovered from the chaos caused by my individual project.

Continue reading “Dissertation, Dissonance and Desertion”

New Look

The blog has a new look which ties in with the theme used on the main site, infinity27.com.

With this change I’m also going to be taking the opportunity to blog more frequently, starting with a series of articles where I publish or re-publish a bunch of my past work and writings. I’ll be trying to publish the most recent work every Tuesday and then old works each Thursday until I run out of material. These will be announced via social media channels but will be placed in the archive chronologically where it’s appropriate.

Had to take some time to focus on my studies and family as it’s my final year and we’ve just had our second child in February. It’s good to be back!

Computer Game Studies

I purposely missed out this update from the last post because I feel that I have a lot to express. The first lesson on a Monday is Computer Game Studies. In this session, we’ve been looking at and discussing a range of topics regarding video games.

In the middle of November, we looked at the behaviours of people involved in gaming culture, specifically the competitive or ‘pro’ gamers. This was examined through a cringe-worthy review of footage from early XBOX competitions.

A compilation video similar to the one we watched in class.

It’s saddening to be reminded of how aggressive and ape-like people can be over games, regardless of any money involved. The vulgarity and disrespect that explodes from some of the players is something I imagine coming from a caricature of a football hooligan, not from those who enjoy pretending to be a super soldier in a fantasy world. All I see are bad losers and even worse winners, as I simply can’t relate to their attitudes towards each other.

Yes, video games are as competitive as any other activity like sports or gambling, but when I was younger my group of friends and I would revel in the chance to play multiplayer games together. Every now and then someone’s parents would be out for the day, so you’d take your controller and your memory unit to their house and squash into a room with some other kids who were filled with excitement. We wanted to see who was the best, sure, but it was still just a game, we didn’t need to worry about anything outside of our performance and enjoyment. Surely we weren’t alone in this, we couldn’t have been the only people actually appreciating the ability to play against some real people in our favourite games.

So what’s changed? There are fewer changes in gaming culture, which I can remember, that seemed to influence the behaviours of my fellow gamer as much as the arrival of online console gaming.

The rise of the internet gave us services such as XBOX Live, which allowed any console gamer with an internet connection to frag strangers online. The problem was that the lobbies for these online games soon became inundated with naïve young fellows, who thought that they should use this as an opportunity to abuse these strangers without fear of reprisals. While I imagine it to be true – that the P.C. platform had these problems before consoles – it was only with the popularity of games consoles, that this issue came screaming out of the television sets of many shocked and annoyed parents. I would say that most people play video games for entertainment, for fun; not to be called names, be screamed at or to engage in a slagging match with a cocky and offensive adolescent.

When we observe these negative behaviours online we usually have only a few options; engage the person, which only serves to make the problem worse; report the person, which never seems to be taken seriously; or, to ignore the person by muting their voice or just leaving the lobby, which I found the best option.

While I understand that these people – who engage in this type of verbal tennis – would say that they are trying to play mind games or to ‘psyche out’ the opponent, I disagree with their choice to do so. I see it as them only continuing to spread a meme, a one which serves to create/reinforce a stereotype or to alienate people who don’t play videogames and anger those who are already critical of video games. Yes, you’re a teenager or young adult and yes, you know a lot of swear words; but no, you don’t have to call your opponent out with witty remarks so you can feel better about yourself. Even if you claim that it’s harmless because it’s just for laughs or dramatised for T.V.

If you play games online or in competitions with your friends, then I believe there’s an opportunity for you to challenge the status quo. You can show people that you would rather be a good spirit, celebrate other people’s successes and learn from your losses humbly than berate them personally and debase yourself with trash talk.

I know that these bad attitudes will always be around and that I can’t say for sure if the world changed or my exposure to this made me bitter, but I guess what I’m trying to say is, “play nice kids”.

For our assignment in this lesson, I will need to research and write up about the history of the video games industry, starting with 1958’s ‘Tennis for Two‘.

A clip from the Channel 4 programme Charlie Brooker: Videogames Changed The World, which we viewed in class.

I took plenty of notes on the subject and I look forward to starting this assignment because I remember doing a timeline/history essay on computers back in comprehensive school and getting praise for my writing. We have no hand in date for this yet but I’ll write up my notes over the holidays and see what else we need to do in January.

Steve also asked us to think up a shortlist, three points in our own gaming history which stood out and why. Here are my choices and why;

  • Sega Megadrive – my first video game console which let me and my siblings play together with friends; with a great library of games.
  • Final Fantasy VII – the first game which impacted me emotionally; had a convincing world which I wanted to explore for days; made me think about the power of the art.
  • My first P.C. – enabled new experiences in an online environment; gave me the power to play and modify games; quickly became my hobby; expanded my knowledge because of its versatility.

Progress

This past week has seen a lot of positive changes and I have managed to put a lot of work into following my change manifesto. Last week I also managed to get my girlfriend – Becki – to draw up her own list of changes, and she has successfully begun making these changes this week.

Both of our lists were pretty similar and both involved overcoming bad habits and becoming more content. It is far easier to implement changes when working as a team, and it has been great working on them together. My list was as follows:

What must I change?
  • Bad habits; smoking, junk food, alcohol, drugs, excess spending.
  • Attitude towards loved ones; they need to be treat better, shouldn’t be wound up or toyed with for my own amusement, make sure I speak to or see them.
  • Work ethic; this is my dream, I need to work tirelessly in pursuit of it.
  • Time management; knowing how much time to spend, figuring out what is most important.

SO after my girlfriend had written her list, we discussed what our problems where and how we could plan, track and implement our desired changes. Here is how we chose to that:

  • Smoking – while I can stop cold turkey, my girlfriend is needing to cut down but she went straight to just two per day and is using an e-cig as a substitute.
  • Junk food – we have been tracking our diet using My Fitness Pal.
  • Alcohol – no alcohol has been purchased and I have avoided drinking at my brothers 18th birthday but I still need to get past Christmas without going crazy on the Long Island Iced Tea’s, heh.
  • Drugs – easily avoided because I don’t like ending up staying up till 6AM any more.
  • Excess spending – we have not tackled this yet as our spending is restricted by lack of disposable income but we have decided to use the money we save from quitting smoking to treat ourselves to some presents after Christmas.
  • Attitude towards loved ones – I am trying but also failing at this one, because I am not handling conflict and disagreement well; I need to remember to let people hold their opinions without trying to get them to see things my way.
  • Work ethic – I have put off everything else now so I can focus on my work, though I do feel the I need to start practicing my skills outside the college too; especially drawn art.
  • Time management – we have both agreed to use Apple iCal and Google Tasks to set reminders and plan our time.

Obviously, we have Christmas coming up but I am feeling confident going forward that we’ll be able to keep it sensible and avoid falling into any traps.

There have been other times in my life that I have tried to make major changes in my life like this, but I would quickly convince myself that I could do this anytime I wanted. This time is different because I have realised that I have never been so happy and content in my daily life as much as I am now, so there is more reason for me to continue than it is for me to quit.

Change Manifesto

Last night I couldn’t sleep – as usual – even after having a normal couple days for the first time all week. I feel like my body and mind is struggling to make the changes I need to go forward. So I spent some time brainstorming on the subject of change.

What must I change?
  • Bad habits; smoking, junk food, alcohol, drugs, excess spending.
  • Attitude towards loved ones; they need to be treat better, shouldn’t be wound up or toyed with for my own amusement, make sure I speak to or see them.
  • Work ethic; this is my dream, I need to work tirelessly in pursuit of it.
  • Time management; knowing how much time to spend, figuring out what is most important.
When can I change it?
  • Now
Who will I change for?
  • Myself
  • My girlfriend
  • My family
  • My friends
  • My future family
  • Those in the future who I will be able to help
Where will I need to make changes?
  • At home; eating, sleeping, project work, exercise, care time, leisure time
  • At university; assignments, using the facilities to my advantage, being prepared, ahead of the class
  • Out in the world; presenting myself better, being confident in my ways, stop imagining conflict, not spend money that isn’t saved for occasions
  • Inside myself; break bad habits, gain new experiences, find more of the good in life, refine my philosophy
Why must I change?
  • 26 years old; the time is now
  • For the people who want and need me to
  • Not let fear hold me down in life
  • Development and success require it
  • I know how I want to live, I just have to do
How will I go about making the changes?
  • Imagine; myself in the future after the changes, what will I be doing then, what will I have gained, what negatives will have gone
  • For the people who want and need me to
  • Analyse; the root causes and patterns which enable/trigger the problems
  • Plan; how each problem will be tackled, creating strategies to avoid failure
  • Track; progress across time, towards set goals with a clear purpose
  • Adjust; goals or strategies to ensure success
  • Evaluate; success and failures so they can both be learnt from
  • Deadline; set a point at which I can consider myself completely changed
  • Reward; celebrate my success

Starting today I hope to imagine, plan and track the changes in my life. Like any person on this planet, you have to ask yourself how you’re going to get those changes to stick. It’s all too easy to reach that point where you just say to yourself “stuff this, life’s too short” or “I can do this any time, so I can just be me for now” or “enjoy it while I’m young”…blah, blah.

My drive for change at this time is the feeling of necessity. I promised myself when I was younger that I could quit college, get a job and live a little before I needed to commit to anything. Well, that time is over – in fact – it’s very much behind me. I’m behind both the hare and the tortoise, so I must catch up.

About This Project…

I N F I N I T Y ² ⁷ or ∞²⁷ – an independent project, created to exhibit and help organise my creative output.

My name is Dan Baird, a twenty-something-year-old aspiring video-games designer. At the end of 2012, I had decided it was time for me to chase my dream career; designing video-games for a living.

I enrolled in an intensive course at Newcastle College, starting early 2013. For six months I studied quantitative methods, physics and information technology; achieving the highest grade of ‘Distinction’ in all subjects. This proved to be a valuable stepping stone for me, allowing me to enter further education for the first time and proving to my doubts that I will make it if I work hard enough.

Having been given an unconditional offer from Gateshead College I am now back in full-time education, studying HND Games Production (Engines and Animation). I plan to utilise the college’s facilities, along with the features of the Drupal content management system, to present creative works which are based on my own, original video-game design ideas.