Sometimes I wonder how I managed to get this far in a short span of recent time. I look at where I was a year ago… where this time last year, I was in limbo after a failed IndieGoGo campaign for the film, and wondering if there was even any chance for it to get made. I had been told no by every person from whom I asked to put in financial support, always uncomfortable with the notion of even requesting it. I wanted people to believe in this project, and to feel like their dollars were worth letting go of to see it a reality. In the end, only a handful of contributors and 1 publisher saw it differently than everyone else. That would end up being the indie game and film label Devolver Digital. I never saw that coming.
Now, as I write this 2 days after my first panel, where I stood with 5 others in front of a turn away, capacity crowd of around 500.. I find myself unable to wrap my mind around the progress I have made.
To start with, the “5 others” on the panel were not just anyone. To say that this was a who’s who of the game industry is an understatement…
First, we had Adam Sessler – one of the biggest names in all of gaming. This guy has hosted events and TV shows all the way back to G4TV, where he hosted X-Play. His name is well known to thousands.
Then, we had Chris Wiseman, aka “Captain Redbeard”. You might have seen him if you walked into a Gamestop and looked up at any point in time in the last few years. He’s been hosting with them at several events, and his moniker is one people love.
Next, we have Patrick Scott Patterson. There’s nil a gaming or comics related event this guy hasn’t been to recently. He’s a real multi-media guy to, popping up on news networks and even Spike TV with his personality well in tow, and he’s on his way to becoming a huge name all over.
After that, my classmate Tyler Coleman was in the lineup. We attend Warren Spectors program at the University of Texas at Austin together, but this guy is no stranger to game development and the business of being an indie. He runs his own endeavors, and he’s one of the most intelligible people I’ve ever met.
In a surprise guest role, we had David Eddings. Though some don’t recognize the name right off (or get it mixed up with the author), many more know this guy in another role – he plays the voice of popular character Clap-Trap in Gearbox’s insanely successful Borderlands series of games. But his voice and his intelligence serve the higher needs of Gearbox as well – he’s the VP of Business Development at the company in addition to his voicework. Talk about a guy on top of the mountain.
And then there was me… boy, how I paled in comparison. I consider myself a man of many talents, but to this point, my only feasible showing of work was 2 documentaries and an unpublished game. Yet here I stood with these masters of their craft… how did this happen? How did I put together such a superstar panel and fill out the house with the small accolades of my own professional life?
Well, I look at it the same way as how the film happened. It was a right time, right circumstance, and a little luck mixture of people who supported my endeavors. I’m often too sheepish to tout my own projects and things I’ve done… it’s just not in my personality profile. I’m a quiet guy, able to speak my mind in silence and expression, but seldom in a vocal way. This always made it difficult when I was on the business end of any deal or person in the industry. I just didn’t know how to talk to anyone. But through the process of it all, I found that making friends benefitted the best resolve.
Sessler had emailed me about PAX after my earlier inquiry with him to see if he’d be there… yet having worked with him previously on my film, there was a common thread to the interaction. He wasn’t originally going to be on the panel. I had my instructor Warren Spector in the starting lineup – but his busy schedule called him away, and he was unable to commit to it. Strangely enough, 30 minutes after confirming his dropping out, Adam emails me to confirm his attendance. Opportunity knocked, and I asked him to fill in Warren’s stead. And it worked out. Timing.
And then… 2 days before the event, my other instructor at UT, D.S. Cohen had to pull away for a family emergency. Not much I could do to replace him at this point. But what would happen? Another great timing. We were all having some fun at the Saints Row Lootcrate party Friday night, and who would we run into? David Eddings. My good friend and confidant Chris Wiseman caught up with him first, and presented a request for him to fill in the empty spot. He accepted, and I had my panel.
When Saturday came, my nerves were shot. Having a more reserved and quiet personality – I seldom stepped outside the comfort zone. But I wanted too. I wanted to take a big step outside of it. That line for the panel… wow. Just staring at it, while Patterson and Redbeard psyched me up got me feeling tense. Then when people started filing into the theatre… I stood at the podium, taking deep breaths, trying to memorize the guideline to what I wrote for myself. I did it very by the book… that would be what got me in a little trouble. Since it was very “by the book”, it didn’t feel natural, and thus I spent my energy trying to recite everything I wrote instead of just letting it flow. This caused some fumbles. Firstly, I jumped right into the conversation and forgot to intro my panelists. Whoops :x – then I got too close to the mic at one point and probably blasted everyone’s eardrums accidentally… not good. Then I almost yanked my mic off the table… ugh, this.. this is a disaster. But, 15 minutes in… it got easier. As time went on, it became like a discussion between myself and the 5 of them. Didn’t even realize the audience was there after a bit.. it was just a conversation with friends.
One hour flew by, and the crowd cheered after it was all over. I learned later that every seat was filled during it, and that they had to turn away people due to it being full. This was my very first panel, and it showed… but after it was over, I was on such a high that I never wanted to come down.
Throughout the rest of the expo, I was the true definition of a “busy guy”. I was being pulled for interviews here and there, pulled to VIP parties and dinners with Devolver and other friends from Twitch, and talking with all these well known developers(like Rami Ismail of Vlambeer), who I had become friends with over the course of filming Pixel Poetry and beyond that. I was being walked up to afterwards by guys like Sessler and Eddings, randomly greeted in the hall like we had known each other for years - touring the city with Redbeard and his wife and my friend Joe… there was so much, and it was so surreal to experience it.
This ultimately became the first expo where I was not just wandering aimlessly, but I knew people here. It’s one of the most amazing feelings ever.
How did I get here? Well, to sum it up… a lot of patience… 12 years of it, and always remaining humble through those years. Everyone I came into contact with in this industry, I wanted to be their friend. Acquaintances are not enough. I made friends because you go further with the people around you who support you and are positive about your successes. I removed myself from the negativity when I left Kansas and moved here… and honestly, with these people in my life, it has been nothing but uphill ever since.
Take my advice… the 12 years is long and arduous, depressing, and every other terrible thing you can think of. It feels like forever when you’re in the middle of it. But I owe this all to the people who I met during that time, all the way back to the start. Because morally, and opportunistically – they are the reason I am here. And though this is just the beginning of what I feel will be the greatest steps of my career… that 12 years was worth the nearly 500 people that packed the Armadillo theatre at PAX.
Let’s shoot for 1000 next time. To the moon.
Special thanks to the people who made my PAX experience all a reality:
Chris Wiseman - Tiff Flaherty - Adam Sessler - David Eddings - Daniel Josef Worley - Tyler Coleman
Patrick Scott Patterson - Robert Workman - Caleb Gayle - Kat Wenske - Rami Ismail - Mike Wilson
Kate Ludlow - Andie Grace - All the rest of Devolver Digital - My entire DSGA class and faculty
Twitch.tv(also for the film streaming last week on the official channel!)
Love you all!
- Richard James Cook
A film by Richard Cook
Copyright 2014 © Gamestar Arts