From the archive.
(2007 - )
The good, the bad, the ugly, the happy and the sad. Randomly selected and brought to the forefront because years seems enough time gone by for the past to be worth exploring. See more →
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Just like that, my one and only brother Joey and his partner Olga, had a son. Turning my parents into grandparents, and me into an uncle. Technically and emotionally I already was an uncle, but this time around it’s by blood.
I’m excited to see our family growing. Excited for my mother and father’s dreams to come true. Excited to make this little person laugh and teach him anything I can along the way. Most of all though, I’m excited for my brother’s future.
Finding direction is a hard thing for any of us, and my brother is no exception to the rule. Over the years, it seemed like more often than not his compass pointed him adrift. But now, now he has his North Star. One that shines brighter and points truer than any compass needle ever could. This thought brings me a lot of peace, and I couldn’t possibly be happier for him.
Welcome to the world Preston James Smith. Looking forward to meeting you in just a few months time.
I have something cool to share today. But first, a story.
When I was a kid, I played a lot of video games. I rarely play any today, but have never stopped being fascinated by them. They sit at an intersection of some things I’m really passionate about. Visual art, storytelling and technology. When I enrolled in college 18 years ago (GOOD LORD), I naturally wanted to study game design. But as I learned more about the program, I started to believe the math requirement was beyond me. I was young, and let the idea that I didn’t do so well in school define what was and wasn’t possible for me. So I chose a Digital Arts & Design program instead. I still loved what I studied, and have since built a career that often puts me at the intersection of those passions I mentioned. It’s pretty cool, and I’m thankful for it. BUT… I never stopped wondering what could’ve been if I hadn’t quit game development before I even started it.
Then came the pandemic and lockdown and with that, some time. I used that time to finally start learning how to make video games. Turns out, it’s pretty hard. A lot of one step forward, two steps back. Even after years of working at it, it’s still hard. but I’ve sure learned a lot. Above all, I learned that making a video game is an amount of work not meant for a single person. Especially when it’s not your full or even part-time job. But man, it’s fun, and I love it. So I keep at it when I can.
But back to this cool thing I wanted to share… I made a trailer for a game project I’m developing. It’s called GREENFIELD. There’s still a daunting amount of work ahead that stretches farther than I can see, but I’m so relieved to finally have others see what’s been living only in my own imagination.
Family in Florida. Friends in LA. Lazy rivers in Palm Springs. A train ride along the Pacific. A hurricane warning in Los Angeles. Endless bands in Chicago. This was summer.
8 Planes. Countless bands. Easter in Palm Springs. Racing in Long Beach. Playgrounds in Seattle. Sunburn in Minneapolis. Toasts in West Hollywood. Nostalgia in Pasadena. A flipped kayak in Nashville. Near internet infamy in Boston. Too many drinks in Bel Air. Watching the kids get taller and friends go grayer. This was Spring and I’m tired.
Just over 10 years ago, I was about to turn 27 and hunting for ways to keep myself on a trajectory of upwards and onwards. Best as I could figure at the time, that meant leaving behind a very stable and very loved staff position I’d held for 6 years, to set out on a freelance career of uncertainty.
I had doubts. In fact, I was terrified. I poisoned my mind with the thought that I wouldn’t be good enough to secure enough work to make ends meet, let alone thrive. Even my parents, who’s advice I still seek and value to this day, basically advised me against it for other reasons, and I can’t say I blame them. It didn’t make a lot of sense on the surface to them. I loved my job, the work, the people, the company, and I was making great money for the season in my life. It was safe, and freelance was a risk. None the less, I charted my course, gave notice to my bosses and mentors through a very shaky voice, and to my own amazement, I took the leap.
It helped that I had a clear vision of what a successful freelance career meant to me, before I even embarked on it. I wanted to work less, earn more, make more art (as opposed to only directing it), and position myself to work remotely should I ever choose to leave the sprawl of Los Angeles behind. Those 4 ideas, each one a different form of freedom, was what I sought in freelance, and the promise of those ideas made leaving a job I loved, turn from unbearable, to obvious.
Looking back a decade into it, it’s clear my freelance career took shape differently than I imagined it would’ve, but I met the destination I set all the same. Put modestly, freelance has gone well. Put bluntly, last year alone I took months of collective time off, earned more money than ever, spent the majority of my days making art, and worked entirely from my home office. I attained the ideas I sought all those years ago, and it didn’t take 10 years. Some came immediately, and some took longer, but for the most part, reaching my definition of success in my career, is old news.
So, I’m not celebrating reaching some metaphorical mountain top in this moment, that’s already long been true. What I’m trying to do, is preserve the memory that I once did something that absolutely terrified me, and that it worked out alright. That I swam instead of sank. That I took a risk, and that I not only lived to tell the tale, but am better for it. It’s easy to forget how brave we once were, when we’re standing in the shadow of new fears. So here I am, trying to remember, because 10 years sure seems like an awful long time to have not rolled the dice.
Rain and Snow. Hikes and Sunsets. Friends and brothers. Sons and Dads. The Bulls in Chicago and The Boss in St. Paul. Stiff drinks and long division. This was Winter.
“Born to Run” by Bruce Springsteen
That’s it for 2022. Made it through another year of monthly challenges and resolutions. Some wins, some losses, and some ideas of what comes next.
I wanted to have a website and announcement trailer finished for my game project, but that was a swing and a miss. It’s in progress, and could just call it done, but it’s close to being something I’m proud of, so I’m going to see it through right. Even though I don’t have it done, it was a good goal to have throughout the year. Kept the ball rolling.
I also meant to start networking with the indie game dev community. Sharing encouragement and constructive criticism for other devs and their projects, as well as putting myself out there and sharing my work with the community. This is something I wanted to do the least, and it showed. I did answer some questions here and there on forums for other devs, but as a whole, can’t say I put much effort towards this one. Being social on social media has just never come naturally to me. Wish I could chalk it up solely to a fear of rejection, since that can be overcome, but I think more than anything it’s a general disinterest in it all. I dont know how you overcome that. What I do know is at some point, I’m gonna need to lean into it, especially if I ever expect my projects to reach an audience. This just wasn’t my year for it.
My last overarching goal for the year was to try and eat vegetarian at least 3 days a week, building on the momentum of the past few years. Some weeks I went over 3 days, some weeks under. I didn’t strictly track this one, so I might be a little over, or I might be a little under for the year, but whatever the case I’m fine with that. What’s important to me was having a lasting mindset throughout the year to try to eat less meat, and I did just that, even if it wasn’t always perfect.
As for my monthly challenges, this marked my third year of exploring them. I started them because I was feeling stagnant. They were meant to spark some change and ideally growth. I’ve certainly learned a lot, from some more than others, and have no regrets about it, but over time I’ve started to question my motivations in continuing them. Some challenges haven’t required much of me, while others were unreasonably demanding. But even the smallest challenges I’ve come up with, still occupy space in my mind and demand my attention. None of which is helping put out the flames of a wildfire that’s been burning through my life for years now.
My marriage has been easy in so many ways, and it’s been hard in others. I’m sure that’s true and natural for just about any marriage, and to expect anything more might just be fantasy. But for us, the hard parts seem to be much harder than they ever should be for anyone. While it’s no one’s fault, it’s been true for a long while now, and it’s been difficult to say the least. Even more challenging is I don’t see any path forward that doesn’t hold even harder times and heavier thoughts on the immediate horizon. Knowing this, I don’t think coming up with a list of monthly challenges is going to help me be fully present for the work ahead. It would do the complete opposite. It would help me ignore and continue to tolerate the challenges of our marriage instead of addressing them. That’s what led me to incorporate these challenges into my life to begin with I think. To stave off that terrible feeling of being lost. I believe a clear heart and mind will yield you direction, like a compass would, but this compass needle is easily disturbed by the noise of distractions.
I’m not setting any resolutions or monthly challenges this year. Instead, I’m going to do my best to be present in my life, to feel it all, to listen to those feelings, and to try and get myself and my wife pointed in the direction, or directions, we need to go. All this said, I’m entering 2023 knowing that this year will probably be the hardest of my life yet. Although in this moment it doesn’t feel all that happy, I’ll say it anyway. Happy New Year.
Few months back, Alexis and I vacationed a week in Florida to spend some time with family. We originally meant to be in Ft. Myers, but Hurricane Ian had other plans. From what I understand, nearly the entire first floor of the condo our family has visited for decades, was under water, and a lot of Estero Island was erased. We came pretty close to canceling Florida all together, but we made some adjustments and saw it through, and I’m glad we did.
We started in St. Pete, specifically to take a boat ride out to visit Egmont Key, home to one of the oldest lighthouses on the Florida Gulf Coast. This is where Alexis and her siblings scattered their mother’s ashes earlier in the year. Although her mom spent her last years in Ohio, she missed Florida terribly. On top of that, she had such an affection for lighthouses, that you had to see her ceramic collection to believe it. Can’t think of a better place for her to rest. We spent the afternoon reflecting and exploring the key for a few hours before our boat had to take us back. A cover of Springsteen’s Atlantic City played no less than four times on our 40 minute ride across the water. It became a bit of an anthem for the trip, as well as a running joke to this day. Before leaving St. Pete, we discovered a strange species of seagull that had a striking resemblance to Danny DeVito, which we appropriately gave the scientific name of Danny DeSeagull.
For the rest of our trip, instead of Estero Island, we stayed at a beach house we rented on Anna Maria Island. We planned on having a good amount of friends and family come visit. Nine adults and four kids. There were a lot of us, but we made it a priority to get a place big enough to keep us all comfortably under the same roof. It turned out great. The kids declared they wanted to live there forever, so we must’ve done something right.
We walked the pier, drank pool side, marveled at lightning storms, caught sunsets, fired up the grill, built castles, dug holes, chased the kids, were chased by the kids, and astonishingly avoided getting sunburned. Not pictured is the half mile long trench I dug on the beach by pulling the kids in a wagon with wheels that absolutely refused to turn in sand. I’ll be damned if I let those kids think I’m not invincible though.
With as much fun was we had, it’s hard to believe we were ever considering canceling the trip. There’s a lesson to be learned somewhere in there. We know we’re supposed to spend time with our family, but sometimes you forget just how much fun it can be. Thankful we could make it happen, and thankful for the memory of us all sleeping under the same roof, together as family.
In November I set out to dedicate some time to playing indie games. Partly as research and inspiration toward making my own game, and partly to make fun a priority. I played two games. Little Nightmares II, a sequel to a puzzle-platformer that I first played years ago. The second, a game called Control. A trippy action-adventure game that I also first played a few years back, but has since had new content released for it. Loved them both.
I’ve learned so much about game dev over the past few years, and playing through that lens has been a fun new experience. Little Nightmares was actually created in the same game engine I’ve been learning. It was cool understanding how something was most likely working behind the scenes, and in other cases not fully understanding but reverse engineering it as best I could.
I play games so infrequently these days, that I don’t know when I would’ve had the chance to experience these two, if not this month. That’s why I was fine bending the rules a little, since neither of these would be considered indies. Control cost over 30 million dollars to make, and the ending credits scrolled for several minutes straight. It’d be impossible for me alone to create something even remotely close to the same standard of either of these games. Even still, I had fun experiencing them, and feel inspired by them and all the same, and that was the whole idea.
I’m so far behind in chronicling my monthly challenges that much of my being wanted to just give up on this aspect of it entirely, but damnit, I made a commitment. My October challenge was to participate in Inktober again. It went how it usually does. Excitement leading up to it. Mild dread halfway through. Pride in the end. I’ve done this one so many times over by now, you’d think there isn’t much more to learn from it. But these little doodles always help me better express or understand my thoughts, feelings and experiences. If you spend enough time looking in, you’re bound to see something new. That’s why no matter how many times I do it this one, it’ll always have something to give.
Alexis turns Thiry-Five and makes everyone wear ugly sweaters.
Failed to get a group picture, but there were 15 of us that flew into Vegas for some fun. Against the natural order of that place, I left with more money than I came with for a change. The trick was a few hot craps shooters, and faithfully playing a new set of roulette numbers. Caused a few laughs and raised a few eyebrows when I told the table I got the winning numbers from my therapist.
First crossing on the new 6th street bridge. It’s days like these that bring on that strange feeling of missing a city I already live in.
I tried intentionally meditating for the first time in my life about a year ago. The experience I had was mostly positive and I kept up with it for a bit, though slowly but surely, I practiced it less and less. Meditation is hard work, and I don’t mind that, but this work didn’t always feel like it was paying a fair wage. I know it has power though, and I’ve still been curious, so I set out to dig a little deeper.
I spent some time in September exploring some more, and took Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Masterclass on mindfulness and meditation. The guy’s a character, and I enjoyed it. A lot of the course was high level and easy to understand, like the idea of mindfulness being the awareness that arises from being present. A lot of the course felt very nebulous to me though. Ideas that are hard to grasp by simply listening or even doing. One of the more potent things that stuck with me, was the work he’d done teaching mindfulness to prison inmates. Particularly how the men reacted, which led him to describe the experience as if “he were giving food to starving people.” Such a powerful idea. It quickly had me looking inward, wondering what parts of me are dying of starvation and atrophying, even while my body outwardly stands tall and strong.
I took this course months ago but have managed to maintain practicing mindfulness regularly. The trick in making this work sustainable for me this time around, was realizing that sitting or laying meditation, which is what I’ve typically practiced, is just not for me. Instead I’ve found walking meditation, in part thanks to my friend George. I find it much more natural to be aware and present when in motion. Always have. Don’t know why it took so long for me to put together that I’ve had more success entering a state of mindfulness running my third mile than I ever had laying on my back with my eyes closed. Now a few times a week I listen to guided meditation while I walk a few miles through my neighborhood, in the middle of my workday. I often feel refreshed and clear headed after. It’s not a silver bullet that works every time, but this time around, it at least feels like work that pays a fair wage.
Phantom Planet at the Regent in downtown Los Angeles. These guys were in heavy rotation for me through high school and college, and still get shuffled into the mix to this day. I must’ve run hundreds of miles listening to this song by now:
“The Happy Ending” by Phantom Planet
They played the entirety of their album The Guest, for it’s 20th anniversary, and very appropriately brought out a different guest to play each song with them. It was a great show. Alexis had a work event going on at the same time, so I went solo. Something I’ve never been uncomfortable with, but always hesitant to mention, since it seems to sound so sad to most people. Definitely a different experience, but never a sad one.
“The Guest” by Phantom Planet
My solo indie dev project that I’ve been calling Greenfield is still happening. Taking up nearly all the free time I ration for creative pursuits. I’ve often heard the analogy of a hard thing being like pushing a boulder up a mountain. This project feels like that, but this mountain seemingly has no summit. Just keeps going up. A truth that’s made Six Foot Giraffe really hard to keep up with. I remind myself though, that this project I’m pouring so much energy into can fail. Creatively by falling short of my vision for it, and or financially as an indie game competing in an ocean of other games. And that’s assuming I can even finish it. It’s not hard to imagine that I may regret pursuing this, no matter how enamored I am with the process in this moment.
On the other hand, the work I do here on Six Foot Giraffe will never be something I regret. What I make and share here today compounds its value to me down the road, many times over. When my years past inevitably become just an impressionistic blur, it’ll be here that I’ll find my long lost thoughts and feelings, in full focus. I’ve been at this long enough now that this isn’t just a theory. I am already experiencing it. So let this be a reminder to myself not to quit.