Busy busy. Next week is the GenCon game convention, and I’m getting various Pagan Publishing projects ready. We don’t have any new products ready for the show unfortunately, although the new printing of our book DELTA GREEN: COUNTDOWN will be there. But I’ve been getting signage ready for our booth and preparing a preview copy of the roleplaying game GODLIKE together for people to browse through. The game is produced by Pagan but it’s being published by our friends at a new company here in Seattle called Hawthorn Hobgoblynn. They’ve got two projects almost ready for press–GODLIKE and a stand-alone western horror scenario called VALLEY OF SHADOW–that I’m doing layout duties on.

I’ve been going to GenCon since 1988. The third time I went there, in 1990, was quite an ordeal. I’d failed to save any real money for the show, so I couldn’t afford a hotel room. I borrowed my parents’ minivan and made the drive north. I stayed the night in St. Louis with a friend of mine from college, and that evening we went to pick up a buddy of his who was just getting off work at a gas station. While he was closing up, he encouraged us to just take whatever we wanted. So I loaded up on beef jerky, cheese & crackers, and other convenience-store staples, and that was mostly what I ate during the convention. I had an air mattress in the back of the minivan, so I just left the van in a parking garage and slept there each night. In the mornings I’d get up early and take a vague sort of bath using the sink in the parking garage restroom, determined not to be another stinking unwashed gamer drone. I guess I mostly succeeded.

Tonight I bought a new laser printer for my studio. It’s a Samsung ML-1210, and was only two hundred bucks–crazy cheap for a laser printer. I started looking for it around six o’clock, by which time the usual computer stores were closed. I tried calling a CompUSA store located in a suburb hell strip mall, but their ludicrous phone system prevented me from actually talking to anyone who worked there. Finally I went to their web site and was able to do an inventory lookup there, and they had the printer in stock. At the store, it took a while to find the damn thing. It’s so new they didn’t even have any out on display. But I located a half-dozen of them under a counter, without any prices or signage, and hauled one up to the front. If I’d asked somebody they probably wouldn’t have known what I was talking about.

Afterwards I met my friend Rob Heinsoo at a coffeehouse for a couple hours. Rob and I worked together at Daedalus Entertainment a few years ago, plugging away at the FENG SHUI and SHADOWFIST games we published there. Today Rob works for my alma mater, Wizards of the Coast. He did some great writing work on the new FORGOTTEN REALMS book and now splits his time between the CHAINMAIL miniatures game and a soccer CCG WotC is doing for release in Europe. Rob has been working for a couple years now on an amazing book called TWO TRUTHS AND A LIE. The book is divided into topical chapters, such as “Trucks” or “Marriage” or “Sports”. Each chapter contains three anecdotal stories related to the topic, two of which really happened and one of which he made up. At no point in the book are the lies revealed; the entire book exists in a Schroedinger-like field of uncertainty. Rob is a fantastic storyteller, and has lived such a strange and interesting life–or has spent sufficient time around people who are doing just that, which usually ends up being the same thing–that he has a vast reservoir of weird and often savage stories. The pacific northwest produces a lot of such people and stories, owing to the wilderness, the mysterious spaces between towns, and the rural, if not tribal, customs of its inhabitants.

The previous night I was out with my friend Mitch Gitelman. Mitch is a great guy with an amazing knowledge of pornography; he can rattle off directors, stars, and genres with joyful ease. At present he’s working for Microsoft, where he just shipped the new computer game MECHCOMMANDER 2. He was the project leader or manager or some darn thing. I’m doing a lot of writing for another game studio at Microsoft, a group that used to be a company called Bungie Studios. The game I’m working on is for the new X-Box system and isn’t coming out until the fall of 2002. Mitch has been a real help in learning the ropes of computer gaming, and last night we had a great conversation about what makes a good game. His belief is that the most successful games are those where the players feel a real sense of ownership of the story and characters. Games that just plug you into the game designer’s story aren’t as successful as those where you get to enter the story in your own way, with your own character. It’s a good lesson in humility, and in placing the needs of the player before those of the game designer.

Tomorrow morning I’m going to be posing for reference photos for my friend Heather, a freelance artist. For several years now Heather has recruited me to pose in various awkward situations, usually wearing a cape and a sword since she does a lot of paintings for the MAGIC: THE GATHERING card game. She takes photographs of these poses and then uses them as reference in her work. If you put a bunch of Heather’s M:TG cards together, you’re almost certain to see me again and again–though often rendered as an ogre or what have you. For my thirtieth birthday, she made a big poster by taping together dozens of these photographs, ringed by the cards they were posed for. It’s an amazingly silly thing–endless pictures of me scowling, crawling, swinging swords, looking mage-like, or swooning from a mortal wound. Naturally, my mom and my girlfriend think it’s the greatest thing since sliced bread. Tomorrow I’m going to be Nodens, for a painting Heather is doing for the CALL OF CTHULHU D20 project that Wizards of the Coast is publishing. I don’t get to be a god very often. The hardest part of this posing stuff is keeping some physically awkward or even painful pose while she adjusts the camera and lights and snaps photos, since these images are often action shots of a character in motion that require me to hold a sort of freeze frame in the midst of dramatic action. Still, it’s fun. It’s even more fun to look at all this art she’s done over the years and see my hands, my face, etc., in situations that I have no business being in. Usually involving elves.

And now, thank God, it’s bedtime.