Thoughts on the old year

December 30, 2014

2014 So there's this question that I encounter every so often. I think the last time was when I applied to the King of the Nerds: "What are some of your biggest accomplishments?" It's a question I always found difficult to answer. Before last year, what had I really accomplished with my life? Getting a couple bachelor's degrees? I don't mean to belittle anyone else's education, but graduating college never felt that significant for me. It was a foregone conclusion. You just keep taking these classes and not failing them, and after 4 or 5 years, someone will give you a piece of paper. There's wasn't any point along the way that I thought it was in danger of not happening. My marriage? Yes, it's an accomplishment, and my wife is the best, but, I don't know, it's hard to think of it as a great accomplishment because a giant percentage of the population will get married at one point or another. It's just a ceremony. When we stay together for 40 years, that will be an accomplishment, but just because I'm married doesn't mean I'm going to stand out in a crowd. And that's really what this question is asking on the application form. "What makes you special and unique?" I didn't have a good answer until last year. But the two greatest accomplishments of my life happened last year, and I just wanted to ruminate on them for a while. First, of course, there was the Kickstarter. If my Kickstarter had raised barely enough money to fund, I would have been happy. I would have worked hard to get the game out to those who wanted it, and I would have been content that this thing my mind created was able to reach a large audience. That's all I ever want for any of my creations - to share them with others. But my foray into board game development probably would have ended there, and I would have gone on to have some boring physics career. The Kickstarter didn't just barely eek by, though. The Kickstarter exploded. It was crazy and ridiculous and ended up at over 400% funding. And the reason that was so significant for me wasn't just that I reached a larger audience - though that is pretty fantastic - but that I was financially successful with the project. I think I might just end up with some money on the other end of this thing. Not a lot of money - a very small percentage of what I could make in a physics career - but enough that it just might be possible to pursue board game publishing as a viable career. So that's basically what my accomplishment is: starting a successful business doing what I love to do. I can't think of something I would rather do more than make board games and sell them to supportive fans. It's a dream job. and I'm living it, and I couldn't be happier. The other great accomplishment this year was a very different beast: finally graduating from my physics PhD program. These accomplishments are a bit at odds. They have been for the past few years, really. If I hadn't been working on board games and other creative projects over the last few years, I probably could have graduated 6 months or a year earlier than I did. I can't say that my adviser was happy with my progress, but in the end, I got it done. And in the end, the important point is that I was happy. I didn't kill myself in the process, and working on these creative projects made me happy while I was doing it. That's not to say it wasn't incredibly hard, and I very often thought about the possibility of my graduation never actually happening. That's really what makes this graduation so much more significant than my undergraduate studies. It was constantly in question and so much more work and pain. But now it's accomplished, and I'm a doctor, and I stand out in the metaphorical crowd. Is that really all it is, though? If I'm making board games for a living, what real good does a PhD do for me? I'm not really sure, but it is just very nice to have. It's sort of a security blanket. If this whole crazy board game thing doesn't work out, I still have a very viable plan B. And that's what I'm going to talk about next week, once this old year is behind us. I want to look forward to the new year, which I'm hoping will be bigger and better than the last. Forge War will be officially released, new projects will see the light of day, and we're going to find out whether this "crazy board game thing" will actually work out into a viable career.


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