I've been designing games since before I can remember. When the SEGA Genesis was first released, I couldn't afford it, so I built one out of cardboard. It had a control stick that you could attach to a character cut-out, and you could change the level by swapping out a hand-drawn background sheet. By manipulating the control stick, you could move the character around in the level and pretend you were playing Sonic the Hedgehog. A year later, my parents bought me the actual console for Christmas, and I didn't have to pretend anymore.
When I was 10 years old, I washed out of a two-week course in QBasic Game Programming. I was the youngest student in the class, and it was devastating. All the kids around me seemed to have preternatural powers, whipping up virtual worlds while I fumbled with basic commands. I had never failed so badly at anything in my life... including a misguided stint at soccer camp, where every goal I scored was for the opposing team. I took it as a sign that I just wasn't cut out for game design.
But I've never stopped making games. I stuck with QBasic for a few years and eventually branched out. In high school, I built text adventures in the computer lab. In college, I built custom modules for Neverwinter Nights. I ran tabletop games, printed card games, and drew up designs in the margins of my classwork. I have a lot of other interests: art history, astrophysics, fantasy fiction... But all my life, making games has been a kind of obsessive compulsion for me. That's how I ended up doing it professionally.
I believe that games need to mean something. They need to offer more than just fancy graphics and new features. They need to tell stories and teach lessons. They need to completely transport the player in the ways that other media can't. As a game developer, I obsess about these things because I care. And it's hard when you care this much, because even a successful release can leave you feeling like you failed.
There is no force on Earth more powerful than the human imagination. And the best games are the ones that embrace that. These are the games that helped me escape when reality was too much to deal with. These are the games that taught me to pretend that anything was possible, long before I was ready to believe it. These are the kinds of games I want to make.
Thanks for listening.