I’ve recently been thinking a lot about designer statements, i.e. brief descriptions of process and motivation. I’m still not sure how useful such things actually are, because there is as much advice given on the subject of how to present one’s work as there are potential clients in the world. However, as I approach my ninth year in game design, I am beginning to realise that why I design is, if nothing else, perhaps more of a constant than the how has ever been.
I’ve long held to a personal rule that the matters and artefacts associated with my professional identity ought to be useful for me as well. This is why my website has a ludography and timeline, but does not incorporate a LinkedIn profile. In the same way that I prefer to design games around a concise abstract, so too could a paragraph or two about my design ‘philosophy’ be a useful guide for me to read back, when I’m at my most bewildered. After all, my working environment is filled with inspirational prompts and reminders of why I do what I do. My motivation is a relevant and frequent topic of discussion in interviews, as well. So, why not be up-front about that, for those I work with in future?
Running parallel to these thoughts – which have largely come about as I am seeking new projects to work on – I have recently made a startling personal discovery. Those who’ve followed my work in this past year will have noticed a lean towards witchcraft, stories, and exploration of my Scottish heritage. These paths have in turn led me to create ‘Metrowitch Interactive‘, and games like Waybinder. What I didn’t know until recently is that witchcraft is also in my heritage, bringing a family connection to what was an otherwise isolated, eccentric set of interests.
For me, the profundity of all this lays in the applied power of stories, and my agency within them. After a year of studying the occult in my own way, I have discovered that the very same (deceased) grandmother whose recipes I’ve been learning to bake with was also a witch, who’d curse anyone who’d cross her or family. Realising such a personal connection to something which has also helped me reconnect with my work is an exciting thing to deal with. It even overlaps with subjects I talked about at QGcon last year. All of a sudden, my life story has taken a revelatory twist.
This kind of thing happens to media protagonists all the time, spurring them on to achieve something they may have been unsure of before. I too am bound to call upon these circumstances in my future work. But the same is true for many other aspects of my life, and those of other writers and designers whose work has even a shred of biography or personal insight. It would seem that any designer statement of mine could not help but reflect the manner in my personal and professional lives are built upon participatory stories.
Be they a legacy left by my grandparents, the solidarity and kinship I feel with my fellow queer creators, or the accumulated stories of an entire culture: I continue to create and to exist because of stories in which we have a part to play. That’s why I make games, purely and simply.
Photo header: “Memorial Canopy“, taken at Norra begravningsplatsen, Solna