- 01 Sep
Discovering what exactly you wish to do in life can be an uphill battle while carrying a dead gazelle with a heard of starved lions charging in your wake. We are here for a period of time that can feel long, yet can be ever so short. Discovering that spark of what we enjoy doing for the rest of the world during that short time upon it is life changing and amazing.
For my first article on the revitalized Cerulean Games site, I'm going to talk about passion and revitalization - a pertinent item that without, this site and this article would not exist. For me, this is an article that is both incredibly difficult to write, and equally empowering to finally have the strength to move forward and discuss.
Last year, I took Cerulean Games down the path of attempting to build a freemium game for an existing large community. The company was steered to put almost everything it had into building the demos, examples, a Kickstarter campaign, and working with the existing community to learn what they wanted and work to make to real. People were happy with what we did - but many showed a side of humans that can only be described as horrible. Many people seemed to believe I was personally attempting to scam them, or harm them in some way. It truly seemed like they did not want the game to be made, and became livid at my company and myself for wanting to build the game. So they went after me. They went after my wife. They went after my friends. They went after my business. They even discovered potential interested investors for the game and went after them. We were harassed and torn apart. We were called scammers, filth, cheats - it was even insinuated that Cerulean Games is not an actual game studio, or even a real company - something that can be quickly rectified by simply downloading a game we have produced, or looking us up at the Colorado Chamber of Commerce.
In the end, what I experienced wasn't even 10% of the horrors that individuals such as Zoe Quinn and Phil Fish have had to endure - but for me, it was a lot. I felt as if I had dedicated months of my life to bring to about a game that this large community wanted. And while many cheered us on and supported our efforts - many also attacked us with extreme prejudice, all because we truly wanted to build the game they desired. I was confused, and hurt. I understood internet trolls - you just ignore them and keep going. I've been in the game industry long enough to know all too well what the trolls do - they verbally attack developers, send death threats, threaten to rape them or "visit their children after school" (all actual threats from gamers towards individuals in the industry). I knew it would happen to me - but when it finally did, I wasn't ready, and I never once expected it from an audience of primarily middle aged women.
However that is exactly who attacked me. And my wife. My friends... They wanted to quite literally harm me - and they did. They harmed my company. They harmed my professional name. My wife even temporarily shut down her own company due to the harassment towards her and her company. And these trolls did it with the glee of the starved lions finally catching the runner with the gazelle. As the troll lions (trions?) metaphorically pinned me to the ground, all I could wonder was... Why? I put everything I had into initiating the construction of what they wanted. The prize for them was right there - it was everything they asked for and so much more. Problem is, they didn't want to consume the gazelle. They wanted to tear into me. And they ate me to the bone, and slurped out the cartilage - and then went after people close to me.
We didn't have the money to produce it - the Kickstarter did not reach its funding goal (and we were told we have to 'give back the money we stole from people via Kickstarter - a rank misunderstanding of how Kickstarter even functions). Without Kickstarter, and with our investors all backing out due to the trolls going after them, the game was cancelled. For a while I still wanted to produce it, but the pain was still there. So I shut down. Completely. My passion for developing video games disappeared. My passion for creating entertainment became extinct. My desire to even create disappeared... I stopped writing, I stopped making, I even stopped cooking food. I wallowed into a deep depression, shut down the Cerulean Games website, disconnected my personaly Facebook account, and for all intents and purposes - left the games industry. I planned to wrap up my couple of contract projects and never look back. Even took a job building application software.
That was over a year ago.
In the months that followed I started seeing a counselor to help with my depression, and to help me rediscover what I lost. It had been a journey... Rediscovering emotions for one, as I had apparently shut them off as a defense mechanism. You know what it's like to hear that people have died and you are completely indifferent to it? People whom you knew and cared about. You don't cry. You don't mourn. You just continue... And that does not work.
Around the beginning of 2014, my friend Megan Fox of Glass Bottom Games started chatting with me about porting their game Hot Tin Roof to mobile. My desire and interest to do so was feigned at best. I truly wanted to - but my indifference and lack of passion for games made me agree simply to help a friend. Then she started talking to me about updating their other game, Jones on Fire. It needed some new mechanics and ideas - and as I pitched ideas to her, it quickly turned into a full fledged sequel. And I was enjoying myself. Laughing while writing out the concept, smiling ear to ear at the thoughts of the gameplay. It was something I hadn't felt in over a year. Something was stirring inside once again...
Then came the Penny Arcade Expo (PAX). The event is in early September, but Megan started planning for it around June of 2014. And she asked if I would like to help demo Hot Tin Roof. In the months that followed I found myself thinking more about game design again. That little stirring spark inside was growing. I was thinking of and starting to design ideas I hadn't thought of in a long while. Started thinking about writing again, started cooking again, started to ever so slowly become the person I lost.
Finally we arrive at PAX, and we are demoing Hot Tin Roof. I'm watching people play - not just this game, but watching them playing all the games. The smiles on their faces, the cries of agony when the game defeats them, the... absolute fun everyone is having.
I missed that.
I missed creating things that brought people joy. Since last year, I had been mired in such misery brought upon me by people who hated me for no real reason that I was blinded to see the very thing I wanted to do in my life - entertain and bring joy to others through interactive entertainment.
It has been more than a year since my pain began. But now, standing here writing this on my iPhone while on the PAX floor, I am ready...
My name is Dave Calabrese, and I was bullied by a community of people. I was unable to take the pain. But I am ready to return to doing what I love. And while there will always be people out there who find a reason to hate me, to hate others, and to dedicate themselves to hurting them - deep inside, those people are hurting far more than they could ever hurt me.
Edit: I also want to thank the people in my life who really supported me through those darker times and helped me to get back to wanting to create and be happy. My wife, who was there through all of it and continues to be there for me. Megan Fox, whom without helping me back into games I probably would now be making some random .NET application software nobody would ever hear about. My family, who always wanted the best for me. And my friends, whom all held me emotionally and worried about me. Thank you, all of you. Now let's make some games!