The Finish Line.

November 18th.  Today is the day. Dragon Age: Inquisition, in production for… I don’t know, years?  It’s been awhile, okay?  In many ways, today feels more like a relief than a celebration; every game release that I’ve been a part of has felt like that.  You’ve been building to this moment, pictured it in your mind after working so very hard on something for years on end, the moment finally approaches and… you just sort of want to go sit down on a couch somewhere with a drink in your hand, and watch some quiet TV, exhausted from the emotion before the moment even hits.  

It’s a proud moment for everyone here.  Work that is of this caliber never comes for free, and there are always sacrifices.  In a lot of ways, this milestone today is about more than just the game, and more than just the employees are celebrating its meaning.  Families and friends that are close to us know just how hard we all work in this industry, and understand that the breakneck pace that this field moves at is not for everyone.  Sacrifices.  Moving out to the middle of nowhere, a literal thousand miles away from any family, to a country that was not the one I was born in, was a lot to ask of those closest to me, to ask of my biggest fan.  But getting to contribute to something of this magnitude, to even have a chance at driving the direction of an already storied franchise at the behest of the responsibilities given to me?  To find fulfillment in the hopes and dreams that I've had for years?  How could I say no to that back then?

It's something special to behold.  Regardless of how the game would be received today, it would always be something special.  And yet, reviews for our product have been glowing.  Anticipation, even in the wake of the sometimes rocky relationship we've had with fans, is at an all time high.  It only works to augment the joy in this moment.

At the onset, those involved in entertainment make things for ourselves.  The glimmers of brilliance and bright ideas that we concoct are initially selfish creations, ones that appeal to our own innermost psyches.  And yet, as time goes on, we begin crafting, shaping, adjusting, reworking, and finalizing this work with the knowledge that we are not merely making this thing, this experience, exclusively for us.  We are creating something that demands to be shared.  The characters, worlds, and stories demand to be set free from the mere confines of our own personal imaginations, desiring to be enjoyed by those around us.  It cuts to the heart of the essence of storytelling and the human experience.  It can be difficult to reveal your creation to the world, scary and almost terrifying as you await its reception.  And make no mistake, those that you would share your bounty with can be as cruel as they can be kind.  Sharing something with the world, however, is when it can blossom, and if you are truly lucky, take on a life of its own.  

Are video games art?  There are plenty that have said no, and even some choice rabble-rousers from within the industry that have said they cannot be.  For me though, the longer my tenure in this field, the more convinced I become that video games not only can be art, but that it is their destined state.

I worked on Dragon Age: Inquisition for almost two years of my career before being called over to the new IP here in the Edmonton studio.  I came back at the tail end to help push the behemoth across the finish line.  The work I contributed to the project, the things my team was able to do, they are reduced to bullet points on a resume in time, a clinical recollection of dozens of man-months.  But the impact those things have had, the work that has been captured on a disc for all to see and play, that’s what continues on.  The work I had the privilege of completing on Dragon Age ranks among my proudest accomplishments.  And credit where credit is due here: I had the hilariously fun job of carving out an ambitious plan and getting to play mad scientist with feature sets all the way up to the production phase during my tenure on the team.  Shane Hawco was the lead artist who took over the character lead responsibilities after I moved over to the new IP and did the heavy lifting, making sure it all came together.  He stuck his neck out there for me to make sure that some of my crazy ideas sounded less crazy to leadership, and I can’t thank him enough for that.  That’s a peer-to-peer relationship that I wouldn’t change for anything.

And I suppose in some way, that’s what makes such a huge project like this so special: it becomes hard near the end to find one siloed piece of work that you can point to and say, “I did that.”  By the time it reaches the finish line, your work has been through several different people, multiple revisions, and everyone carries some of the responsibility.  One guy did the model.  One person created the concept.  One person picked that concept out of several.  One person rigged it.  One person did the glowing effect.  One person made the shader that it’s running on.  Two people did the animations.  And bunch of other people wrote the code that makes it all come together.  It really just becomes easier to supplant the word “I” with “we” because it’s the more accurate term. To me, this has always been a healthy sign of a team working in unison. It's a sign of colleagues.  A sign of friends.  A sign of people you can call family.

It’s a work of art.

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