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LimboInteractive – the Brief History of a Frustrated Game Developer Wanna-Be

January 23, 2012

Did I ever tell you that I’ve been a failed game developer for over two decades?

Yeah, not exactly something you brag about or put on your CV. But honestly, I think people who write a whole book about something they’ve never tried their hand at doing/making/being may sound pretty intelligent and perhaps even insightful, but not particularly honest or useful. I didn’t set out to write a book about Interactive Storytelling; I stumbled into it after years of trying to figure out how to actually make interactive stories. However, I can’t sit here and tell you I’ve had a wild and varied career as a game developer, because the truth is far more disappointing.

The thing about LimboInteractive is it’s essentially my kinds of stories, but told in an interactive, multi-pathed fashion. This notion—more like a brand, because I seem to brand everything I do—of telling stories interactively has been a going concern with me for pretty much the whole of my late teen and adult life, and yet it only got this name this year (2011). Looking back, it seems ridiculous that it took this long for me to figure out my own identity in this arena, and yet, not so strange, when you take into account the fact that I didn’t go to university for computer sciences, and I wasn’t trying to become a video game developer back in the days when maverick developers could cut their teeth on game development regardless of their educational background.

Yes, you still had to know how to write code, but an interesting bit of biographical information I don’t often trot out is that, in the summers of 1983 and 1984, I was taking courses in computer programming as extra curricular courses in summer school. I had no idea about making video games back then, because the only video games I knew of back then were either things you played on the Atari, which were fun but not really what I wanted to write, and those Life Expectancy gimmick programs that people used to plug into their TI-88 or Commodore VIC 20, and yet invariably gave the answer 72 years.

I couldn’t afford a home computer in the 80s, and my grades (and interest) in high school math were nearly non-existent, and as high math grades were a pre-requisite for studying computers in my school, that entire avenue was closed to me at a fairly early age. I’d rather enjoyed learning BASIC programming, and was just beginning to learn about COBOL and C+ (informally), but it was deemed impossible to programme computers without something like 70-80% in advanced math, so my computer education was cut short. I read an article called Hypermedia and Singularity in the late 80s, which indicated that everything technology and communications-based job was going to be dependent upon computers and the internet in the future, but it would be a decade before computers would re-enter my life.

Aside from a brief interlude with the rather dodgy computer donated to the Grade 11 art room AFTER I’d moved on to OAC Art, I didn’t play with another computer until 1995. My cousin Eric bought his first desktop PC, which I learned to play Space Quest IV on, though I never learned to use any applications, and still had no idea what I’d be able to do with a home computer. A year or two later, when my buddy Gary and his former fiancée Wendy bought a Compaq PC and we learned to play The 7th Guest, Myst, Riven, Shivers, The Journeyman Project 2, Temujin, Obsidian, Rama, Lighthouse, The Blackstone Chronicles, and Phantasmagoria.

As well, Wendy and Gary decided to put their computer to use and bought some graphics software, made some business cards, and started doing graphic design on the side. I wasn’t the least bit interested, though I helped out a tiny bit with the layout of the Karaoke songbook they made for Harley and Sherry, and later for themselves when they got their own karaoke set. I did some goofing off on my sister’s computer (the same one my cousin Eric had bought a few years earlier, and which wound up going to Jolene after Eric emigrated to Sydney). I did some important typing in Microsoft Office 97 at the time, but I didn’t really figure out what I could do with a computer until I bought my own with the money from my first graphic design gig.

That was the winter of late 1999. It’s over a decade later, I’ve never master a single progamming language beyond intermediate HTML and a wee bit of CSS, and have been procrastinating on my first Inform7 project (which I awarded the name I’d given to an old, unfinished drawing of mine that was meant to be a college painting, a strange dream I’d had which I’d jotted down as a notebook sketch entitled Ægypt). I am most emphatically NOT a computer programmer, more’s the pity.

But the dream of creating stories and designs that would become interactive adventures for other people to experience is such a strong draw for me that I’ve never completely given up on the idea.

In the following pages, I’ll outline some of my misadventures trying to get various storytelling games designed and implemented in one form of gaming system or another. If I do my job right, we’ll both be able to laugh at the whole sad series of events together. I’m sure my therapist would appreciate your help in this matter, so please laugh along when you hear me cackling. Thank you.

Lee Edward McIlmoyle,
Somewhere in his bed (in Limbo),
Listening to Billy Joel, sipping apple cider, and staying up way past his bedtime,
Thursday, November 10th, 2011

One Comment leave one →
  1. January 23, 2012 12:40 pm

    Reblogged this on Lee Edward McIlmoyle's Personal Blog and commented:

    And over on LimboInteractive, I’ve started publishing an amusing series of articles about my failed efforts to be a game developer.

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