If you’re like me1, one of the biggest delights of any friendship is the likes and hates you share with your buddy. Hating something together is a great way to bond (“Boy, does that game SUCK!”). Same with liking something (“The Longest Journey makes the world a slightly better place to live in!”).
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that friendship is defined by agreement. I have plenty of friends who have terrible taste, but I try not to hold it against them2.
My friend Randy Sluganski and I loved and hated a lot of the same things together. And not just about games. He’d call me up and complain about some lame blockbuster movie he’d just seen that had annoyed him, and usually it had annoyed me, too. And for the same reasons.
Gossip, too. I cheerfully admit that Randy and I indulged in a bit of that. He, of course, knew far more people in the game industry than I did, but because of him I did know a good number of them. And it was fun to get together with Randy and dish about various personalities in gaming.
And, of course, we talked about games and gamers. What made a good adventure game? What WAS an adventure game, and what wasn’t? Were adventure game players’ expectations realistic and/or fair?
I remember Randy attempting to calm me down when I went through my first great OMG They Cancelled The Game I Was SOOO Looking Forward To Crisis. (Anybody remember when SouthPeak cancelled 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, their ambitious follow-up to Temujin and Dark Side of the Moon?)
I was inconsolable, and Randy patiently explained to me how the world worked, and that sometimes bad things happened to good games.
When you lose a friend, one of the obnoxious realities you have to face is that your missing chum isn’t replaceable. Now, this may sound obvious, but it’s not really.
This principle fell on me like a ton of bricks at the 2013 E3 in Los Angeles. While I was there, I experienced what I’ll simply describe what I perceived to be a Questionable Professional Incident. I got very angry when The Incident happened, and then I grew increasingly annoyed and frustrated, because I realized the following vexing fact:
The one person in the world who would 1) TOTALLY get why I was so angry and would be angry with me and 2) would be the person to give me the best advice on how to SOLVE the problem…was dead. I couldn’t call Randy and get him all mad with me. I couldn’t have him start pulling strings on his end and advising me on how to make the situation work.
So I went from feeling angry (stupid Incident!!) to feeling annoyed (stupid Randy!! Left me alone with these fools!) to feeling very stupid (why didn’t I already understand this?!).
But you know what? I plan on remaining angry and frustrated that Randy isn’t around anymore. The fact is, whenever we lose someone too early, it simply sucks. To put it very selfishly, it’s a cheat that we are deprived of our friend’s companionship. Part of me feels that, when I stop feeling bad about my friend being gone, that I’m giving in. You know, if I move on, The Terrorists Win. Well, I don’t want The Terrorists to win.
As a living organism, there’s nothing I can do for Randy now. But I can do this: I can remain sad and displeased and downright pissed off that he’s gone.
And so, on your birthday, Randy, here’s the best I can do: This grumpy frown’s for you, Old Friend.
1And, honestly, who isn't?
2I'm a giver.