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  • Writer's pictureChris Toepker

Add a layer of fun to level up!

Gather around gamer folks, this one's for you!

I have always aspired to adventure. Watching "Raiders of the Lost Ark" as a kid, imagining I could be Indiana Jones. Or perhaps Spike in "Cowboy Bebop." Or that old favorite, Buckaroo Banzai! Later, when I got into making games, and learned what it took to make frameworks for roles and characters - well! It got me to thinking. What if we flipped that around? How might flipping to Game Mode make things, if not easier, at least more engaging? With more engagement, is it not easier to continue? Doesn't it make getting further, faster and stronger more enjoyable?


Consider, if you will: if you looked at your life like you might a fictional character...especially one you could play (in a game, or a theater production, say)...who would you be? What would you do? What sort of script would you write for yourself? What motivations and actions?

In my own group, when considering Game Mode, the general categories, or classes, are pretty obvious. For example, in my regular hiking group, one is a performer. A comedian and actor, who always has a witty take on every situation, and has been known to carry the day with a tune. Clearly: Bard. Another is a maker of imaginary worlds, pulling 10s of thousands into them, where they lose themselves for hours at a time. Obviously: Illusionist. Yet another is ex-military, readily heads to the hills for weeks on end - just for fun. Also happens to literally rescue people lost in the mountainous woods, bringing them safely back to home and hearth. Goes without saying: Ranger. Me? Well, with the martial art training, you might say "Monk." However, I have also been known to stick stubbornly to ideals and report bafflement at why the world doesn't work accordingly. So, often been seen as: Paladin. Although, I'd argue that my bread and butter is made from being a Diviner (a reader of past, present and future).


Still, what does it take to build a character of ourselves? The one thing I can say for certain is that those movie montage scenes don't tell the half of it. For example, I began training kung fu almost 30 years ago. Still feel like a beginner, especially next to my teacher. I've been making games for over 20 years. Still feel like I'm learning every day. I've been training for the Hong Kong 4 Trails Ultra challenge (HK4TUC) for around three years now, and, well, have I even taken the first step? Barely!


Lately, I've been looking at my training routine and realizing that it is more fun, and more likely to continue, when I add that bit of adventure. Of fantasy. I love to hit the trails, but I've discovered that it is even more interesting when they are new trails. For example, I've hit the Florida Trail from Clearwater to Alexander Springs at least three times this year. It's convenient to get to that trail head, it's a good 20-mile distance, and has varied terrain. However, with each run it gets a little more familiar, a little more tired.


As I flip the mindset to Game Mode, I have begun to think of my outings as "advancing my Scout class." That is, as I make distance on new trails, I'm practicing exploration skills. True to form, I've had to study maps, lost the trails, found my way back, learned to follow headings, box obstacles and worked on self sufficiency by going from 12-lb pack to 20 to build. All the while adding to the distance. Indeed, here's a little attempt I made to follow the Florida Trail, but lost the trail at Farles Prairie!



Equally, I continue to train kung fu. Again, flipping to Game Mode, I have been advancing my Monk class. In more ways than one! Certainly, I've been practicing the requisite empty-hand combat, but unlike game restrictions, Hung Kuen teaches both bladed and blunt weapons. For me, the study also comes with book learning, researching the history of the style and the many who have come before. Although, I'm firmly rooted in the present and don't much care for the garb of old! Of course, I wish I could distill the daily calisthenics down to a 5-10 minute montage. The seemingly endless daily routine of push ups, pull ups, sit ups, V-ups, and all the other ups can wear the patience. By reminding myself that I'm earning experience points to up my level, well, it makes squeezing out a few more, if not easier, at least more engaging. Funny enough, current circumstances have me living a most monk-like life, living separated from family. I've even taken to eating more vegetarian, although for no very good reason. Maybe there is some kind of XP multiplier I'm getting?


Most fun of all is that my job is 100% Game Mode. I mean, I make games. I've always felt this was more a vocation than a mere job. Games are core to the human experience, and I've been at it for some time. I'm not sure there is an adequate game class for my current role. Perhaps the most fun way to think of it is as a Wizards Guild, where I play the role of Diviner and Transmuter, that is to say, as project and team manager, I predict past, present and future, and change energy and matter through decisions with a team of Conjurer (3D artists and animators), Illusionists (Designers), Enchanters (Marketing), Abjurer (Legal), and more. Be that all as it may, it sure makes meetings more entertaining to think of my peers as gathered in a council chamber, calling together elemental forces that ultimately benefit humankind.


As for leveling up, with each successful prediction, each successful changing of energy and matter into entertainment, the skills obviously grow. I'm honored to be working on one of North America's best selling games, and so expect to seriously level up in the coming years.


How about you? When you think of reaching for the impossible, do you have a framework that makes it more engaging? Enjoyable? How do you use it to do more? Let us know, we want to hear it!





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