As I stood in line to enter the SXSW Gaming Expo, nervously tugging at my wristband in anticipation of meeting some of the ZA/UM team for the first time, I had yet to wrap my mind around there being a real possibility that I would soon be moving to Estonia to write for a video game developer. Sure, I’d just driven the 2200 km of sublime landscapes that separate Los Angeles and Austin in hopes of making this possibility a reality. I really didn’t know much about video games or Estonia, though, beyond what my friend and fellow writer Quintus Andrisson had told me about his cool Estonian friends when he was putting me in touch with them a few weeks prior. What I did know was that as I was writing a test dialogue for No Truce With The Furies, I kept thinking of something Umberto Eco once said in an interview: “Before I sit down to write, I am deeply happy.”
Three months into my life in Tallinn, this is still overwhelmingly what I feel every time I take my place at my desk at the studio, even on days when inspiration falters, as is inevitable with any creative pursuit. I’ve already had a few work-related dreams, but they have been surprisingly pleasant. Just the other morning, for example, I had a dream about making a list of interesting cryptids for a dialogue with Lena (the Cryptozoologist’s wife, discussed in an earlier blog post). I don’t know if I’ll end up using any of the cryptids my dream self invented, but I was pretty stoked when I woke up.
Every now and then someone asks me what it’s like to live in Estonia, as a recent transplant from Southern California, and I never really know how to respond. It’s “a change”, but neither capricious weather patterns nor radical relocations are new to me, and I prefer not to generalize about cultural differences. After all, I’ve only been here for a few months, although I’ve already exchanged waves with the Estonian Prime Minister when he came out to admire the sunset from a balcony overlooking a viewing platform from which writer Helen Hindpere and I happened to be admiring the same sunset.
I am relishing being in a place where the beach is lined with pines, not palm trees, and where the summer is not too hot to have thoughts. I often have thoughts such as “what could I read (or play, or watch) to be a better writer for this game,” “how can I be a better person to be a better writer for this game.” Then I read broadly and distractedly, browse Steam with reckless abandon, meditate, make chai, go on riverside walks with coworkers.
I’ve been writing compulsively since grammar school, but the solitariness of this vocation has always been at odds with my general preference for thinking through everything in dialogue, making anything in collaboration. It comes as no surprise, then, that it’s the collaborative nature of our work at ZA/UM that I love most—the constant exchange of ideas, puns, stories, and chocolate-covered coffee beans, and not just among the writers, but across departments. The unique discourse community that is ZA/UM.
And, of course, the vast world of No Truce With The Furies, which I am still learning about even as I write it.
I’m so very excited for you to learn more about it too, gentle reader.